Paid Parental Leave, Doorstop, Parliament House
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JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks everyone for coming at such short notice. Legislation for Australia’s first Paid Parental Leave scheme has just passed the Australian Parliament. This really is an historic day for Australian families. These families have waited decades for the introduction of Paid Parental Leave into Australia and finally it’s here.
It is a scheme that is fair to business and a scheme that is also fair to families. It’s going to mean that families will get that much needed financial support so that they can spend more time with their new born babies. It is especially important for those casual workers, seasonal workers, part-time workers, those contract and self-employed workers, many, many of whom have never had access to Paid Parental Leave.
I do want to take this opportunity to thank a number of people. I’d like to thank the excellent work done by the Productivity Commission in their inquiry. The Government did use their work to base this Paid Parental Leave scheme on. I’d also like to particularly thank the hard work of my department, in particular the team under Mark Warburton and I’d also like to thank my own office and especially the work done by Ryan Batchelor.
There’s been a large number of people right across the spectrum who’ve been doing much work on this issue for a very, very long time and I do want to mention some of these people.
To Sharan Burrow and many, many others in the trade union movement.
To Pru Goward and Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioners.
To Marie Coleman from the National Foundation for Australian Women.
To Heather Ridout from the Australian Industry Group, Kate Leahy from the Business Council of Australia, my Ministerial colleague Tanya Plibersek, the Minister for the Status of Women, and of course most importantly, the Prime Minister, who indicated very early his support for the introduction of Paid Parental Leave.
This is a huge victory for all those men and women who have campaigned for so long for Paid Parental Leave in Australia. A victory that will now be enjoyed by so many families who need that financial support when a new baby comes into their family.
JOURNALIST: Is the job done now do you think? Or is it a scheme which over the years you will be able to tweak and build on?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well the important thing for us now is to make sure that it is all ready to go from the 1st of January. We’ve made it clear to parents that they’ll be able to apply and get all their paperwork done from the 1st of October this year. So we now have quite a period of time for the Family Assistance Office and related organisations to get all the work done so that from the beginning of October and then the 1st of January it’s all ready and available for parents.
JOURNALIST: What do you think about what the Opposition is hoping to do if they get elected (inaudible) six months?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well the Opposition have made it plain that they want to impose a new tax on business to pay for Paid Parental Leave. So look at the contrast. This Government wants to cut company tax to 28 per cent. The Liberal party wants to increase company tax for many companies to 31.7 per cent.
That is the first thing. And of course who is going to pay that increased tax.
It will be mums and dads when they go to the supermarket and they have to buy all the essentials for their families. So the first and most important thing to say about the Opposition is that they intend to impose a new tax on companies that will flow through to parents and that it is parents that will pay the increased costs out of their purses and wallets for their paid parental scheme.
JOURNALIST: In the longer run though do you expect to build on this scheme in years to come?
JENNY MACKLIN: We recognise that many, many businesses have already taken the lead and introduced paid parental leave themselves. I congratulate all of those businesses who have recognised the importance of paid parental leave to their business. We have recently seen some businesses decide to expand their paid parental leave, and announce that they intend to put this new government funded paid parental leave on top of their business funded paid parental leave.
I certainly look forward to working with business as we see the introduction of this first paid parental leave scheme into Australia.
JOURNALIST: What is your message to business that is considering introducing a scheme and thinks now the government has done it?
JENNY MACKLIN: I have had so many businesses say to me that they intend to build on this scheme. That they see this as being provided on top of their paid parental leave scheme. I was with Woolworths when we released the draft legislation. They made it very clear that for their very large female workforce they have already budgeted for their paid parental leave scheme and the government scheme will be provided on top. I certainly encourage all employers who already have paid parental leave schemes to do exactly that.
JOURNALIST: So you would be confident that no employer will consider axing their paid parental leave scheme given that the government has a scheme in place?
JENNY MACKLIN: I would certainly encourage all employers to make sure that they continue their Paid Parental Leave scheme and provide the Government’s scheme in addition. But just to take the words of many businesses, they understand paid parental leave is good for business. It means that they get to keep their skilled workers and they in fact are the employer of choice. I think more and more businesses understand that.
JOURNALIST: But some small businesses or medium businesses that are doing it tough may use it as an excuse to axe their scheme if there is a government scheme in place?
JENNY MACKLIN: I think you’ll find that it’s the larger businesses that already have paid parental leave and the larger businesses who already have it do understand how important it is for them to remain the employer of choice.
They want to keep their skilled staff and certainly the employers who have spoken to may have made it very clear they see it as a competitive advantage.
JOURNALIST: So do you think this is a way of reaching a de facto six months paid parental leave for some workers? The 18 weeks you are offering and potentially the additional amount that a big employer may offer?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well certainly the Productivity Commission made exactly that point that when you put together existing paid parental leave schemes, add the Government’s 18 weeks and the leave that many parents save up for when they have their babies, it will be the case that for many, many parents they will have six months leave.
JOURNALIST: Do you think this might have any impact on fertility rates? People who might have been putting off having a child?
JENNY MACKLIN: I’ve never engaged in this debate. I think the issues surrounding having a baby are very, very personal. I’d say to all prospective parents, it’s a joyous occasion when a baby comes into the family; we’re very, very pleased to be able to provide Australia’s first government-funded, paid parental leave scheme to support families when babies come into the home.