Paid Parental Leave, Latika Bourke and leadership – Melbourne Talk Radio, Interview with Steve Price
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STEVE PRICE: Jenny Macklin was there yesterday, she is the Minister for Families, good morning to you.
JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning Steve.
STEVE PRICE: Paid parental leave. I’ll get on to that strange comment from the PM in a moment. Have you now nullified this as an election issue?
JENNY MACKLIN: This is going to go through the Senate we hope today and from 1 January next year will be available for the first time for Australian parents. So I think many, many families will be very pleased that they’ll have this extra support when their new babies come along.
STEVE PRICE: And the Coalition have said they’ll support it, or not oppose it, have they?
JENNY MACKLIN: They have said that, so I hope that will be the case in the Senate today so that families can get this extra help, eighteen weeks paid at the national minimum wage.
STEVE PRICE: So the twenty-six weeks scheme that they were going to introduce with the 1.7% levy on businesses earning over $5million or taxable income over $5million. Is that dead is it, dead and gone?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well it’s impossible to know with the Opposition because as you’d recall Tony Abbott said he’d introduce paid parental leave over his dead body. Now he wants to introduce a new tax on companies, 1.7 per cent on top of the current company tax rate to pay for paid parental leave. He doesn’t talk about it much any more. I think he’s realised it’s going to cost every family a lot of money every time they go to the supermarket.
STEVE PRICE: So you’re scheme’s in from January 2011, $569.90 a week which is the Federal minimum wage for those earning less than $150,000 a year. Is that the family income?
JENNY MACKLIN: No, it’s not. It’s the income of the primary carer, so most likely the mother.
STEVE PRICE: So I could indeed, if my wife was earning $120,000, and I was on my income, we would still qualify for that?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, it really, I never like going down this path because it really depends on people’s particular circumstances how long people work in a particular year, and so on. But it is, the income test is on the income of the mother.
STEVE PRICE: Okay, so the father of the child can earn whatever he earns?
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right, because we really recognise that it’s important for the mother to be able to take time off work, and we do have situations, we had a mother with us yesterday whose husband had lost his job. She had to go back to work immediately after she had her baby because there was no paid parental leave in the business she worked for. So this scheme would be perfect for someone like her. So I think we’ve got to look at all sorts of circumstances.
STEVE PRICE: But if my memory serves me correctly, you were critical of the Opposition having a paid maternity scheme for millionaires?
JENNY MACKLIN: What the Opposition …
STEVE PRICE: Didn’t you use that phrase though?
JENNY MACKLIN: What the Opposition’s proposing to do is pay high income women, so any income you can get $75,000 to have six months off to look after your baby. So that’s a heck of a lot more than what we’re proposing.
STEVE PRICE: But someone in Government used that line that it was paid maternity leave for millionaires. But you’re doing exactly the same thing.
JENNY MACKLIN: Well no we’re not because …
STEVE PRICE: Well how are you not?
JENNY MACKLIN: Because this is money that will be paid in the vast majority of cases to the mother and so the income test we think should be on the mother’s income.
STEVE PRICE: But you’re paying it to all mothers. People don’t live in isolation, people live in households with two incomes and so you would be paying maternity leave to millionaire families?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’ll be paying it in the vast majority of cases to low income people because in fact higher income people already have paid maternity leave through their employer. The group that we know are missing out and who our scheme is really aimed at are those casual workers, the low income, middle income workers who don’t …
STEVE PRICE: I don’t want to use myself as an example but I will. My wife earns less than $150,000 a year. If we choose to have another child you will pay us $569.90 for eighteen weeks?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, as I say I don’t want to go into anybody’s particular circumstances because…
STEVE PRICE: Well you can, I’m giving you permission.
JENNY MACKLIN: Because I don’t know all the details.
STEVE PRICE: I’m giving you permission, you can. My wife earns less than $150,000 a year and I earn considerably more than that.
JENNY MACKLIN: Okay.
STEVE PRICE: And if we have another child you are going to pay me maternity leave?
JENNY MACKLIN: No, we are going to pay her.
STEVE PRICE: Yes.
JENNY MACKLIN: Because the income test is on her wage. So that’s what we’ll provide for her.
STEVE PRICE: So that’s maternity leave for wealthy people?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well it’s for, in the vast majority of circumstances, in fact it will be for casual and low income people. Of course there will be a few people in your circumstance but the majority of people who get nothing now will be a lot better off as a result of this scheme.
STEVE PRICE: But why not introduce a scheme that has a salary ceiling on the household income?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well we did consider that. That was one of the options but we thought in this case because we’re wanting to particularly support mothers who need to take time off work after they’ve had their baby, we wanted to tie it to the income of the primary carer who (inaudible) will be the mother.
STEVE PRICE: So it’s a bit rich to criticise the Coalition for paying maternity leave to millionaires when you’re doing the same thing?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think the difference between what we’re proposing to pay to people and that which the Opposition is proposing. They’re proposing to pay $75,000 to a woman who earns $150,000, so there’s a massive difference between the two.
STEVE PRICE: You were with the Prime Minister yesterday when he commented on one of the press gallery journalist’s clothing. Do you think that was fair?
JENNY MACKLIN: I think it was all said in good humour. It was a bit of friendly banter. I actually ran into the journalist concerned this morning upstairs and she certainly took it that way. Journalists and the Prime Minister along with all of us, we all work with the press gallery every day. We have these sort of friendly jests at each other and I’m sure that’s all it was.
STEVE PRICE: So it’s okay to answer a question about your leadership being in crisis with a jibe about what you’re wearing rather than answer the question?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don’t think it was a jibe. I think it was just a bit of friendly chat and that’s certainly how the journalist has taken it.
STEVE PRICE: And is the Prime Minister’s leadership in crisis?
JENNY MACKLIN: No, I don’t think so. I think that what we’re trying to do is introduce some very, very difficult economic reform. We want to cut the company tax rate. The Opposition wants to increase the amount of company tax paid to pay for their paid parental leave so there’s a huge difference between the two of us. We’re going through some tough negotiations. They of course will continue and be resolved, but in the meantime we want to get on with the range of initiatives that we’ve got underway and one of them is the paid parental leave scheme which we hope to get through the Senate today.
STEVE PRICE: And no move to replace the Prime Minister with Julia Gillard?
JENNY MACKLIN: No, no. I think as Julia herself has said that’s completely absurd.
STEVE PRICE: Appreciate your time, thank you.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you.