Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Paid parental leave; Tax reform – Canberra – 15 June 2010

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

Press conference with the Hon Kevin Rudd MP – Prime Minister

PM: This is about something really important, it’s about paid parental leave. This is a reform which we as Government and as a nation have been waiting for, for a long, long time. And it’s now down to crunch time in the Australian Parliament. It’s now down to crunch time in the Australian Senate and we can’t delay any longer. We must see this legislation through. Because this is a big reform for families, mums and dads right across the country.

It’s something which makes it a bit easier to juggle having kids and getting back to work if that’s your choice. So can I just thank the folk who are here with us today with Sharon- Ilana and Sharon as well, for pulling together what I understand is 25,000 signatures, that’s a lot of signatures, and these are from mums and dads right across the country who want to see this change. So we have a very simple message for the Senate, which is get out of the road guys, just get on with it. This is really important, this is really important, it is so key to making life easier for working families.

As a Government we’ll be doing a few other things on that front as well. It took us a long time to do, but frankly, putting a nail in the coffin of WorkChoices was so important because on the key question of the money you bring home in the pay packet, making sure you’ve still got penalty rates and basic conditions is so important. That’s basic. The other thing is that as of 1 July we’re bringing in for the third year, three years in a row, of tax cuts for working families as well for someone on $50,000 a year. It’s important to just bear a moment thinking about the impact of these tax cuts on someone on that level of income. Over the three years it adds up to about an 18% cut in tax, something in the order I think of about $1750 less in tax.

So what are we trying to do through all these measures? Getting rid of WorkChoices on the one hand and protecting penalty rates, cutting taxes for working families, nearly a 20% cut in those taxes, bringing in paid parental leave, delivering on the childcare tax rebate which we increased from 30 to 50, delivering also on basic things like the Education Tax Refund. What links all of these things? What links them is making it easier for working families to chart their future and to manage their day to day, their week to week, the month to month challenge of balancing the family budget.

So as a Labor Government, as an Australian Government, we are very proud of this achievement, very proud that we pulled together a paid parental leave scheme which is affordable, which is funded across the country in the proper way and which goes to those people who need it.

So can I say to all those who’ve been out there very busily collecting petitions, thank you, and may the burden of these petitions weigh heavily on the shoulders of every Senator in the two weeks that lies ahead. Thanks very much.

MACKLIN: Thanks very much Prime Minister. If I could just say a very, very warm thank you to Sharon Burrow and everyone who’s been involved in collecting these 25,000 signatures on this petition which we will present to the House of Representatives this afternoon. This really is a roll call of those Australians who want to see paid parental leave introduced into our country. We have waited decades for the introduction of paid parental leave, and this petition is a demonstration of all the people who want to see paid parental leave exist for mums and dads so that they can spend more time with their newborn babies.

Whether you’re a retail worker, whether you’re a rail or a bus driver, whatever sort of job that you have we want to make sure that you’re able to spend those critical early months with your newborn baby. I do also want to say to all of the Senators, now’s the time, now’s the time to vote for this legislation to make sure that it will be available for parents from the first of January next year. for the first time, Australia will catch up with the rest of the world. for the first time we’ll have a paid parental leave scheme in this country. Eighteen weeks paid at the federal minimum wage, paid for by the Government, paid for and budgeted for, we know that this is something that parents have waited a very, very long time for.

I do also want to say that this would not have happened unless we’d had support from this Prime Minister. We’ve had twelve years of a previous Government, including Tony Abbott, who said that it would not have happened over his dead body. By contrast we have a Prime Minister who has made sure that we are in the position we’re in today, on the brink of introducing the first paid parental leave scheme into this country and I thank him for that.

BURROW: Well this is an historic week. I know working women right across Australia know, families know, that finally justice for mums and dads at that point where they are most vulnerable, they’re excited to have a child but they’re fearful of paying the bills. Finally, thanks to Kevin Rudd, to Jenny Macklin, to Tanya Plibersek, we actually have within our grasp four and a half months of income. Two thirds of Australian women who have a baby today have zip, zero, nothing, not one dollar in their pay packets. We know that the stories like Ilana Crawford will tell you of her partner losing his job during the global financial crisis, of her having to go back when Sam was just a few weeks old and the trauma and the difficulty of that first twelve months. That is writ large across Australia.

And of course, if the Senate does not pass this Bill, it will continue to be an injustice. So we say to all of the Senators, don’t you dare, don’t you dare deny working Australians, the parents of Australia, four and a half months of income and the security that Kevin Rudd was prepared to back. This is a day when we know that this week we can make history. Thirty years of campaign by Australian women. It’s long overdue. And frankly I’m excited about it, people right across Australia are excited about it, we’ve got 25,000 petitions gathered in just the last few weeks where people say to all the Senators, to the Liberals, the Greens, the independent Senators, pass the Bill. That’s our message. Pass the Bill, stop playing politics, give women four and a half months of income security so they can enjoy the birth of their child and along with them, their partners and families.

I’ve got two wonderful women here with me today, Ilana Crawford, I’ll tell you her story in a minute, but Sharon Manser, Sharon has step children- she doesn’t have children of her own- but she has five step children, that’s pretty amazing. But she was so incensed that women didn’t get equity in this matter, that some women got paid maternity leave and others didn’t, that she personally went out and got 1000 petitions signed. So Sharon, this is Sharon, she’s just done an amazing job and we are very grateful. Ilana on the other hand, I’m going to ask, if you can manage to both give her petitions to the Prime Minister and have the baby, and in fact tell us her story. So, come on forward.

CRAWFORD: Basically when I was, I changed jobs and I fell pregnant shortly after starting a new job. I therefore was unemployed for about eleven months before I had Samuel. I was not entitled to a single cent from anyone or anything, I was not even entitled to get my job back if I so chose. My employer basically said to me that he would allow me to come back after three months in order to maintain my product knowledge, but I would have to make myself available within three months of Sam being born to go back to work.

Consequently, my husband lost his job, and I was in a position where I had to go back to work full time to support the family, to stop us from losing our house, and I just don’t think we can afford to wait any longer for a paid parental leave scheme. It made a huge difference for the women in my situation and a lot of women on lower income. We can’t afford not to have it, we are in a position where, as Australia, we can catch up to the rest of the world with this situation, and put ourselves in line with all the other countries and we just can’t afford to wait any longer for it.

BURROW: And Jenny, Sharon has some petitions for you as well. Do you mind if we share them around? And we’ve got a few left over to deliver to Tony Abbott and other people round the House. So this is indeed a terrific day, Prime Minister, Jenny, women are very, very grateful, even women like us Jenny whose kids are now grown up, we know we campaigned for a long time with a lot of other women, and it’s long overdue, so thank you Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) being offered by Tony Abbott, wouldn’t you like more?

BURROW: Oh look, this is a hoax frankly. If Tony Abbott denies working women and their families four and a half months of income because he wants to play politics, when the business community frankly will never pay- but secondly, in this case I’m on their side, don’t deserve to pay. They’ve already bargained with union members and their unions for paid maternity leave. This scheme will add to that. So they will be very well off those women who are union women, we know that, we don’t expect a business to double-dip. Tony Abbott knows they won’t. I think he’s actually secretly assuring them that he won’t, and it’s a hoax. So four and a half months within our grasp, the time is now.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, despite the Coalition’s misgivings, they’ve already said they’re going to wave this through the Senate, why the feisty words to the Senate?

PM: Well, we’ve actually learnt to be a bit distrustful of how these things are handled in the Senate. We had assurances before on things like an emissions trading scheme and they fell apart, and there’s been other negotiations which frankly have not been honoured in the Senate before. Speak to Minister Albanese about that. who actually handles House business and speak to those who handle Senate business, in terms of the number of undertakings which have not been honoured. That’s why we are very plain about this, the community wants this reform. It must be delivered. Rather than people engaging in, shall I say, a bit of doublespeak on it.

To answer also the question that was raised before about the differences between the two proposals. This- as Sharon’s just said- is funded by the entire Australian community through the taxpayer. It is done at a reasonable and modest level. It actually targets those people who need it. We’re not in the business of actually putting a tax on business in order for them to fund $75,000 payments to millionaires. We’re just not in that business. We don’t think it’s right, we think it’s wrong. On the question of tax, we actually are standing more broadly for bringing down the company tax rate by two percentage points. Our opponents are for bringing the company tax rate up two percentage points for those above five mil. It’s a pretty clear contrast.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, why is your leadership in crisis?

PM: Well that’s a point of language which you have used and used which is dramatically consistent with the dress which you have chosen today. It’s a great tie, it’s a nice hat, I like it a lot. Can I just say this on the question which you’ve just pointed to- you know, reform is a tough business. Reform is a hard business. It’s a controversial business, and the key thing in the reform process is for Governments to maintain their nerve and for Governments to maintain their unity. This Government is doing both, and we’ll get on with it.

We intend to apply to this the same discipline that we’d apply as we negotiated our way through financial crisis, when many, many, many- including all of those opposite- attacked us daily over the measures that we took. We saw the country though that. We’ve seen the country though other challenges. And we’ll work our way through this challenge as well. Thanks folks.