Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Paid Parental Leave – Doorstop, Sydney

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

JOURNALIST: Tell us about the changes that you announced today?

JENNY MACKLIN: As you know we are about to release the legislation and exposure draft of the legislation to introduce Australia’s first Paid Parental Leave scheme. The legislation draft will be released next week in time for the Senate Inquiry to examine the legislation and it will be put into the Parliament soon after that. We certainly look forward to introducing the first Paid Parental Leave scheme in Australia from 1 January next year. It will be an 18 week scheme paid at the Federal Minimum Wage and will really give many, many mums and dads support to stay at home with their baby, support that they’ve never had before.

We’ve listened to families over the last few months about how it is that they want some of the particular issues addressed in this new Paid Parental Leave scheme and I can announce today that we want to make the scheme easy for parents to use so parents will be able to apply for Paid Parental Leave up to three months before the expected date of their baby’s birth. And for the first time they’ll also be able to apply for Family Tax Benefit to make their lives easier, there’ll only be one application, they won’t have to do it multiple times. So that’s one very useful change to make life easier for parents. The second area that we’re going to introduce in the legislation is an exceptional circumstances change. In the very, very unfortunate and sad situation where a parent is either severely injured or even killed, say in a car accident, and an aunt or grandparent has to take time off work to care for a child left as a result of that accident, then the aunt or the grandparent will be able to get access to Paid Parental Leave. So this is just another small way in which we can help what we hope is just a small group of carers, make sure that they can care for a child in these exceptional circumstances.

JOURNALIST: The difference obviously with this new way of applying for the Family Tax Benefit (inaudible), how’s that different to the way it is now?

JENNY MACKLIN: At the moment you have to wait until the baby’s born and you can’t do it in advance. So you can’t do your planning for your family budget in advance. What parents are now going to know is that they have access to Paid Parental Leave. They’ll be able to get all that set up three months before the expected date of the baby’s birth and they’ll also be able to get all the paperwork done for their other family payments, like Family Tax Benefit Part A and Part B if they’re eligible.

JOURNALIST: So it just allows them to do the paperwork earlier but in terms of their Paid Parental Leave it’ll be paid week by week, or fortnight by fortnight, or month by month, once the baby’s born, right?

JENNY MACKLIN: Paid Parental Leave will be paid once the baby’s born just like Family Tax Benefit is paid once the baby’s born and Paid Parental Leave will be paid according to your normal payment arrangements. Whatever your payment arrangements are currently with your employer, that’s what you’ll have with Paid Parental Leave.

JOURNALIST: So I suppose the difference now is rather than waiting for the baby’s birth then applying and maybe waiting four months for the paperwork to get processed, they can perhaps get it all processed in the few months prior to the birth and then receive the payments, is that correct?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is all about making sure that all the paperwork can be done before the baby comes along. So that you can know exactly what you’re going to be entitled to, what you’re going to get from Paid Parental Leave, what you’re going to get from Family Tax Benefit, so that you can get your family budget sorted out before the baby comes along and all the other busy things that happen once the baby’s born.

JOURNALIST: So that’ll make life a lot easier?

JENNY MACKLIN: This will make it a lot easier for parents. They’ll know what their budget’s going to be like when that new baby comes into their family.

JOURNALIST: Is there a risk the Opposition won’t support this?

JENNY MACKLIN: I hope the Opposition will support the new scheme. I think we know that parents have been waiting a very long time for the introduction of Paid Parental Leave into Australia and we look forward to the Opposition’s support so that we can get this scheme in place.

JOURNALIST: The Senate Inquiry, what’s the purpose of that? Is there anything, could that Senate Inquiry result in a watering down of this, or a change in this?

JENNY MACKLIN: We, the Labor Government, established the Senate Inquiry to enable this piece of legislation, a very significant piece of legislation, to be looked at as soon as we had the draft available. So it’s really to make sure that we can get on with the Senate looking at the legislation as quickly as possible.

JOURNALIST: And January 1 next year?

JENNY MACKLIN: January 1 next year is the start date for this scheme. The first time ever that Australia has had a Paid Parental Leave scheme funded by the Government and available to tens of thousands of parents who previously had no access to Paid Parental Leave.

JOURNALIST: Is today’s announcement a very hand diversionary tactic away from all the Government’s broken promises this week?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is all about recognising that parents have waited a very long time for paid parental leave. The legislation will be available next week. We wanted to highlight a couple of the changes that we’ve made so that parents know about them in advance.

JOURNALIST: But is this a good diversionary tactic?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s not about that at all.

JOURNALIST: Not at all?

JENNY MACKLIN: Not at all.

JOURNALIST: It’s a good news story though?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s a great news story for parents. This is a great news story for parents who want to get their paperwork done before their baby comes along so that they can figure out what their budgetary position will be when their new baby joins their family.

JOURNALIST: So if parents have been waiting so long for this, why are we seeing this now considering you’ve been in since the end of 2007?

JENNY MACKLIN: We agreed to introduce a Paid Parental Leave scheme in last year’s Budget. We made it clear that it would start on 1 January 2011 because we needed to consult with employers, with families, with unions. We’ve done that. The legislation has been drafted over the last few months. The legislation will be released next week and we hope that it will get through the Parliament quickly so that we can introduce it from 1 January as we’ve promised.

JOURNALIST: You’d have to admit though that this is a pretty handy announcement, the timing of it?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is exactly the timing that we expected. The legislation draft has only just been handed to the Government, so we’re going to make it public next week.

JOUNALIST: Are you expecting businesses to continue their leave entitlements they already have? Have you consulted with them?

JENNY MACKLIN: We certainly have consulted with business about the importance of the Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme being added to existing maternity leave schemes. We want to make sure that parents get additional support to that which employers already offer. Many employers have already come out and said that’s exactly what they will be doing, making sure that parents can take both the employers funded Paid Parental Leave and then the Government funded Paid Parental Leave as well. I certainly hope we’ll see many employers recognise the value of Paid Parental Leave to their business. It will mean that we’ll have continuing contact between business and their employees. Paid Parental Leave is good for business and good for families.

JOURNALIST: So if say KPMG offer its workers ten weeks paid maternity leave at the moment you’d expect them to be offering twenty-eight?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, I expect each of the companies to continue the schemes that they have already negotiated with their employees and on top of that, that their employees will now be able to take eighteen weeks funded by the Government.