Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Paid Parental Leave, Doorstop, Canberra

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks everybody for being here today. If I can first of all thank everyone here at Target in Canberra for having us here today, and congratulate Target for their Paid Parental Leave scheme which I understand was introduced a little over a month ago. Just talking with some of the staff here at Target they’re so pleased that Target has introduced a Paid Parental Leave scheme that can be taken either by a mum or a dad. A scheme for 12 weeks up to $500 a week which will fit in so well with the Federal Government’s scheme which will start on 1 January next year. So congratulations to Target for really showing the way and recognising that looking after your staff when they get pregnant is really good for business.

JOURNALIST: But that scheme … I’m sorry, sorry.

JENNY MACKLIN: I do want to say today that this is not an April fool’s joke. Today is the day if you happen to conceive from today or maybe over Easter, here’s your chance. It’s going to be you and your family that will benefit from the Australian Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme. It is due to start on 1 January next year. It will be 18 weeks paid leave at the Federal Minimum Wage and can be taken with schemes set up by employers like Target. So we very much encourage employers to take the lead as Target has, but we also know there are many, many mothers and fathers who are looking forward to Australia having the first Paid Parental Leave scheme this country has ever seen. We know just how important it is for families to get access to Paid Parental Leave. I’m very pleased to have a young couple with me here today, Lauren and Simon, who are thinking about having a baby. No pressure about this weekend, and you can talk with them about what it will mean for them. But one of the issues that they’ve raised with me is how important it is that the Australian Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme is going to be able to be shared between mothers and fathers. So if a mother wants to take off, say the first three months of leave to bond with her baby and breastfeed, then the father could take the rest of the time that’s available. So we are very pleased that we’re in the final stages of establishing the Paid Parental Leave scheme. But it’s from today. Babies conceived from today, their parents will have access to the Paid Parental Leave scheme to start on 1 January next year.

JOURNALIST: The Coalition’s scheme is obviously a lot more generous than your own, given the fact that they said they want to be leaders in this field. Would you modify you scheme at all to try and compete with them and make it a bit more friendly?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the problem with Tony Abbott’s efforts on Paid Parental Leave is first of all it was just nothing more than a thought bubble. I don’t think anybody really believes what Tony Abbott says about Paid Parental Leave. He wants to impose a great big new tax on businesses like Target, businesses that would then of course increase the price of the goods that they sell. It’s a $3 billion tax that Tony Abbott wants to impose on families, on businesses, on pensioners. Our scheme is fully funded, fully costed, and we’ll have it ready on 1 January.

JOURNALIST: So you won’t change it at all?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we think that it’s very important to get this scheme through. Never before has Australia had a Paid Parental Leave scheme. Tony Abbott said when he was a Minister that he would introduce Paid Parental Leave ‘over his dead body’. Well, we’re not waiting any longer, w want to get Paid Parental Leave introduced in Australia.

JOURNALIST: But it’s unlikely that your scheme will be passed unless you go to the negotiating table with the Opposition and try and modify it somewhat?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think everybody recognises that this is the scheme that’s on the table, this is what’s available. We want to get on with the job of introducing Paid Parental Leave and I’d call on the Opposition and other members in the Senate to support Labor’s scheme. We’ve given it a lot of thought. We’ve had a lot of input from the Productivity Commission in designing this scheme. We’ve worked with business, we’ve worked with Unions, worked with families. We want to get it up and running, and from this weekend it’s babies conceived from now who’ll get access to Paid Parental Leave, or their parents will.

JOURNALIST: You’re going to be facing an uphill battle though. Because neither the Liberals nor the Greens are going to be supporting your Paid Parental Leave scheme?

JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t think in the end any Senator is going to want to stand in the way of our Paid Parental Leave scheme. This is the first time Australia has had the chance to have a Paid Parental leave scheme. I think parents are looking forward to it, businesses are looking forward to it. We want to make sure that from 1 January next year it’s available.

JOURNALIST: If the Opposition start pushing through amendments in the Senate though, won’t the Government appear miserly if they even renege on them in the House of Reps?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well our scheme is fully funded. We know that it is very important to be economically responsible. Last night on Lateline you saw Joe Hockey threatening pensioners. I’d say to Joe Hockey he needs to come out today and say to pensioners whether or not he is going to cut the pension in his effort to pay for other spending promises that they haven’t properly funded. So the ball is really in the Opposition’s court. Joe Hockey should say to pensioners whether or not their pensions are safe from his cuts.

JOURNALIST: Is the Public Service safe from Joe Hockey though?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well Joe Hockey is out threatening public servants, he’s out threatening pensions. We know that over 12 years they had the chance to increase the pension, they didn’t do it. This Labor Government increased the pension last year. We were very, very pleased to be able to do so and now Joe Hockey is threatening that pension rise that pensioners have just received.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Tony Abbott needs to take acting lessons?

JENNY MACKLIN: Oh, I just say to Tony Abbott I think the Australian public want him to get of the lycra, get of his bathers, he doesn’t need acting lessons, it’s time he really got on with his day job.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Tony Abbott does need to soften his image at all?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think the Australian people are saying that if you want to be Prime Minister you’ve actually got to be serious. You can’t spend all you time in your bathers. You can’t spend all your time on your bike. The idea that he thinks he can now go and spend time in an acting class rather than getting down and being serious about developing policy, health policy, policy for pensioners. That’s really what he should be doing, not out on his bike all the time.

JOURNALIST: Do you think he’s viewed as a bully, too much as a bully?

JENNY MACKLIN: Oh, that’s really for other people to judge but I think the worry the Liberal Party obviously has is that he’s seen that way. That’s why they’re obviously sending him off to acting lessons. The Liberal Party are worried that he does come across as a bit of a bully and I think it’s really time he demonstrated if he really wants this job he’s going to do some work about it.