Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Paid parental leave – 2UE with Murray Olds & Murray Wilton

Program: 2UE

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

MURRAY OLDS: Now Federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott has apologised to his Party Room for announcing his $2.7 billion paid maternity leave scheme without consulting his Backbench. He used International Women’s Day to just float this idea. Mr Abbott hasn’t given his MPs any explanation for why, but he says he went ahead with it because sometimes he says it’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. That’s the only apology Mr Abbott is likely to make for his controversial suggestion. It would be funded by a new tax on big business. Parents would be paid up to six months parental leave equivalent to their salary up to $150,000 a year. Business isn’t doing handsprings on this Muz I’ve got to say, and Jenny Macklin is the Rudd Government Minister for Families and she’s been good enough to give us a few minutes. Jenny Macklin good afternoon to you.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good afternoon to you.

MURRAY OLDS: First reaction please if you will?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well this is a massive new tax that’s going to be imposed on business and you’d have to wonder whether or not Tony Abbott is serious in the face of such a huge new tax, $2.7 billion to be raised from business and really no detail about when or how he intends to proceed, but a very, very big tax.

MURRAY OLDS: Minister, have you got any idea what he’s going to classify as a big business? There’s going to have to be a cut off point and a start point, isn’t there?

JENNY MACKLIN: What he said so far is that he’s talking about businesses with $5 million worth of turnover. The real question is what does that mean for businesses as they get close to $5 million, what are they going to do? All of those questions are going to make it very difficult for business and of course you’ve seen the comments from business yesterday and today, they aren’t impressed.

MURRAY OLDS: Heather Ridout, absolutely, and she represents about 60,000 odd businesses employing 1.5 million Australians, and she says, are you out of your mind?

JENNY MACKLIN: And many other businesses saying well big business will of course pass it on to small business and then on to customers, so one way or another this is not going down well.

We did a lot of thinking before we introduced our proposal, announced in last year’s Budget. We did a big Productivity Commission inquiry, they talked with business, unions, families most importantly, and that’s where we’ve developed a very sensible scheme that gives people eighteen weeks of paid parental leave. For the first time ever in Australia, and to be paid at the Federal minimum wage, and it’s now costed and funded in the Federal Budget.

MURRAY OLDS: To the extent that the Abbott plan has now engaged both sides of main stream politics in this very important area, Jenny Macklin it’s got to be a good thing that Abbott’s come out and said this?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well it will be a good thing if Mr Abbott supports the Government’s legislation. As you can imagine parents are thinking about whether or not they’re going to have a baby and they’ll want to know whether or not in nine months time they’ll have access to the paid parental leave scheme that the Government has announced will start from 1 January next year. Mr Abbott really needs to come clean I think and say to parents, yes, I will support the Government’s scheme. He might develop his scheme further, but in the short term, in this nine months’ period when parents are planning their families, they really need certainty. And I think business also needs certainty if we’re going to introduce the first national paid parental leave scheme.

MURRAY OLDS: Minister, I just wonder you know whether or not, and I’m speaking as a parent, whether or not it’s on the list of priorities to have paid parental leave when you’re considering raising a family? Is it just an added bonus or I’m sure that most people wouldn’t make a decision to have a child because they’re going to get paid parental leave, or would they? I don’t know.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well they’re issues that families have to take into account but they may be considering whether or not they’re able to afford to take a certain amount of time off work. Those sorts of issues are important for people. They need to be able to plan their lives and at the moment they have the Government saying very clearly, we’ll introduce this scheme, fully costed, already in the Federal Budget eighteen weeks of paid parental leave to start on 1 January next year, paid at the Federal Minimum Wage. And if Mr Abbott now supports paid parental leave he should indicate that he’ll support this in the Senate and give parents some certainty.

MURRAY OLDS: What sort of timeline in the legislation, how quickly will it be before the Parliament?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’ll be in the Parliament we hope pretty soon. It’s being drafted right now.

MURRAY OLDS: And your system that you would like to introduce is that for mums and dads or just mums?

JENNY MACKLIN: It can be transferred between mothers and fathers so that’s another issue that of course parents would need to work out themselves. Mum might take the first three months for example, and then need to go back to hold her job, and the rest of the time can be taken by dad.

MURRAY OLDS: And that Federal Minimum Wage that will be paid to them for that eighteen week period, will that be given to them in one lump sum, or paid to them over a period of time?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, fortnightly.

MURRAY OLDS: Fortnightly.


MURRAY OLDS: And will that be means tested?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes it is means tested. But it’s means tested on the income of the primary carer. So that will generally be the mother, and given she’ll be off work it’s a pretty generous means test. So it’s means tested on the primary carer of $150,000 or less.

MURRAY OLDS: And who will qualify for that? Is it legally married couples or are we talking about, you know, de facto’s who’ve decided to have another child?

JENNY MACKLIN: People who are having a baby.

MURRAY OLDS: Okay, so two blokes, two girls, whatever these days?

JENNY MACKLIN: People who are having a baby.

MURRAY WILTON: Good luck with the two blokes Murray.

MURRAY OLDS: Well Jenny Macklin, I’m grateful to you today for giving us a couple of minutes because it is a very big debate we’re now engaged in and look we’ll watch with a great deal of interest the passage of your legislation. As you say, the axe is now on Tony Abbott. He’s floated his own ideas so first things first, you’ve got to back the Government’s plan.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think that’s the only fair thing to do to parents, and also to businesses because businesses want to know what they’ll be up for, how much they’re going to be involved delivering the Government’s new scheme. We’ve put a lot of work into talking with business and we want to work in a cooperative way and we certainly won’t be slamming on a big new tax like Mr Abbott.

MURRAY OLDS: You say, your’s is fully funded in the Budget?


MURRAY OLDS: So that’s going to be paid for by all tax payers?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right, it was announced in last year’s Budget and it’s already accounted for.

MURRAY OLDS: And just, sorry before you’ve got to go, is this a short term set up or is this indefinite?

JENNY MACKLIN: By the Government?


JENNY MACKLIN: The Government scheme is fully funded into the future.

MURRAY OLDS: Right, okay. Thanks for your time Jenny Macklin.