Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Paid Parental Leave – ABC Radio National, Marius Benson

Program: ABC Radio National

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

MARIUS BENSON: Jenny Macklin, this is not official Opposition policy but they are talking about six months of paid parental leave paid out of the public purse. Is that a good idea?

JENNY MACKLIN: We can’t actually believe anything Tony Abbott says on paid parental leave. If you look back to what he said last year, he said that business should pay for extra weeks of paid parental leave. And if you go back a couple of years when he was Minister in the Howard Government, he actually said that I’m dead against paid maternity leave as a compulsory thing. That was Tony Abbott a few years ago. So the latest utterings from Tony Abbott I think on paid parental leave just cannot be believed.

MARIUS BENSON: Well times change and people change, what about the idea on its own merits. Does it have merit?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the Rudd Government of course has decided to introduce paid parental leave. We’re the first Federal Government in Australia to make this commitment. We put the money in the Budget last year and the legislation will be introduced in the Parliament very very shortly. It’s going to operate from the 1st January next year and unlike Mr Abbott, the Rudd Government is in fact funding this, it’s in our Budget. Mr Abbott has no idea about how he intends to fund a scheme that of course just a few years ago he said he was dead against.

MARIUS BENSON: Your leave would provide for eighteen weeks of leave. Do you think that might be extended if you need to match an Opposition offer?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as you know we conducted, or we asked the Productivity Commission to conduct a major enquiry into paid parental leave. They recommended that we introduce a scheme with eighteen weeks paid parental leave and that’s going to be leave paid at the adult Federal Minimum Wage rate. We know that it’s important to do the work first before you put forward a policy. Tony Abbott just dreamt this up on the run, has no idea how he’s going to pay for it, and of course, doesn’t really believe in it.

MARIUS BENSON: But in an election year do you need some flexibility yourself, might your own policy change between now and the election?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think you can see that Tony Abbott has no intention of telling anyone how he’s funding any of his policies. This is just the latest one that he’s proposing. It doesn’t bear any resemblance to anything that he’s said before. Labor’s policy is fully costed. In our Budget we’ve demonstrated that we’re following very good policy developed by the Productivity Commission. We’ll introduce the legislation very shortly into the Parliament and it will be implemented from the 1st January 2011. By contrast, Tony Abbott has just decided to play politics with this issue. One day he says he’ll charge business for it, the next day he says, over his dead body, and the day after that he has another view. Nobody knows what Tony Abbott really believes on paid parental leave.

MARIUS BENSON: And just to clarify the Labor policy. You’re bringing it in in January. You have eighteen weeks of parental leave paid at the rate of $544 a week, but it’s means tested so that when the primary carer’s earnings exceed $150,000 there is no parental leave payment provided.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right. So it’s about to start on 1st January next year. The legislation will come into the Parliament very shortly. We estimate that around 148,000 new parents a year will be eligible. This is the first time Australia is going to join with the rest of the world and introduce paid parental leave. It’s been a very very long time coming for parents and I think it’s high time Tony Abbott stops playing politics with parents’ leave.

MARIUS BENSON: And just to ask you again. If Tony Abbott does come up with something more generous, do you think you might match it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, how would you know what Tony Abbott’s going to do. Last year he said he was going to make business pay, the year before that he said, over my dead body I’d introduce paid parental leave. Who’d know what Tony Abbott plans to do. He’s just playing politics with mums and dads.

MARIUS BENSON: Jenny Macklin, thank you very much.