Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Redfern, Sydney

JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks very much everyone. If I could first of all thank everyone from Sydney Day Nurseries for having us here today in this just fantastic location that is dedicated to the needs of children. They do a wonderful job for so many children here today and over the generations. It’s also terrific today to be talking about the Australian Longitudinal Study of Children. What this is really demonstrating is something many, many families know and that’s the great value that grandparents play in many, many families’ lives. We have a family here today where the grandmother, Nanny, Nanny is actually how she is called in her own family and she’s really the one who’s able to provide the extra care and support to really help her family. To help Daniel, to help do the things that grandparents do so well, and this new study demonstrates just what a critical role grandparents play in the development of children. We also know from this study how important it is to a child’s development to read with the children, to spend as much time as possible every day reading and spending time playing with children. Tamara is here with us as well, she’s just about to deliver her baby and of course today is a very important day to recognise that it’s time Australia introduced a paid parental leave scheme. We’ve just received the Draft Report of the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Paid Parental Leave. That Committee Report will now be available for public discussion for the next six weeks so I would encourage people to participate in the debate about the type of paid parental scheme Australia will introduce. There will be time to make submissions, there will be public hearings, and then the Productivity Commission will submit its final report to the Government in February. From my point of view the great thing about paid parental leave is that it’s great for babies, it’s great for families and also great for the workforce. So there are three reasons why this Government will introduce a paid parental leave scheme. Thanks.

JOURNALIST: Ms Macklin are you of the mind to adopt the recommendations of the Productivity Commission?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well this is a draft report. A draft report that’s already generating a fantastic level of debate in Australia about the type of paid parental scheme we are going to have and the good news for parents is we’re now in a position to be debating the nature of the parental leave scheme we want, it’s not if, it’s how we are going to do it and now we are getting on to looking at all the details of how we’ll introduce this scheme.

JOURNALIST: Will it be 18 weeks?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well all of these questions are now open for debate. Open for debate by parents, by employers and of course the Government will look very closely at the recommendations.

JOURNALIST: How important is it that men are recognised under this scheme as well?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think it is very important that dad’s are recognised. In my own personal experience with our first child, it was dad that took a year off work, unpaid, so this is quite a long time ago. These are very important decisions for families to make and more and more dads do want to play that great role that dad’s do play in their children’s lives and have more time at home particularly when a new baby comes into the family.

JOURNALIST: If you think it’s important that dads are recognised, what do you make of the recommendation that they only get two weeks paid leave?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as I say that’s only an option that’s being proposed by the Productivity Commission. I think what’s terrific about what they have put forward so far is a recognition of the important role that fathers play and that’s increasingly so as we see more and more fathers wanting to take the time, wanting to get the balance right between their work and family responsibilities.

JOURNALIST: Some in the business community are saying that this is going to negatively impact on small business, will you take into consideration these comments?

JENNY MACKLIN: Of course we will consider the needs of small business they are very important employers. There’s a range of views coming from employers, many employers recognise that for their own business paid parental leave is good for business. They know that it costs money to lose their employees if they go off on paid parental leave or unpaid leave. If people leave the workforce because they don’t have any connection with their employer, the employer then has to retrain someone else, so it’s very important that employers do recognise that it’s good for business.

JOURNALIST: Will you consider footing the bill for superannuation?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re looking at all the recommendations that are in the Inquiry draft report as will members of the public, but I do think that this recognition of the need to make sure that men and women who take time off to look after their babies do need to continue to be putting money away for their superannuation is an important recognition. Yet again, another I think, very useful part of the Inquiry report.

JOURNALIST: Ms Macklin why 18 weeks at the minimum wage? Why can’t people take part of the wage they have been receiving till they have the baby?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well these are also matters that of course the Productivity Commission has thought seriously about. These are questions that I have absolutely no doubt will be debated over the next few months as the final report is considered. One of the things that’s critical in Australia is that we join with the rest of the developed world and introduce a paid parental leave scheme. We do want to make sure that we have some support for parents who do want to spend that very,very important time with their babies and that’s really what it’s all about.

JOURNALIST: What’s your view and it’s quite hard isn’t it for someone living in Sydney if they are used to a particular income to go back to the minimum wage?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s why this debate is so important. The Government will of course wait until we get the final report from the Productivity Commission Inquiry that will happen in February and then we’ll of course consider that very carefully.

JOURNALIST: With Tamara here and she’s about to take unpaid leave …

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, that’s right.

JOURNALIST: What do you say to her?

JENNY MACKLN: Well I understand the position that Tamara is in. Our family’s has gone through a similar circumstance to her so I do understand that many, many parents decide to go back to work before they really want to because of the financial pressure that their family is under. That’s why this debate is important. It’s important for babies to have mum and dad around but it’s also important for parents to be able to continue to be able to pay their bills, so that’s why we are having this debate.

JOURNALIST: How are Australian families situated to tackle the global financial crisis?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think one of the good things is that the Australian financial system is in good shape. We’ve got the International Monetary Fund and our own regulators making clear that things are in good condition here in Australia. We were very determined to have a strong budget surplus in this year’s Budget to make sure that we were able to weather these difficult economic times. But of course, it’s critical for families, critical that they expect their Government to keep downward pressure on interest rates, downward pressure on inflation. They’re really at the front of our mind all of the time.

JOURNALIST: Jenny Macklin you spoke about the importance of grandparents and how they can actually aid a child’s development. What support do families have that are particularly reliant on grandparents in bringing up children?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well there’s a range of different supports that the Federal Government provides. If a grandparent is actually taking the responsibility to bring up a child, the grandparent can in fact receive the Family Tax Benefit payments, we can organise child support arrangements for grandparents, there’s special grandparent childcare subsidies available. So there’s a range of financial supports that are available. But today is really about recognising that the vast majority of families really benefit not just financially but emotionally and in the development of their children from having grandma and grandad around, and it’s often the ordinary things that grandparents do as this family was just telling me taking the kids to the beach, down to the park, going shopping, helping with the cooking, all the things that grandparents are able to do. Sometimes, in my personal experience, in a more patient way than parents who might be under a bit more pressure.

JOURNALIST: Well it’s as well for those who have grandparents isn’t it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, very fortunate.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the failure of the rescue package in America will have an impact on Australian households?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we are of course concerned to make sure that we protect Australian households as much as we can. You saw the measure that the Treasurer put in place last Friday to make sure that we have strong competition in the small mortgage market. We understand just how critical it is that we continue to have a strong Budget to keep downward pressure on inflation and interest rates so we know that we’re part of the global financial system. We also know that our regulatory arrangements are very strong. We’ve got a strong minerals export sector, so we do have some very positive parts of our economy.

JOURNALIST: Just one more question please if I may about the intervention, I understand that there are some changes about the rules for responsible use of money. Are you planning any changes in the rules surrounding the intervention?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I haven’t received the report from the Northern Territory Emergency Response Review Team. It’s expected to come to the Government in the next little while so once I receive the report I’ll obviously consider it very carefully. In the meantime the arrangements that have been in place for more than a year now will continue.

JOURNALIST: If they are wound back how much … (inaudible)

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I haven’t received the report yet.

JOURNALIST: Do you know when you will receive the report?

JENNY MACKLIN: In a couple of weeks.