So we have a new Prime Minister, does this mean we’ll see ‘another’ change in Australia’s Paid Parental Leave policy?
There has been as many changes in Australia’s Paid Parental Leave (PPL) policy as there has been Australian Prime Ministers in recent years. A bit of two steps forward, one step back.
Australia was very late to the party on paid parental leave.
Thirteen years ago in June 2002 when many were lobbying the Howard Government to take Australia into the 21st century on PPL and women’s participation in the paid workforce, Tony Abbott famously dismissed their calls as “a radical women’s agenda” saying, “Compulsory paid maternity leave? Over this government’s dead body frankly.”
Five years ago Australia and the United States were the only two countries in the developed world that did not offer a publically funded Paid Parental Leave scheme.
Four years ago, Australia finally entered the world stage on PPL offering women with salaries under $150,000 access to 18 weeks’ paid leave at the minimum wage, with no super, but available on top of any employer leave they may also have had access to.
Two years ago Abbott, just days out from the 2013 Election, announced to the women voters of Australia: “Every working woman in Australia will secure six months’ leave on full pay plus super for each baby born after July 1, 2015 under an Abbott Government.”
The Abbott Government (now Turnbull Government) was elected and July 2015 has come and gone but there is still no six months full pay plus super in sight.
Today the Fairer Paid Parental Leave Amendment Bill 2015 is before the Australian Parliament and if passed a year from now close to 80,000 new mums and dads will lose thousands of dollars in paid parental leave and Australia will take a gigantic step backwards cementing our position at the bottom of the developed world when it comes to PPL.
The Senate Committee, chaired by Liberal Senator from the ACT Zed Seselja, was tasked to review and provide feedback to the Parliament on the Bill. Their recommendation? “The committee recommends that the Senate pass the Bill.”
So how have we found ourselves here on the PPL roller coaster ride that, let’s be frank, is making a lot of us pretty sick? Many commentators in favour of the current plans to end the so called ‘double dipping’ argue that this is about making the scheme fairer – targeting those who don’t have access to employer leave. Mind you, these changes won’t increase the amount of leave that those without employer leave can access; it will just take away the leave that thousands of other parents depend on.
However, the claim is that the change will have minimal impact on those it affects because these are wealthy women from wealthy families – they can simply afford to forgo the government’s paid leave.