In the space of a few short years, they’ve gone from promising wealthy women $75,000 to promising cuts of more than $11,000 to women on below average incomes.
It’s enough to give you whiplash.
As with all great sagas, it’s easier to start at the beginning.
In 2011, I introduced Australia’s first national paid parental leave scheme. For the first time, working women in Australia would get financial support from the government to take some time off work to care for their newborn baby.
Jenny Macklin MP.
Labor’s paid parental leave scheme provides women with 18 weeks of paid leave at the minimum wage – that’s about $11,800 in total.
It isn’t extravagant, but it isn’t meant to be. It targets assistance to parents on low and middle incomes, many of whom previously weren’t getting any paid parental leave from their employers.
It’s also designed so that paid parental leave can be topped up by employers who want to add to the government’s modest scheme. This means new mums can combine their leave entitlements and spend more time at home in those critical early months of a child’s life.
After previously saying a Coalition government would support paid parental leave over his “dead body”, Tony Abbott made one of his famous captain’s calls and promised a scheme that was completely over the top, offering $75,000 to very wealthy women.
Watch Labor Senator, Penny Wong, talk to our Holly Wainwright about having children and going back to work. (Post continues after video.)
I was really critical of this, and I wasn’t alone. It meant that the wealthiest women in Australia would get more than six times what low income earners would get from the government. It wasn’t fair and it was bad for the budget.
Nevertheless, Tony Abbott went to an election promising a rolled-gold paid parental leave scheme, and I’ve no doubt that many people voted for him on the basis of this policy.
Like pretty much everything else the Liberals promised before the election, it wasn’t long before this “signature policy” was revealed as a con to buy votes. Abbott’s scheme soon found its way to the scrap heap.
Then the war on working mums really began in earnest.
On Mother’s Day last year, Joe Hockey told women the Government would cut paid parental leave entitlements for 80,000 women.
For good measure, Liberal blokes like Hockey, Abbott and Scott Morrison took every chance they could get to label working women rorters, fraudsters and double-dippers.
These were the men they labelled working women "rorters". Images via Getty.
For nearly a year the Liberals have been trying to get these cuts through the parliament, and Labor has blocked it.
In a hopeless bit of spin last year, the Turnbull Government even announced a ‘compromise’. But it was a con. Their cuts still leave 80,000 women worse off.
While all this was going on, pregnant women who were due from July this year had absolutely no idea what support they would receive.
Trying to cut paid parental leave is bad enough, but putting pregnant women under so much uncertainty is unforgiveable.
This morning, the Turnbull Government seemed to offer a reprieve for pregnant women by confirming that their proposed cuts won’t be legislated by July. That means women who are expecting a child in the next few months can be certain they will receive Labor’s original scheme.
"I introduced Australia’s first national paid parental leave scheme." Image: supplied.
But if you think this ridiculous saga is over and paid parental leave is now safe from Liberal cuts… I’m sorry to disappoint you.
The Social Services Minister Christian Porter also said on radio this morning:
“That does not mean this government at the moment is not trying to change that or if it were re-elected wouldn’t also be looking at ways in which to modify the existing system.”
What does that mean in plain English? It means the Liberals will try to cut paid parental leave after the election as soon as they get the chance. They just can’t help themselves.
It’s pretty clear – a vote for Turnbull and the Liberals at the next election is a vote for cuts to paid parental leave.
I’ve spent my whole working life fighting for paid parental leave. Now that it’s finally a reality, I’m not about to sit back and watch Turnbull’s Liberals tear it down.
Jenny Macklin is the Shadow Minister for Families and Payments. As Minister for Families in the last Labor Government, Jenny delivered paid parental leave, historic pension reforms and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.