This morning I found myself shouting at my radio. This doesn’t happen very often but in my defence, I was provoked. The target of my shouting was federal Labor minister Chris Bowen who was himself having a barney with Liberal shadow minster Chris Pyne. Radio National’s Fran Kelly was trying to adjudicate. Lucky she couldn’t hear me shouting as well.
It was a polarised debate around the issue of parental leave and who should pay. It was an odd moment where you wonder if you’re hearing right when the Labor minister is arguing against big business having to pay a new tax and the Liberal minister arguing that the rights of women and families need to come first.
Huh? Did I miss the memo that said the major political parties would switch ideologies while I was sleeping? Or the tweet that said the Liberal party would now be spelt with a small ‘l’?
Everyone is talking about Tony Abbott’s proposed parental leave scheme, myself included. I started this week by having breakfast with Tony Abbott (you can read about the lead up to our peace talks here – I’ll be writing a column about how it went down shortly) and so I’ve watched the past couple of days unfold with great interest.
What do I think of this scheme that aims to deliver 6 months paid parental leave at your full salary up to $150K to be paid for by a levy on big business?
I think it’s a game-changer. Whether it comes off or not it’s radical and ambitious and sets a benchmark of 26 weeks instead of the 18 that was originally proposed by Labor. Some think it’s a shrewd and cynical political move that allows Abbott to reverse his reputation for being anti-women in an instant. It’s certainly stopped a lot of Abbott opponents in their tracks. If you’re a woman (or man) of baby-making age, it’s a difficult scheme to fault from a personal point of view.
I applaud the time-frame of 6 months and I applaud the idea of the payment being at full wage. No matter what you earn, your life is always structured around that income. Taking 6 months off is impossible if your maternity leave only covers a fraction of your former income.
Also, I don’t buy the argument by some that “we’d all like to take six months off but what if you don’t have kids?”.
The idea of parental leave is always far too focussed on the parents but let’s acknowledge the fact that the main beneficiary in having your mother or father around to be your primary carer in the first six months of your life is THE BABY.