Changes that would see thousands of Australian women lose government-backed paid parental leave are still being pursued by the Turnbull Government, despite opposition in the Senate and public concern.
The Coalition still wants to change the current system if re-elected, Social Services Minister Christian Porter confirmed on radio this morning.
In the 2015 budget, then-Treasurer Joe Hockey announced that women, who are able to access paid parental leave schemes that are more generous than the 18-week minimum wage scheme, would no longer receive the government payment as well.
He accused these women of “double dipping” although was later forced to back-pedal on the language amid widespread displeasure and when it was revealed that the wives of two Coalition ministers had used both an employer scheme and the government program.
The policy change took many by surprise, as the scheme was intended to act as an addition to any employer policy, to give women even more time at home with their children.
The Government’s paid parental changes have languished in the Senate, as Porter negotiates with cross-benchers to try and get some version of the policy through.
But according to the ABC, Centrelink is still advising women that if they have their baby after July 1, 2016, they will be subject to the as-yet-unlegislated policy.
Porter confirmed to Radio National this morning that was an unrealistic time frame, but he also refused to rule out a resurrection of the policy after the next election, should the Turnbull Government return.
Christian Porter being sworn into the Turnbull Ministry by Governor-General Peter Cosgrove. Source: Getty/Stephan Postles.
"People who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the status quo is clearly going to be maintained for a period of time," he said.
"However that does not mean that 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 along the lines that we've suggested."
Porter said there was concerned about "equity issues" and despite saying he rejected the characterisation of the Government's position as attempting to stop double-dipping, he went on to say that for high-earning women, the scheme was "inequitably generous".
"You can have the 18 weeks at minimum wage but also be able to access your own often very generous employer PPL," he said.
Labor's community and families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin slammed the government's continued pursuit of the policy.
"This confirms that a vote for the Turnbull Liberals at the next election is a vote for savage cuts to paid parental leave," she said in a statement.
"The Coalition's cuts to paid parental will leave about 80,000 new mums worse off every year. Some families will lose as much as $11,800 in support."
Labor has seized on the news, and say it shows the Government doesn't understand the importance of PPL to new mothers and families just starting out.
"It might seem like small change to Malcolm Turnbull, but to young families it makes all the difference."
Macklin appears to be gearing up to make PPL a key election issue. It should be.
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