lifestyle

This is for every mum accused of 'double dipping' into Government maternity leave.

Last week Treasurer Joe Hockey announced that tens of thousands of ‘double-dipping’ new mums would be blocked from accessing the Government’s paid parental leave scheme if their employer’s scheme was more generous. Here, NSW Labor secretary and campaign organiser Rose Jackson explains to a Mamamia reader why women on maternity leave should be allowed to have it both ways.

Dear Mamamia, 

Okay, okay, this might be an unpopular question, but can you explain to me why getting money from the Government AND money from your employer to cover you while you’re on maternity leave is NOT double-dipping?

Of course I am a big supporter of Paid Parental Leave, but it always did seem strange to me that if you had a good enough job that paid you to have a baby, you still got the money from the Government that, presumably, is designed to help people who aren’t so fortunate. 

It seems sensible to me to make it an either/or proposition. Most people have saved some money to prepare for a baby, so surely this is a helping hand, not an essential life-saving payment? Thank you,

Andrea, (via FB) 
Let’s accept the premise that tough budgetary decisions are necessary to get the Australian economy back on track.

Despite the now considerable evidence that the whole ‘budget emergency’ thing wasn’t really an actual thing, we all know there is no mystical money tree and it is the role of Government to make decisions about where and how to spend the finite resources it collects in taxation.

In case you missed it: A guide to the winners and losers in the 2015 Federal Budget.

Decisions do need to be made. And decisions sometime mean some people do better and some people do worse. Australian democracy is not an episode of Oprah – ‘everyone gets a free car!’ – it’s redistributive, from people and businesses that have a lot to people and (generally smaller) businesses that don’t.

We elect our Governments to make those decisions about who carries the burdens on behalf of a better society for all of us.

hockey applause feature
Joe Hockey, Australia’s Oprah Winfrey?

In 2015, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have identified the latest group of deserving burden carriers – those well-known high-life livers – new mothers. Yep, that’s right, in the ‘tough decisions’ about who wins and who loses out of the Federal Budget, it’s pregnant ladies who are the chief losers this time around. They’ve clearly had it easy for far too long.

Vomiting out of car windows or in café toilets. Fluid retention – oh those retched cankles! Needing to pee constantly because your twins are doing a tap-dance on your bladder. Stretch marks and dizziness and restless legs and all without booze? Easy street, my friends. We clearly aren’t doing our bit.

From Julie Bishop: “Child care support is not a welfare payment”.

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Joe Hockey’s called it: the ‘age of entitlement’ is over.

Well if that’s the age where I am entitled to be paid 75 cents for every dollar a man earns, be chronically under-represented in our Parliaments and corporate leadership, lose seniority and be sidelined when taking maternity leave then I cannot wait for the new age of disentitlement! Sounds peachy.

And what’s the policy prescription for our exorbitant life of luxury (aka the gruelling daily battle to shower)?

pregnant
Pregnant women have had it easy for far too long.

Joe Hockey called it again: ‘no more double-dipping on parental leave’. New mothers can no longer access both the Federal Government Parental Leave scheme and any scheme provided directly by their employer.

When I recall having just pushed something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a grape or enduring serious caesarean surgery to save my baby / self, breastfeeding a tiny growing new human on demand, trying to fully recover after the massive bodily clusterfuck that is pregnancy and childbirth, hanging out to scoff some more sweet (minimum wage) dollars like I’m greedily helping myself to the hummus on that same piece of pita is clearly the scenario that comes to mind. Pass me the tzatziki, I’m a dirty double-dipper!

The Federal Government’s parental leave scheme – 18 weeks at the minimum wage – was always intended to be a safety net complemented by the myria employer schemes many (sadly not all) working women can access. For many women it meant at least 25-35 weeks of some kind of paid leave during critical early development stages for tiny babies. How civilised, how appropriate, you might think, you’d be wrong – how clearly an extravagance.

Now the free ride / essential job caring for tiny baby is over, women will be forced back into the workforce far earlier than they would otherwise prefer because their ability to complement the government minimum guarantee with employer-based support has been removed. I personally cannot wait for my workmates to have me bursting into tears when the photocopier breaks because I’ve been rushed back to work with a four month old baby who still wakes four times a night so my family can meet the mortgage.

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rose jackon twitter
Rose Jackson, ‘double dipper’. Image via Twitter.

You know the real ‘double-dipper’ in this whole scenario? The roller-coaster ride that is the Federal Government’s policy on parental leave – they’ve had more goes at it than my 3 year olds attempts to say her own name (who knew ‘Charlotte’ was such a mouthful?). The policy’s been up, it’s been down, it’s spinning and back-flipping. And like most cheap amusement park rides the ‘Abbott Hockey Parental Leave Policy Double Dipper’ just ends up making you sick.

What else is this government doing for women? Waleed Aly slams the Government for not spending more to prevent violence against women.

His policy position might have had more changes than ‘big girl undies’ during a day of toilet training, but to be fair Joe Hockey has been consistent on calling out this motherhood rort for some time. Back in 2013, he dropped some early Hockey truth bombs – comparing women taking maternity leave to blokes taking a holiday. I cannot think of two more similar things than hanging out with a cocktail by the pool or perusing art galleries and trying to get a screaming baby to latch at 3am or projectile pooping.

Relatively cheap sarcasm and #feministrage aside, this policy is appalling. Some people do have to lift more, to help others, not that some are leaners, but because they’re falling behind. If Joe Hockey seriously thinks new mothers with tiny babies are the people in our community best placed to do the ‘lifting’ (on top of the laundry, toddler we’ve got on our hip, overflowing nappy bag and hunger to raise the best kids possible) then Australia needs a new Treasurer. Now.

Try these for more on the new child care reforms:

A guide to the winners and losers in the 2015 Federal Budget.

Happy Mother’s Day: Treasurer royally screws over pregnant women.

Finally. A politician (and young mum) who gets it.

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