By TONY ABBOTT
If you had said to me ten years ago that I would be a launching a paid parental leave policy that provided 26 weeks paid parental leave at a replacement wage, I would not have believed you.
However, as the father of three daughters and as someone who has watched friends and colleagues struggle with the challenges of a young family, I have come to realise that our country needs to do more to help women and families during this important time in life.
With more than half of women in paid employment before they become mothers and with the gender pay gap currently over 17 per cent, the time has come for a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme in our country.
Under the Coalition’s policy that I announced yesterday, mothers will receive 26 weeks of paid parental leave, at their actual wage or the national minimum wage (whichever is greater), plus superannuation. In contrast, Labor’s parental leave scheme is paid at 18 weeks minimum wage, without super.
Every working mother will be a winner under our policy. Women on minimum earnings will be $5,000 better off and women earning the average full time salary of around $65,000, will receive $32,500 – and they will be more than $21,000 better off under the Coalition’s scheme than under Labor’s scheme.
Importantly, our paid parental leave scheme also includes superannuation. For example, a woman earning $65,000 who has two children when aged 26 and 29, will be around $50,000 better off in retirement than under Labor’s scheme, which does not include superannuation.
Under our scheme, fathers will be eligible for two weeks out of the 26 weeks for dedicated parental leave at their actual wage or the national minimum wage (whichever is greater), plus superannuation.
I am proud of this policy because it helps women, it helps families and it will strengthen the economy.
Australian men and women receive a replacement wage when they are on annual leave, sick leave and long service leave. Parental leave should be no different.
This is the accepted standard overseas. Of the more than 30 countries in the OECD offering a paid parental leave scheme, Australia is one of only two nations that fail to pay parental leave based on a replacement wage.
For most families, the happiest time in family life is the months after a child is born. Yes, there is sleep deprivation but it is also a time of wonder and joy. Unfortunately, the bills still keep coming in and there is no ‘leave’ from mortgage payments, power and fuel bills.
Our commitment of 26 weeks paid parental leave is consistent with recommendations from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) that the minimum period of exclusive care and breastfeeding for optimal maternal and infant health outcomes is six months.
As the Productivity Commission notes, the health gains from paid parental leave not only benefit families. Society at large will benefit from lower long-term health costs and the likely long-run productivity benefits.
This is a long overdue social and economic reform – it helps families and helps the economy at the same time.
If a replacement wage is considered appropriate for public servants and ministerial staffers, why shouldn’t all women be able to be paid at replacement wage on paid parental leave?
Annual leave, sick leave, compassionate leave, personal leave and long service leave are all workplace entitlements and all paid at an employee’s salary, but no one has ever called them ‘Rolls Royce’.
I invite the readers of Mamamia to read in full how this policy will work and how it will help women, families and the economy. This is a signature policy of the Coalition: It’s good for women, good for families and – by lifting workforce participation – it’s good for the economy as well.
Tony Abbott is the Leader of the Opposition and the Federal Member for Warringah.
Did you get parental leave from your employer or the Government when on maternity leave? Do you prefer the Coalition’s paid parental leave policy? Why?