By TONY ABBOTT
As parents, Margie and I knew all too well the struggles families face when they don’t fit into the one-size-fits-all child care system which currently exists. The child care sector has to catch up with the changing family working patterns. This week I took my pledge for a Productivity Commission inquiry into child care a step further by releasing the terms of reference which highlights the key problems that need to be addressed and key proposals which must be considered, such as greater access to in-home care and the option of tax deductibility. There’s no doubt that it’s time Australia had a more flexible, more accessible and more affordable mix of child care options.
A more responsive child care system is good for families but it is particularly important for mothers who suffer the greatest impact when child care is scarce, inflexible and expensive. It provides women with power and choice in their career decisions and makes it easier for them to work how they want, when they want, which is not only critical for working women, it’s critical for our nation’s.
More flexible child care is not the only important concern facing new and expectant mothers. Australia might have been the first country to give women full electoral rights but we have been just about the last to give them paid parental leave. Some 38 countries have a paid parental leave scheme – including places like Morocco and Mexico as well as Denmark and Switzerland – but Australia still doesn’t have a scheme based on a woman’s real wage.
The scheme that the current Government cobbled together, is basically a re-badged Baby Bonus. It’s a welfare scheme rather than a workplace entitlement.
Increasing women’s participation in the economy is a sure-fire way to boost productivity. Increasing productivity is the key to building a stronger economy. By better supporting women to juggle work and family commitments, we empower them to be better economic (as well as social) contributors to our country. That’s why paid parental leave is not just a women’s issue or another a family benefit but a policy that makes good economic sense.
Of all the countries with a paid parental leave scheme, 36 out of 38 base parental leave payments on the salary that the individual mother actually earns. Just two countries – one of them Australia – have a scheme that doesn’t pay women their real wage. Labor’s scheme is based on the minimum wage. It’s not a workplace entitlement based on a woman’s real wage.
This is the key difference between Labor’s paid parental leave scheme and the policy I took to the last election and will take again to the next election. I want a scheme where Australian women enjoy paid parental leave based on what they actually earn. Women receive their real wage when they’re sick or on holidays so why diminish the contribution of raising children and make light of the inevitable career interruption this brings by paying them the minimum wage only?