House debates

Tuesday, 25 February 2020


Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Flexibility Measures) Bill 2020; Second Reading

5:12 pm

Photo of Jason FalinskiJason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I strongly disagree with the amendment. I rise instead in support of the substantive motion and the bill in front of us, the Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Flexibility Measures) Bill 2020. This is a bill which makes changes to the Paid Parental Leave scheme aimed at better supporting working mums and dads to access their payments more flexibly. How could we disagree with this? How could the Labor Party suggest that this bill needs to be amended?

The time between a parent and their child is sacred, and this government will always fight to enhance that time. It is not just this government saying that. Research is now becoming more and more definitive that time parents spend with their children and children's improved developmental markers are highly correlated. As the nature of work changes, our legislation also needs to change. It is estimated that 4,000 parents will take their parental leave flexibly each year following the changes we are making. With around 300,000 births in Australia each year, nearly half of all new mothers and fathers access the Paid Parental Leave scheme. The scheme allows eligible working parents with 18 weeks of payment at a rate based on the national minimum wage which is currently just under $750 per week; it is more than $13,000 over the 18 weeks.

Paid parental leave plays an important role in supporting the health and wellbeing of new mothers and their babies. The Liberal government understands this, and is fully committed in continuing to support mothers and fathers while also encouraging workforce participation. For this reason, the bill introduces greater flexibility to support working parents, especially self-employed parents and small-business owners, who are often unable to afford to leave their business for 18 consecutive weeks, especially when they are the major manager in the business.

I would also like to endorse the comments of the member for Warringah on this bill. Many people in my electorate find that, as they begin to earn more money, they have their allowances reduced, meaning that they question the time that they should spend at work and question the benefit of it, which is of course the opposite of what we are attempting to achieve. This measure will help thousands of new parents who currently return to work before they have used all of their parental leave pay. We don't want new parents, mums and dads, to miss out on the valuable time all parents cherish with their children, especially newborn children.

Under the current arrangements, parental leave pay can only be received as a continuous 18-week block. Within the first 12 months of the birth or adoption of a child, from 1 July 2020 families will be able to split their parental leave pay into blocks over a two-year period, with periods of work between, thus making it easier for those who work for small businesses or are simply unable to take such a long, consecutive period of time off work. Parents will be able to take their remaining entitlement of up to six weeks any time before their child turns two years old and they can return to work at any time during this period. Pending these changes, the government will also make complementary amendments to increase the flexibility of the existing unpaid parental leave entitlements in the Fair Work Act 2009—an act that, frankly, has done so much damage to the workforce participation of mothers and fathers; an act that is so inflexible that we are seeing real wage increases fall to record lows and worker participation reduced; an act that, so desperately, the Labor Party should be ashamed of.

These changes will ensure parents who wish to access their parental leave pay flexibly will have access to a corresponding flexible unpaid parental leave entitlement. Many self-employed men and women and small-business owners will see 18 weeks as a significant amount of time to be away from work. These changes will mean mothers and fathers will be able to take 12 weeks of parental leave pay initially before returning to run their business or go to the workplace. They can then choose when to take the remaining six weeks of their entitlement, at a time which suits their personal needs along with their business needs.

Some parents may choose to use their parental leave pay to support a part-time return to work. For example, after returning to work following an initial period on leave, parents could return to work in a part-time capacity for four days a week and receive a day of parental pay for the fifth day they are not working for up to 30 weeks a year. This flexibility will benefit all hardworking parents who are eligible for paid parental leave to transfer entitlements to eligible partners who take on the role of primary care where it ultimately benefits the family's circumstances. For example, if a mother wanted to take 17 weeks of her parental leave pay to recuperate after the birth of her child and transfer the remaining weeks to her partner, she may choose to take a week off when the child is transitioning into child care at 18 months old.

The bill expands on the important safety net for working families who may not have access to employer schemes. It ensures parents are able to have the time they need and deserve with their child following a birth. The time between a mother and a father and their child is so precious, and the government is making these changes to ultimately protect that time. I commend the original bill to the House and urge the Labor Party to stop playing games with this important reform.


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