House debates

Thursday, 24 May 2012


Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012; Second Reading

11:16 am

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak briefly in support of the Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012. Since coming into government Labor has done much to assist children in their development and to assist parents in raising them. The government increased the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, and it now stands at $7,500. It has increased family payments, most recently in this year's budget, with the schoolkids education bonus of $410 for each primary school child and $820 for each secondary school child. It has also increased family tax benefit part A payments up to $600 per family. Also in this year's budget the government added another $55.7 million for the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters. That is a very important program which very directly targets young mums and their children. Labor has done that because it wants every child to have the best start in life. There has been considerable research which shows that the support given to children should start from the day a child is born, because early child development is crucial to a child's future.

This legislation is another initiative that will help children with their development. Parental care in the very early days can be so important to the child and make so much difference in later life. The dad and partner pay bill enables eligible dads and partners to take leave from their work to support mum and baby and to receive two weeks pay at the minimum wage rate, that is, the same rate as that which applies to the Paid Parental Leave scheme and which currently is around $590 per week. This will be a welcome measure for the parents of a newborn and particularly so for first-time parents for whom parenting is a new experience.

The birth of a child is a special time for families. For the mum it can also be extremely demanding, tiring and, at times, stressful. This can be more so the case if there were complications with the birth for either the mum or the baby, or other medical conditions that may arise after the birth. All births are different and the level of support and care needed by both mother and baby will differ. But support and care is needed and the two weeks of paid leave available to the dad or partner enables that care to be provided. The support will be particularly welcomed by parents who, for whatever reason, do not have other close family members nearby to lend a hand if the need arises.

Of course, this legislation complements and supplements the Paid Parental Leave scheme legislation introduced by the Labor government in 2011. That legislation provides 18 weeks of parental leave at the minimum weekly wage rate. It is a provision that the opposition claim they will increase, and they say they will do so by taxing the largest companies in this country with an extra 1.5 per cent tax. But they did nothing about it in their last 12 months in office. In fact I understand many of them in the past have opposed a paid parental leave scheme. It is interesting that, after this government brought in the 18 weeks Paid Parental Leave scheme, the opposition then say that they will go one better. It is a complete turnaround from where they were when in government. Nevertheless that is what they say, and I understand that they will also be opposing this legislation today.

The new assistance which will be available from 1 January 2013 effectively brings the Paid Parental Leave scheme to 20 weeks. The payment will be made by the Department of Human Services and not by the employer. The payment is in line with the recommendations of the Productivity Commission when it handed down its report on this matter.

Finally, the dad and partner pay will be available to eligible full-time, part-time, casual, seasonal, contract and self-employed workers. Like the parental leave pay, this new payment will be available during the first 12 months after the birth or adoption of a child. This is good legislation. It is legislation that, once again, adds support to families, and I commend it to the House.

11:21 am

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I too rise to support this very important bill, the Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012. This is a very good bill. This is true Labor reform where we give the opportunity to parents to better their lives and to ensure that, during those very, very important moments after the birth of a child, dad can be home for a short time to do all he can to bond with the child, to assist the mother and to do all the things that parents do for their newborn. The purpose of the bill, as I said, is to extend the government's provisions to new parents through the creation of a new payment, called 'dad and partner pay,' for eligible working fathers and other eligible partners. That will be available from 1 January 2013. The dad and partner pay will be set at the rate of the national minimum wage, at the same rate per week as paid parental leave.

The government's new dad and partner payment will be available to eligible people from all walks of life—retail workers, hospitality workers, office workers, factory workers, construction workers, farmers, small business owners and teachers, just to name a few. It will be available to eligible full-time, part-time, casual, seasonal, contract and self-employed workers. The dad and partner payment will be available to the father of the child; the partner of the child's birth mother; an adoptive parent of the child; or a person who satisfies circumstances prescribed by the paid parental leave rules 2010 exceptional circumstances.

The eligibility criteria for dad and partner pay, including the income test, work test and residency requirements, will be consistent with those applying to parental leave pay. This is a great addition to the package of programs and payments that Labor has put in place to help working families. It is very important as it assists parents, as I said, in those very early days of a child's life, a very important stage. This package is there to assist fathers in those very important days to be able to be at home, to bond with the child, to help with that child and to be a part of that very important development of that child's first few weeks.

There are probably no more special or magical times in our lives than at the birth of a new baby, than the addition to our families of a beautiful new child. Many of us in this place have been through that period and we know that it is one of the greatest times in our lives. I do not think there is anything that beats that moment when you come home with that newborn child. Many of us here have been through that and would understand what I am saying. There is probably no other time in our lives when the overwhelming sense that we experience is joy and hope for the future, that of our families and of the child itself.

There are probably no more difficult and draining times in our lives than those first few days and weeks—I am sure that many of us would say months—when the time required to care for a newborn child is at its dizziest height, around the clock, 24/7. Those first, wonderful, magical days and weeks are the focus of this bill, providing the encouragement and help that this Labor government wants to give to new dads and partners to fully participate, help their loved one and bond with their new child. I am sure that many MPs here in this place who have had children know the strain of the parents, especially the mother, who needs to take care of that newborn child alone. This measure will assist in that regard.

I am certain that many women would see the potential help of their partner a godsend—help with the child, help around the house, help in venturing out into the world for provisions, help in managing the flow of relatives and well-wishers and, quite simply, help in getting some sleep.

I have two wonderful boys, who are now adults. When they were born our finances were such that I could not have time off work. At that time I was driving taxis. I did that full time for eight years. But I managed to change my shift around and worked the so-called 'drag shift,' from 6 pm to 6 am. I then came home and tried to give Wendy, my wife, a bit of a rest so that I could do something with our child. I remember how difficult that time was. It was a period when—and still is even today for many people—finances were not that good, when people still had to go to work and life still continued. This measure will assist those people.

I note that the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is here in the chamber. I congratulate her on such a great bill that will assist families and parents to give them some sort of help during those very important moments when that child is brought home. I commend the bill to the House.

11:26 am

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Disability Reform) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank all members for their contribution to the debate on this very important bill, the Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012.

As the member for Hindmarsh, I think, has so eloquently put it, this is a very special time in the lives of mums and dads. We hope that this extra paid time will give dads the sort of help and support that the member for Hindmarsh has put so well.

This bill extends the government's Paid Parental Leave scheme to include a new payment, the so-called dad and partner pay, for eligible working fathers and partners. It took this Labor government to deliver this bill and Australia's first national Paid Parental Leave scheme. It gives working parents, mums and dads, the security to stay at home with their newborn babies in what we all know are those very critical, early months of a child's development. I can inform the House that more than 150,000 families across the country have already taken up this government's historic Paid Parental Leave scheme.

Dads will now be able to have the chance to have some time off work as well. Dad and partner pay will give eligible fathers and partners two weeks pay, at the rate of the national minimum wage. Our Paid Parental Leave scheme, now with dad and partner pay added, will of course further reduce the pressures on new parents when their children are very small. It also, very importantly, gives both parents the opportunity to share in the care of their newborn baby. It is the case that so many dads want to do that, which is a great thing. It also lets parents make their own choices about how they want to balance their work and family arrangements.

Another important thing about our Paid Parental Leave scheme is that it delivers real benefits to business. It is funded by the government and paid through employers, so employers can stay in touch with their long-term employees while they are taking time off to care for a new baby. I will just remind the House that this was the approach recommended by the Productivity Commission after an extensive inquiry.

This does make sure that our Paid Parental Leave scheme is a workplace entitlement not a welfare payment and, as I said, it very importantly makes sure that employers keep in touch with their valuable skilled staff. That is why I am very disappointed that the Liberals, yet again, are trying to wreck our Paid Parental Leave scheme that so many people, parents and employers, are already benefiting from right around Australia.

We do not support the foreshadowed Liberals' amendments that would undermine the link between women taking time off to have a baby and their workplace. The Liberals tried this once before in here. It got voted down. Now they are going to try and wreck a scheme that is working very, very well.

This demonstrates this opposition's view of Paid Parental Leave. They are trying to upset a paid parental leave scheme that is working very well. By contrast, they have put forward a proposal themselves for paid parental leave that certainly does not have the support of their own party room. It would give wealthy women—women earning $200,000, $500,000 or $1 million—$75,000 to have a baby, if Mr Abbott had his own way, while working families would have to make do on the minimum wage.

We know that there is a lot of conflict about this in the Liberal party room. We know that they have a massive $70 billion budget black hole that they have to fill, and yet they want to spend billions on paying very, very wealthy women, giving them $75,000 to have a baby.

We will not be supporting the foreshadowed amendment. It will undermine our Paid Parental Leave scheme, which is working extremely well for parents and for employers. And I think this proposed amendment from the opposition just shows once again how out of touch they are with the needs of working families.

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Menzies has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The immediate question is that the amendment be agreed to.

Question negatived.

Original question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.