Senate debates

Thursday, 11 June 2020


Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Flexibility Measures) Bill 2020; In Committee

11:47 am

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business) Share this | Hansard source

I will respond to the amendment that you have moved in total. The time-critical nature of this bill, which, as you are aware, provides critical flexibility in paid parental leave, precludes the government from considering other changes to the scheme at this time. Any changes to the means-testing arrangements would require consultation and investigation to ensure we strike the right balance.

The government is committed to delivering on measures that were announced in 2018 as part of the Women's Economic Security Statement that improve the flexibility of the Paid Parental Leave scheme. The proposed amendment that you have moved on behalf of Centre Alliance seeks to enable biological fathers or the partner of the birth mother to claim paid parental leave where the mother does not satisfy the paid parental leave income test. This would have the effect of enabling partners of high-income mothers—that is, above $150,000—to access paid parental leave, subject to the partner meeting the income and work tests. Whilst the proposal would address, as you've said, perceived gender bias in the PPL scheme, it would come at a cost to government and be providing increased support to higher-income families.

Women who are on a higher income and are primary carers are generally in a stronger position to obtain family-friendly benefits as part of their conditions of employment. Further, the requirement in the PPL scheme for a mother to have primary eligibility for parental leave pay reflects that the payment is primarily designed to assist mothers to take time out of the workforce to care for their newborn or recently adopted child, to enhance the health and development of the child and to allow time for the mother to recover from the birth. Whilst we remain open to discussion about further opportunities for improvement, our critical and immediate concern is delivering on the commitment for increased flexibility that has been widely supported.


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