Senate debates

Monday, 6 March 2023


Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Improvements for Families and Gender Equality) Bill 2022; In Committee

12:37 pm

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Trade and Tourism) Share this | Hansard source

I thank Senator Waters for her contribution. I totally reject the proposition that the Labor Party doesn't think women are worth $200 million. In fact, this proposal we're bringing forward is significantly more than that amount of money. The government has committed half a billion dollars in the October 2022-23 budget to expand the Paid Parental Leave scheme to 26 weeks by July 2026. This is the largest investment in the scheme since Labor established it in 2011.

Senator Waters, it's all very well to grandstand and accept everything that the Labor Party does and say, 'But that's not enough; you've got to go further.' We took a policy to the last election. I accept that that was different from the policy we took at the previous election, but we all know what happened at the previous election to a range of our policies. We've taken this policy, and you want to grandstand. You want to say, 'Look, I'm going to accept everything that the Labor Party is putting forward here, but to embarrass the Labor Party we're going to say that we need to go further than that.' That's easy for you to do, with respect, Senator Waters, but you aren't responsible for managing the budget, and this government is. This government will be a responsible, long-term Labor government.

Through this bill we are making immediate improvements to the current scheme by increasing flexibility and fairness from 1 July 2023. We will legislate a staged expansion, with the scheme increasing by two weeks each year from July 2024, reaching 26 weeks in July 2026. Our approach allows us to make important structural reform in a difficult fiscal situation. I reported earlier the economic mess we were left by the people over that side—they trebled our national debt. But we are making responsible economic decisions, as we always will.

Our approach allows us to make important structural reforms in this difficult situation. Expanding the scheme to 26 weeks from 1 July 2023 would obviously have a significant impact on the budget and would cost more than $1 billion over the forward estimates, on top of half a billion dollars we are already investing. We are responsible economic managers, and we need to address the inflationary pressures in the economy that require us to be prudent about any expenditure. The government has asked the Women's Economic Equality Task Force for advice on the optimal model of a 26-week scheme. The task force, made up of independent experts and chaired by Sam Mostyn, is considering the right mix of 'use it or lose it' weeks and flexible weeks to maximise women's economic equality. They will provide advice to the government by midyear. Following consideration of the task force's advice, the government will bring forward legislation to expand the scheme to 26 weeks by 2026.

I'd urge all senators, including Greens senators, to focus on the bill in front of them and the benefits to 180,000 families each year. As I said before, it's critical that this bill passes both houses by 9 March to ensure that parents who are expecting to give birth or adopt on or after 1 July 2023 have the option of pre-claiming parental leave three months in advance.


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