Senate debates

Monday, 6 March 2023


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

12:51 pm

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

I thank Senator Faruqi for her contribution but indicate that the government continues to oppose this amendment. Can I say this: I don't think there's ever been a government in the history of this country that's so committed to achieving gender equity. I just look at my colleague here, Senator Gallagher, and the wonderful work that she's been doing in every aspect of this government's decision-making process.

I start by reiterating my earlier comments. We went to the election with a proposal, that proposal was endorsed by the Australian people, and we're here today to implement that proposal. The work test supports the intent of the scheme and provides financial support to working parents who have an attachment to the workforce. Therefore, PhD students who are not also engaged in paid employment are not eligible.

The current work test is flexible enough to encompass workers in both full-time and part-time employment and workers on casual, temporary or fixed-term contracts. To meet the work test, a person must have performed qualifying work for 10 out of the 13 months prior to the birth or the adoption of their child and worked for at least 330 hours in that 10-month period with no more than a 12-week gap between consecutive working days. The hours worked requirement equates to just over one day a week. The person is also considered to be performing qualifying work on a day if they have taken a period of paid leave of at least one hour. Should a PhD student undertake paid work in addition to their studies, such as tutoring at university, this could count towards the work test. Just from my knowledge of this area, I'd say that there are a lot of PhD students who would fit into that category. PhD students who are employed at the university may also be eligible for the university's Paid Parental Leave scheme for employees. Many PhD scholarship programs offer paid parental leave to eligible students who have held their scholarship for at least 12 months. Of Australia's top 20 universities, 16 provide paid parental leave to students on PhD scholarships at an average of 12 weeks. A PhD student who is not eligible for paid parental leave may be eligible to receive the newborn supplement and the newborn upfront payment. The government also provides significant funding and support to students. In the October 2022-23 budget there is costed expenditure on higher education at $44.63 billion over four years, including $485.5 million over four years for 20,000 additional Commonwealth supported places at universities and other higher education providers.


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