Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Questions without Notice
Paid Parental Leave
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Abetz. I refer to the Prime Minister's signature policy, the Paid Parental Leave scheme. What will the scheme cost?
The signature policy of the government, of course, was the repeal of the carbon tax; let us make no bones about it. I will not allow Senator Wong to try to put words into the government's mouth. Indeed, we went to the election saying that we would stop the boats, repeal the carbon tax, restore the budget and stop the waste.
Let us put all this into context. We did go to the election seeking support from the Australian people for a paid parental leave scheme which was designed to assist with population growth, with productivity and with participation—fundamentally, vitally important issues. Indeed, for example, any comparative study of the female participation rate in the workforce in Canada as opposed to in Australia shows the sort of differential that we as a nation should seek to overcome, given that we know that as we speak at the moment there are currently five taxpayers for every pensioner, and by 2050 that will have changed to about 2½ taxpayers—
Mr President, I rise on a point of order. This is all very interesting, but there was only one question asked and that was, 'What will the scheme cost?' That is the only question that was asked.
Thank you, Mr President. The point I was making was the cost of not having the Paid Parental Leave scheme. That is why, when you look around the world and see the consequences of good policy and greater female participation in the workforce, you can see the economic activity that will grow and the benefits for all Australians of that greater participation rate in the Australian economy.
If you want an answer, listen. If you just want to listen to your own voice, go outside somewhere and talk to yourself. The people of Australia do want to know, and they will know the costings of this when we introduce the legislation and when we have the final design of the package. Until such time as we have the final design of the package, we will not be able to provide a definitive answer to that question. Senator Wong, as a former finance minister, actually knows that to be the truth. Senator Wong knows that to be the fact and is simply playing games. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I again refer to the Prime Minister's Paid Parental Leave scheme, which was first announced by the Prime Minister two elections ago. Why is the minister refusing to reveal to the Australian people and to his backbench the full cost of this Prime Minister's Paid Parental Leave scheme?
Senator Wong and her colleagues tried to canvass all this through the Senate estimates. If I might say, Senator Cormann, in particular, was able to explain in exasperating detail to Senator Wong all the circumstances surrounding the development of the policy. Senator Wong, as a former finance minister, actually knows about the contingency reserve. She actually knows that you develop a policy and, once it is developed, that is when you put a figure on it—not like Labor, that says, 'Let's throw money at something' and thinks, 'How do we spend all this?' We actually go through things step by step in a methodical, purposeful manner. Overall we believe that a paid parental leave scheme will be good for our nation's productivity, for female participation and for population. That is why we support it.