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Monday, 31 May 2010
Page: 4524

Mr TURNOUR (12:01 PM) —As I was saying last week when I started speaking on the Paid Parental Leave Bill 2010 and the cognate bill, Mr Costello described the Leader of the Opposition’s paid parental leave scheme as ‘silly’, with a silly tax on everything as its basis. The Leader of the Opposition cannot be trusted on paid parental leave and he cannot be trusted with the Australian economy. If elected he would introduce a paid parental leave scheme that would push up the cost of living for working families to pay millionaires $75,000 a year in parental leave payments. Under his scheme, income payments are capped at an annual salary of $150,000; so, for six months leave, those recipients would receive $75,000. But eligibility is not capped, so those on incomes above $150,000 would receive those payments. I do not believe, and neither do the Australian people, that those on higher incomes need to be supported by the government in this way.

The Liberal Party scheme is economically irresponsible and unfair. It is no wonder the Australian people see the Leader of the Opposition as a huge risk to the Australian economy. Mr Abbott is all over the shop on tax and he is all over the shop on policies as important as paid parental leave. Earlier in the year he said, ‘There’s no way we will increase taxes.’ He was talking about a possible future Abbott government, of course. Then a month later he announces a tax on everything that would push up the cost of living, to pay for his parental leave scheme. Right now he is running the mother of all scare campaigns on the government’s mining super profits tax—a tax that will ensure that the Australian people get a fair share of the nation’s natural resources. As a minister in the Howard government he told a Liberal Party function in Victoria:

Compulsory paid maternity leave? Over this government’s dead body, frankly.

It is no wonder he has been nicknamed Phony Tony—because what he says depends on his audience and the timing. He is the great weathervane of Australian politics and will blow in any direction depending on what is in his and the Liberal Party’s interest rather than the national interest.

The Australian people have a stark choice later this year at the election. They can vote for an extreme and erratic Leader of the Opposition who is a real risk to the Australian economy—a Leader of the Opposition who takes a policy on the run approach to serious issues like paid parental leave—or they can support a government that takes a serious approach to developing policy.

This bill and the government scheme are based on serious policy development by the respected Australian Productivity Commission. It is a scheme that is broadly supported by community and business leaders. It is a good scheme that gets the balance of responsibility right in terms of the family, business and government. I would encourage everyone in this House to support this legislation and the government’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme.