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Thursday, 24 May 2012
Page: 5495

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (11:21): I too rise to support this very important bill, the Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012. This is a very good bill. This is true Labor reform where we give the opportunity to parents to better their lives and to ensure that, during those very, very important moments after the birth of a child, dad can be home for a short time to do all he can to bond with the child, to assist the mother and to do all the things that parents do for their newborn. The purpose of the bill, as I said, is to extend the government's provisions to new parents through the creation of a new payment, called 'dad and partner pay,' for eligible working fathers and other eligible partners. That will be available from 1 January 2013. The dad and partner pay will be set at the rate of the national minimum wage, at the same rate per week as paid parental leave.

The government's new dad and partner payment will be available to eligible people from all walks of life—retail workers, hospitality workers, office workers, factory workers, construction workers, farmers, small business owners and teachers, just to name a few. It will be available to eligible full-time, part-time, casual, seasonal, contract and self-employed workers. The dad and partner payment will be available to the father of the child; the partner of the child's birth mother; an adoptive parent of the child; or a person who satisfies circumstances prescribed by the paid parental leave rules 2010 exceptional circumstances.

The eligibility criteria for dad and partner pay, including the income test, work test and residency requirements, will be consistent with those applying to parental leave pay. This is a great addition to the package of programs and payments that Labor has put in place to help working families. It is very important as it assists parents, as I said, in those very early days of a child's life, a very important stage. This package is there to assist fathers in those very important days to be able to be at home, to bond with the child, to help with that child and to be a part of that very important development of that child's first few weeks.

There are probably no more special or magical times in our lives than at the birth of a new baby, than the addition to our families of a beautiful new child. Many of us in this place have been through that period and we know that it is one of the greatest times in our lives. I do not think there is anything that beats that moment when you come home with that newborn child. Many of us here have been through that and would understand what I am saying. There is probably no other time in our lives when the overwhelming sense that we experience is joy and hope for the future, that of our families and of the child itself.

There are probably no more difficult and draining times in our lives than those first few days and weeks—I am sure that many of us would say months—when the time required to care for a newborn child is at its dizziest height, around the clock, 24/7. Those first, wonderful, magical days and weeks are the focus of this bill, providing the encouragement and help that this Labor government wants to give to new dads and partners to fully participate, help their loved one and bond with their new child. I am sure that many MPs here in this place who have had children know the strain of the parents, especially the mother, who needs to take care of that newborn child alone. This measure will assist in that regard.

I am certain that many women would see the potential help of their partner a godsend—help with the child, help around the house, help in venturing out into the world for provisions, help in managing the flow of relatives and well-wishers and, quite simply, help in getting some sleep.

I have two wonderful boys, who are now adults. When they were born our finances were such that I could not have time off work. At that time I was driving taxis. I did that full time for eight years. But I managed to change my shift around and worked the so-called 'drag shift,' from 6 pm to 6 am. I then came home and tried to give Wendy, my wife, a bit of a rest so that I could do something with our child. I remember how difficult that time was. It was a period when—and still is even today for many people—finances were not that good, when people still had to go to work and life still continued. This measure will assist those people.

I note that the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is here in the chamber. I congratulate her on such a great bill that will assist families and parents to give them some sort of help during those very important moments when that child is brought home. I commend the bill to the House.