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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 3435

Senator STEPHENS (Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and Parliamentary Secretary for the Voluntary Sector) (10:51 AM) —I will just clarify that the government’s approach to developing Australia’s first national Paid Parental Leave scheme has been highly consultative from the beginning and the government has sought to balance the interests of business and families and ensure that the scheme is practical and affordable. Consistent with this approach, we released an exposure draft in early May which facilitated an early start to the relevant Senate committee inquiry into the bill, and the government has paid very close attention to the community’s views on the bill. In response to those views and recommendations in the Senate committee’s inquiry report, the government is now moving four amendments to the bill. This first amendment, which Senator Fielding has drawn our attention to, is to insert the object clause into the bill, which ensures that women who do not meet the work test due to premature birth or a pregnancy related complication or illness can be eligible for paid parental leave if they otherwise have met the work test.

Some witnesses to the Senate inquiry actually gave evidence that it would be helpful to have a very clear statement of the objectives of the Paid Parental Leave scheme in the bill to reduce confusion and to clarify the intended goals of the legislation. This was expressed in recommendation 1 of the Senate committee report, and the government sees merit in this.