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Tuesday, 8 May 2012
Page: 4172

Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (17:05): I rise to speak on the Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures Bill) 2012, which replaces the Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Consolidation) Bill 2011. This is a government bill which seeks to amend the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 to extend the Paid Parental Leave scheme to certain working fathers and partners so that they receive two weeks dad and partner pay at the rate of the national minimum wage, and to clarify provisions relating to 'keeping in touch' days, debt recovery, notices and delegation of the secretary's powers.

This bill also seeks to make amendments to the Fair Work Act to clarify arrangements relating to unpaid parental leave in the event of a stillbirth or infant death, to enable early commencement of unpaid parental leave and to enable employees who are on unpaid parental leave to perform permissible paid work for short periods. The bill seeks to extend the Paid Parental Leave scheme by effectively delivering a two-week paternity leave payment. Despite being promised at the 2010 election by the Labor government, this payment will not be realised until 2013. The payment will be available for eligible working fathers and partners. Subject to the passage of this bill, the new payment will be incorporated into the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010. Eligible fathers and partners will be able to receive two weeks dad and partner pay at the rate of the national minimum wage, the same weekly rate as for the existing parental leave pay—currently $590 a week before tax.

Labor has burdened small business by making them the government's paid parental leave paymaster. We have a ridiculous situation. The government geared up the Family Assistance Office to pay paid parental leave, and for six months the Family Assistance Office did that, largely without incident or issue. So what do Labor do when something is working well, as the Family Assistance Office payments were as set up under this system? They force small business to take over the burdensome paymaster requirements and shut down the system they paid to set up in the first place. The coalition remains opposed to small business carrying this burden, and we will again seek to amend this bill to ensure this ridiculous burden is removed from the thousands of small businesses across our country. I foreshadow an amendment to that effect.

Here and now, we see just how hypocritical the government is. They have got businesses paying the paid parental leave, but they are now happy to pay the paid parental leave for dad and partner payments through the Family Assistance Office. The coalition thinks that is a good move. As I foreshadowed earlier, we think that as the Family Assistance Office is going to pay dads and partners it should pay the mainstream paid parental leave payments as well. The member for Dunkley will have more to say on that later in the debate.

Other amendments originally introduced on 3 November 2011 in the Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Consolidation) Bill are being reintroduced as part of this bill to streamline the consideration of current amendments to the legislation underpinning the Paid Parental Leave scheme. The bill also amends the Fair Work Act 2009 to clarify unpaid parental leave arrangements where there is a stillborn or infant death, to enable early commencement of unpaid parental leave and to enable employees who are on unpaid parental leave to perform permissible paid work for short periods for the purposes of 'keeping in touch'.

The reality is that the scheme Labor is legislating for is second rate. Labor's scheme provides 18 weeks to the coalition's proposed 26 weeks of leave. Labor's scheme pays paid parental leave at the minimum wage; our policy would see paid parental leave paid to mothers at their real wage. Their scheme does not cover the payment of superannuation; the coalition's proposal does. Unlike Labor's scheme, our scheme would pay for up to two weeks leave out of the 26 weeks at the father's real wage, capped at $150,000 a year. This leave can be taken concurrently with or separately from the mother's leave.

Unlike Labor, the coalition has a proud record of supporting parents and supporting families. Labor governments have embarked on an antifamily agenda that has seen funding to family and relationship services slashed and that has seen them attack youth allowance. Our approach on paid parental leave is about providing real support to parents and families. We believe in helping hardworking families and small businesses to get ahead and build a better life for themselves and their families. It is time Labor adopted similar mainstream thinking. We on this side are dismayed that Labor seems to have spent more time devising ways and spin to protect the member for Dobell and the Speaker rather than spending that precious time planning a first-rate paid parental leave scheme. Our scheme is first-class; the reality is that Labor's is second rate. Our scheme is well thought out and will help families and promote productivity; Labor's proposal burdens business. Our scheme delivers real reform; Labor's is, in the end, tokenistic. I therefore move:

That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: “whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House:

(1) notes that the Government’s paid parental leave scheme is too short, does not provide superannuation and does not maintain the income of the majority of Australian mothers; and

(2) calls on the Government to immediately adopt the Coalition’s better, fairer paid parental leave scheme.”

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs D'Ath ): Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Ramsey: I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.