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Thursday, 10 May 2012
Page: 4532

Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (12:05): I rise to speak in support of the Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012. This legislation will improve and expand Labor's fantastic Paid Parental Leave scheme by providing dads and same-sex partners with two weeks' leave at the minimum wage following the birth or adoption of their child. Labor is doing this for, of course, a very clear and deliberate reason. Dads and partners should be provided with the same opportunity to bond with their new child.

As a father I very much enjoyed taking time off at the birth of both of my children, Isaac and Noah, and I know that many parents until now have been able to enjoy that same privilege, that same opportunity. Of course, it was not just to enable me to bond with my new children. Importantly, it also provided me with the opportunity to provide care for my wife who, with the births of both Isaac and Noah, needed to have caesarean sections. It enabled me to provide care and support for her as she was recovering from both those operations. I think it is an extremely important reform that we put in place the opportunity for parents, both the mum and now the dad or partner, to be able to access parental leave. When raising children, particularly very early on whilst the mum is recovering from the birth of the child either in hospital or back at home, I think it is very important for the father or partner to be available to provide that support.

It is important that we reflect on some of the history around maternity leave and the extension of it to paternity and other forms of parental leave for both births and adoptions. I particularly want to pay tribute to the trade union movement, which has advocated for these reforms for decades. The trade union movement very much recognised the importance of new mums and dads being able to take time off not only to recover from the physical consequences of giving birth or having a caesarean section but also to provide the new mum and dad with the opportunity to bond with their children and get their children underway under the best possible arrangements.

Maternity leave was a concept first implemented in Australia in 1974 in the Australian Public Service and it has been extended beyond the Public Service in the decades since. Labor, in our first term and again in our second term, have very much strived to put in place the necessary reforms to provide all employees with the opportunities that had often been in place for unionised employees for many decades. We have legislated for those opportunities, both in terms of the period of time off and the size of the entitlement to be paid but also the practical arrangements that need to be maintained between the employee and the employer. I think they are very necessary.

I want to reflect on some of the comments made by the member for Brisbane about the compliance arrangements. She made the argument, albeit a weak argument, that this dramatically increases the burden on small business in terms of red tape and paperwork. Having seen firsthand the paperwork associated with it, I want to make it very clear to those listening in the House today or via the broadcast that the paperwork burden is actually very manageable and very small and does not take a great deal of effort by either the employee or the employer. If you look at the efforts that this government has made in terms of red tape reduction, I think we have a first-class record of removing unnecessary red tape. Importantly, there is some necessary red tape or regulation to ensure proper operation of our laws. The level of paperwork associated with this is appropriate, it is not a great burden and it does not take an unnecessary amount of time. In contrast, if you look at the Howard government's record, they turned every small business into a tax collection agency of the Commonwealth. If you reflect on the red tape burden associated with that, it is massive and it takes an enormous amount of the resources of small business.

These arrangements to extend Labor's first-class parental leave arrangements are an absolutely appropriate reform. In the Greater Geelong region there have already been several thousand families that have accessed the reforms that this Labor government has put in place. I have no doubt that in the years to come there will be many more thousands of people who will access Labor's paid parental leave arrangements. Those employees who have been accessing these arrangements are a group in society that has previously largely been missing out on the fantastic efforts that the trade union movement has been putting in place for many decades to improve the lives of working families. In getting around the electorate to childcare centres, kindergartens and schools, I know that working men and women across this nation are very pleased with the efforts that this government has put in in a whole raft of ways to make their lives easier, right from the births of their children through to their children completing their education and obtaining their first job and then commencing that lifelong journey of work and looking after themselves, and also, hopefully, in the years to come being provided with the opportunity of having a family of their own.

I would also like to reflect for a moment on some of the more remarkable and significant quotes that have been made by various politicians. One comes to mind, and that of course was a quote from the current Leader of the Opposition. He suggested that Paid Parental Leave would happen over his dead body. They were the comments he made in respect of this scheme. I would also like to reflect on some other contributions that the Leader of the Opposition has made in more recent times about establishing or creating a paid nanny scheme. I think that very much shows just how out of touch the Leader of the Opposition really is with contemporary Australia. A paid nanny scheme is not what this country needs. It would be a very, very expensive level of care; a level of support provided to the very privileged few.

We in Australia have a first-class childcare system. This government has put an enormous amount of effort into making sure that we have a first-class world-leading standard set of childcare arrangements. We have put enormous effort into kinder reforms to ensure that kids get the necessary education required prior to starting primary school and we continue to deliver reform to support families right across the board. Indeed, the budget this week delivered the School Kids Bonus to again support families in delivering the resources those families need to be able to educate their kids—to be able to provide school uniforms and schoolbooks and the like and obviously to be able to provide a very successful education.

It is with some privilege and pleasure that I am able to rise today to speak on these provisions. I have a lot of young families in my electorate considering having children and I know that there will be many thousands of people over the next several years who will be able to access these provisions. I look forward to continuing Labor's great reform of supporting young families in every way that we can. I commend these arrangements to the parliament.