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Thursday, 10 May 2012
Page: 4602

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Mackellar) (17:11): I rise to speak on the Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012 and on the opposition amendment that proposes that, whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, we insert:

(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.

In the first part of my speech, which was prior to question time, I was outlining the fact that women who return to the paid workforce and many women who delay having children or decide not to have children are very much impacted by whether there is adequate paid parental leave and whether there are adequate childcare arrangements. I spent some time outlining findings from the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Human Services, of which I was the chair in 2006, entitled Balancing work and family. I outlined the importance of those two issues in women's contribution to the paid workforce, particularly outlining the fact that women will soon be a majority of those with tertiary university education. We cannot as a nation afford to waste that education. We do need them to be utilising those skills. Therefore, these two issues are of fundamental importance not only to them but also to the nation as a whole. In fact, if women withdrew from the workforce today, our economy would collapse. Therefore, the opposition thinks it is fair that we have a proper paid parental leave scheme of 26 weeks, at the existing wage of the person concerned, capped at $150,000 per year.

I now want to raise the matter of in-home care or nanny care, as some like to term it. I want to refer to the fact that as part of our policy, the Leader of the Opposition has said he would refer to the Productivity Commission the question of in-home care receiving the same childcare benefit that is paid in respect of people who put their children into institutional care called a childcare centre. I would simply say that there are very similar reasons to argue in favour of delivering in-home care—that is, services into the home—applying to child care as there are for applying it to aged care. As former Minister for Aged Care, I introduced thousands of community aged-care packages, allowing people to have care in their own home where they wanted to be. I believe it is equally fair that mothers should have that same choice with regard to their children, of having the care delivered in their own home. It has a double benefit. It is a less expensive way of delivering services if you build a specifically built institution called an aged-care facility or called a childcare centre. If you build an institution, you have to pay for the land, for the bricks and mortar and for the electricity, rates, taxes and everything else associated with running that, whereas if you deliver those services into the home, the land is already paid for, the bricks and mortar are already there and somebody else is already paying for the services to that building.

In our report, we recommended that in-home care, or nanny care, be categorised as approved care and thus attract payments extended to users of approved care where providers are registered with the Family Assistance Office. We further said that those people should have, or be at an advanced stage of attaining, a minimum certificate II qualification in child care or an equivalent recognition of prior learning, have a current working with children police record check and have current first aid certification. We believed it was important to have those. That is something that others may deliberate upon later.

The whole point of the report was to give mothers a choice and to overcome the difficulties of people who do not work the hours during which childcare centres operate. Even long-term day care does not take into account people who do night shifts, people who work at intermittent times or people who work a 12-hour shift. So we believe that the policy that the Leader of the Opposition has put forward, to refer this to the Productivity Commission to outline how this can be best achieved, is very sensible—just as we believe that our system of paid parental leave is far superior to the one that the government has put in place. That is why we moved this amendment. It will not deny a second reading but allows us to debate this important question and to put it on the record.

The point that we make very strongly is that ours is the only policy that would allow the government to live up to its rhetoric on paid parental leave. It provides paid parental leave and suitable arrangements so that mothers can nurture their own children, can make arrangements for their children that are satisfactory to them and their family situation and can return to the workforce, and it takes into account those women who can only progress in their careers by working full time. As I stressed, it is in the interests of mothers. They could nurture their children during the paid parental leave and then continue their careers knowing that the arrangements they had made for their children suited their family arrangements and were in the best interests of their children. I call upon the government to accept that ours is a superior recommendation and adopt this motion.