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Thursday, 24 May 2012
Page: 5493


Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (11:16): I rise to speak briefly in support of the Paid Parental Leave and Other Legislation Amendment (Dad and Partner Pay and Other Measures) Bill 2012. Since coming into government Labor has done much to assist children in their development and to assist parents in raising them. The government increased the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, and it now stands at $7,500. It has increased family payments, most recently in this year's budget, with the schoolkids education bonus of $410 for each primary school child and $820 for each secondary school child. It has also increased family tax benefit part A payments up to $600 per family. Also in this year's budget the government added another $55.7 million for the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters. That is a very important program which very directly targets young mums and their children. Labor has done that because it wants every child to have the best start in life. There has been considerable research which shows that the support given to children should start from the day a child is born, because early child development is crucial to a child's future.

This legislation is another initiative that will help children with their development. Parental care in the very early days can be so important to the child and make so much difference in later life. The dad and partner pay bill enables eligible dads and partners to take leave from their work to support mum and baby and to receive two weeks pay at the minimum wage rate, that is, the same rate as that which applies to the Paid Parental Leave scheme and which currently is around $590 per week. This will be a welcome measure for the parents of a newborn and particularly so for first-time parents for whom parenting is a new experience.

The birth of a child is a special time for families. For the mum it can also be extremely demanding, tiring and, at times, stressful. This can be more so the case if there were complications with the birth for either the mum or the baby, or other medical conditions that may arise after the birth. All births are different and the level of support and care needed by both mother and baby will differ. But support and care is needed and the two weeks of paid leave available to the dad or partner enables that care to be provided. The support will be particularly welcomed by parents who, for whatever reason, do not have other close family members nearby to lend a hand if the need arises.

Of course, this legislation complements and supplements the Paid Parental Leave scheme legislation introduced by the Labor government in 2011. That legislation provides 18 weeks of parental leave at the minimum weekly wage rate. It is a provision that the opposition claim they will increase, and they say they will do so by taxing the largest companies in this country with an extra 1.5 per cent tax. But they did nothing about it in their last 12 months in office. In fact I understand many of them in the past have opposed a paid parental leave scheme. It is interesting that, after this government brought in the 18 weeks Paid Parental Leave scheme, the opposition then say that they will go one better. It is a complete turnaround from where they were when in government. Nevertheless that is what they say, and I understand that they will also be opposing this legislation today.

The new assistance which will be available from 1 January 2013 effectively brings the Paid Parental Leave scheme to 20 weeks. The payment will be made by the Department of Human Services and not by the employer. The payment is in line with the recommendations of the Productivity Commission when it handed down its report on this matter.

Finally, the dad and partner pay will be available to eligible full-time, part-time, casual, seasonal, contract and self-employed workers. Like the parental leave pay, this new payment will be available during the first 12 months after the birth or adoption of a child. This is good legislation. It is legislation that, once again, adds support to families, and I commend it to the House.