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Paid Parental Leave Bill 2010; Exposure draft of legislation implementing the government's announced paid parental leave scheme

CHAIR —Good afternoon and thank you for coming to talk with us. I know that at least Mrs Francis has been to see us before. Has everybody else been to one of these things before?

Dr Jory —No.

CHAIR —You have information on the protection of witnesses and evidence; it is standard practice. We have the submissions from the two organisations. What we will do is go into opening statements from any or all of you, and then we will go to questions. Who would like to start?

Dr Jory —I have a recent written statement. I did not realise that—

CHAIR —That is fine. There is no problem at all. We are here for you to give us your information; that is the most important part of this.

Dr Jory —All right. We would probably be in synchronicity on most things, so I would suggest that because I have a written statement—

CHAIR —Certainly, Dr Jory. Why don’t you start?

Dr Jory —I will read that.

CHAIR —Then we will go down the line.

Dr Jory —Then it is ad hoc or impromptu. FamilyVoice defines itself as a movement dedicated to:

… upholding traditional marriage, parental rights, the sanctity of human life, democratic freedoms and our Christian heritage.

The Paid Parental Leave Bill 2010 appears to us to pose a grave threat to family life and family relationships, especially the relationship between mothers and their infants. The draft bill and its supporting documents contain multiple anomalies. For a start, its title, ‘Paid Parental Leave Bill 2010’, is a misnomer, since its benefits are available to non-employed mothers who have done the required 330 hours of paid work over 10 of the 13 months before giving birth. A payment to a mother who is not employed cannot be a parental leave payment.

The draft bill’s maternity payment scheme uses financial rewards and punishments to discourage mothers from giving full-time care to their infants beyond the six months deemed optimal by the Productivity Commission. The concession is made, however, that up to 12 months full-time maternal care can be beneficial. This raises two questions: (1) why should mothers be discouraged from giving full-time care to their children beyond the supposed optimal period and (2) what criteria or research was referenced to reach the conclusion that the optimal period of full-time maternal care for an infant is six months? A fundamental assumption underlying the draft bill and its supporting documents is that mothers in the paid workforce are contributing to national productivity and prosperity but those caring full time for their children are not. Thus a mother caring for children is deemed to be contributing to national prosperity if it is other people’s children for whom she is caring and if she is being paid to care for them but not if she is caring for her own children.

In our submission we show that in reality a mother caring full time for her own children is making an invaluable contribution to national prosperity and productivity. The draft bill’s supporting documents present no evidence that six months of maternal care is sufficient for breastfeeding and bonding. By contrast, our submission documents extensive research showing infant needs are best met by full-time parental care until three years of age at least. Our FamilyVoice submission also notes that the Productivity Commission report anticipates that the proposed Paid Parental Leave scheme is likely to increase the wage work in an ‘average female lifetime’ by ‘around half a year’. We point out that this is a trivial return—six months extra paid work over a lifetime—for such an expensive and offensively discriminatory scheme.

We have analysed the 83 non-confidential submissions to this inquiry and found that over half of them, 46, oppose the bill because it does not treat all mothers equally. Even the shoppies union would prefer a scheme which gives paid parental leave to all mothers. On the other hand, many submissions supporting the bill claim that Australia has been almost alone among Western nations in failing to give paid parental leave to all workforce mothers. This is patently false, as the submission by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry points out. The baby bonus, introduced in 2005, plus additional family support payments mean that Australia actually gives more financial support than most other countries to workforce and other mothers after they give birth.

Some submissions supporting the bill claim that paid parental leave to waged women is a workplace entitlement like sick leave or holiday pay. Women’s Health Victoria actually declares, without providing evidence, that paid parental leave is ‘fundamental human right’. In reality, paid parental leave is a family, not a workforce, entitlement. It is in the interests of a business to provide sick leave so workers do not return to work and infect others and holiday pay so workers have a break and maintain efficiency. Only some workers get pregnant, just as only some workers may want to take a break for study or travel to broaden their horizons. Businesses wanting to retain such workers may offer special parenting, study or travel leave, but they should not be obliged to do so.

It is in the government’s interest to provide parenting support in order to maintain a viable fertility rate and healthy children. Therefore, the government, not businesses, should pay all families to help achieve this objective. It is noteworthy that—although the Productivity Commission report alleges that wage force mothers need a maternity wage to keep them from returning to the paid workforce for six months and dismissively declares that ‘a parent caring for children full time does not require incentives to prolong an absence from work’—the commission’s own figures show that, in 2007, 74 per cent of wage force mothers gave at least six months full-time care to their infants anyway. Thus the scheme would be ‘needed’ only for the remaining 26 per cent of those wage force mothers. Here again the alleged benefits of the proposed scheme are risibly small when set against its expense and discriminatory offensiveness.

The lack of balanced thought, logical argument and impartial research in the draft bill’s supporting documents and in the minority of submissions made to this committee in support of the bill suggest that the bill’s supporters know that its provisions and goals are indefensible in terms acceptable to the general community. Moreover, when the illogicalities and inconsistencies in the supporting documents are stripped away, it becomes clear that the true fundamental purpose of the bill’s provisions is unstated, because even to state it would expose its demeaning pettiness. That goal is simply to make short-term full-time care for newborn infants more financially comfortable than it would otherwise be for mothers who have demonstrated what the Productivity Commission terms ‘a reasonable degree of attachment to the labour force’ and to punish with the denial of the bill’s financial benefits all mothers who have shown no such labour force attachment.

As we show in our submission, a recent Galaxy poll reveals that two-thirds of Australians oppose a discriminatory paid parental leave scheme. Ordinary Australians sense correctly that such schemes are antiwomen, antichildren and antifamily. Thus, we of FamilyVoice Australia are representing the general community sentiment when we respectfully propose to this committee that the draft bill be drastically amended or entirely withdrawn. The only acceptable amendments would be ones which ensure an equal allowance for all mothers whether they have been recently in the wage force or not.

CHAIR —Thank you.

Mrs Francis —I have not prepared a written introduction, because I only got your email at 5 pm on Wednesday and I had a very busy day yesterday with an international guest speaker, but I would like to give in evidence this paper that I wrote in 1991 on the importance of mother care. It is yellowed with age. The actual funding of child care discussed in the document is no longer valid, because the funding has changed, but the research on the importance of mother care is still valid. In fact, it has been confirmed by the major researchers that I have quoted there, who have continued their longitudinal study of infants in day care. Dr Jay Belsky was one of the major researchers.

CHAIR —Do you want us to keep that copy or do you want us to copy it and give it back to you?

Mrs Francis —No, I have a copy at home.

CHAIR —We will just table that document then. That is fine.

Mrs Francis —Thank you. That is for you. Besides my other qualifications, I am also a trained breastfeeding counsellor with the La Leche League in the United States, so I am rather enthusiastic about breastfeeding. I promote the World Health Organisation policy, which says that breastfeeding should be continued for two years or more if the baby is willing to nurse—and the baby will be willing to nurse if it is not separated from its mother. So I think that is very important.

I want to deal with a couple of points that were raised in submissions this morning. Stephen Smith referred to the ageing of the population and the shortage of workers as one reason for encouraging women into the workforce, but that will just aggravate the problem in less than a generation, because the mothers who are fully committed to the workforce have smaller families than those who are full-time mothers, who regard their work of raising children as of prime importance and who are willing to make income sacrifices for that.

I also reject the statement that Australia is lagging behind the rest of the developed world in not providing paid maternity leave. Australia and the United States are accused of being discriminatory in this regard, while other OECD countries provide paid maternity leave, but actually our birthrate is higher than that of most European countries; I think it may be higher than virtually anywhere except possibly Ireland. The United States has a birthrate at replacement level, 2.1; ours is 1.79. So whatever discrimination there is has worked to enhance our birthrate, so that argument is no longer valid.

I have said in my submission—I will not repeat it—how discriminatory this is, and Dr Jory has emphasised this. It discriminates against mothers who choose the full-time care of their infants. There is a tremendous miscalculation in the GDP which is causing a lot of OECD countries to have serious economic difficulties—I mean really serious, like those of Iceland. Iceland is bankrupt, and Endeavour Forum is not!

What the GDP calculates is the exchange of services in regard to child care. A childcare worker’s salary is counted in the GDP but the work of a mother who cares for her children at home is not counted. That is an absolute fallacy. Similarly, even with a simple thing like baking a cake, if a mother at home bakes an identical cake to one baked in a shop, only the ingredients are counted in the GDP, not her labour. But if she buys the same cake in a shop the wages of the person who made it are counted. So there is a big flaw in our GDP estimates and this relates to not valuing—I am not talking about just emotion, love and caring—the actual physical production and practical work done by mothers in the home in cooking meals rather than takeaway and all those sorts of issues.

It is very important that the Senate supports the role of the mother in the home, who is a worker. It really grates on me when Mr Rudd comes out with ‘working families’. Does he exclude families where only one partner is in the paid workforce? Aren’t mothers who are caring for maybe six children at home also workers? That work is very hard and many feminists have complained about how difficult it is and how little recognised it is.

In our estimation there are flaws in the GDP, which is leading to serious economic difficulties. I mentioned that to the Productivity Commission in my submission to them. There is also an excessive burden on small employers and the kind of churning that is going on. As far as I can understand it—the draft bill is so convoluted that it is very hard for the average person to understand it—the employer pays the woman the maternity leave payment and then gets it back from the government. Or maybe it is the other way—


Mrs Francis —The other way around: the government pays the employer. Anyway, that is a lot of churning and a lot of administrative costs which are not helping anybody. Why not have a simpler scheme like Peter Costello’s baby bonus scheme, which was applauded by everybody. Mothers loved it. It even put up the birth rate—one for the husband, one for the wife and one for the nation. That is a simple scheme that you can have that would avoid all this churning and all the administrative costs. The other thing we found incredible was the compliance thing. How is an inspector going to check up on whether a woman has done 330 hours of work if she has done casual or part-time work? The compliance costs of investigating this is going to be again more churning, which is not going to benefit anybody.

We would recommend that this bill be substantially amended or abandoned or made non-discriminatory. Give it to all mothers and children. It should be based on the wellbeing of the child, not the workforce status of their parents. It also needs to be combined with the childcare subsidy. Some rational scheme needs to be worked out. A mother in paid employment gets a childcare subsidy but a mother who is providing full-time care does not get that, she gets family income B, which is not of equivalent value. This is just endless discrimination against the mother in the home.

The statistics show that most mothers, if given a choice, want to care for their children while they are pre school. That would be their choice if it was not such an economic burden. Give them a choice. It is tremendously important that they should have a choice about whether they are in the paid workforce or not. Some mothers like being in the paid workforce and do not like being at home caring for children full time, and some combine the two, with part-time work.

Give them a choice. Make it rational, simple and easy to administer. It should be done through the tax system and not like a welfare payment, because these mothers are really producing the most important thing for the nation—they are producing babies and they are caring for these babies. There should not be this discrimination against them. They should not be regarded as lesser beings or lesser women and their children should not be discriminated against, because what hurts the parents or hurts the mother will hurt the child.

The paper that I handed out to you as evidence talks about the infections that children get in long day care, which will be inevitable if mothers go back to work after six months. Long breastfeeding and home-cooked meals have a relationship to obesity, which is becoming an increasing problem in this country—takeaway meals and the easy option of going to McDonald’s or KFC. When you are tired after work that is what you do with your children. If you are at home and you are relaxed and you can prepare a healthy meal of three vegetables and two fruit, which is recommended, that is so much better. There is obesity, allergies and infections—all of which are reduced by children being cared for in their own home by a mother who breastfeeds for as long as possible. I would be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mrs Francis. Mrs Mongan, have you got any opening comments you would like to make?

Mrs Mongan —I have not had a lot of time to consider this—I have mostly come along to support Babette—but one thing that stood out when I looked at this was that it must be incredibly hard to construct a bill such as this when you are looking at it in such an isolated way, as an employment issue. I think seeing it only as an employment issue ignores the social impact, and Babette expressed that extremely well. Our priority should be looking at the impact on the future generations of this country. I take Babette’s comments on breastfeeding. The government has recently released a strategy on that, and that is to be commended. But there is some tension between those issues when you think of the social impact. It also concerns me that some women do not have any choice but to work. I think that mothers who choose to stay at home could be better supported, especially in their children’s early formative years. I do not see the bill as totally negative but I certainly do not think it goes far enough, especially in that it does not look at the possible social impact on those women at home.

CHAIR —Would you care to give some comment about what you think the social impact would be?

Mrs Mongan —The social impact could be quite extensive. It takes probably a good couple of months to establish breastfeeding, and women who do get to breastfeed like to continue for at least 12 months—I think that is the norm, it is what our society tends to accept. Also, early separation—that is, before the child is about 12 months old—can often cause problems, which are probably not too longstanding in the children, because they tend to get very good care anyway, but certainly could contribute to depression and anxiety in working mothers. Those are hidden issues; they have not been brought out.

CHAIR —Mr Mongan, would you like to make some comments?

Mr Mongan —Yes, just briefly. There are great incentives for to us to plan all aspects of our lives. The government encourages us to do financial planning for our retirement, and planning of children is a factor in financial planning. It is not uncommon for parenthood to be delayed. Financial plans—dealing with mortgages et cetera—are often dealt with before a couple embarks on parenthood. As I understand this bill, eligibility for paid parental leave will at times require formal and direct participation in the workforce. If this remains the case then couples’ choices about when to have children and how many to have will be compromised—they will certainly be limited.

CHAIR —Would you care to expand on that point?

Mr Mongan —As I understand it—and Dr Jory has raised this—whilst a woman is on parental leave, she may lose eligibility for it, or may not gain eligibility for it for a subsequent child, if the timing does not allow her to build up the required 330 hours of paid work over 10 months. It could dictate the frequency and timing of having children. It may unnecessarily force women to go back into the workforce and to delay having children until they are older, which they might not wish to do. They might wish to have their children close together after they have delayed it for some years whilst preparing financially. The parental leave payment will obviously be a factor for many people in deciding when to have children. A woman’s only choice might be to go back into the workforce to qualify for the payment and therefore help her family plan better financially.

Senator ADAMS —Thank you all for your contributions. Firstly, I would like to ask you if you agree that some paid parental leave is better than none. How do you feel about that?

Mrs Francis —Provided it is non-discriminatory, yes. I would recommend a scheme such as the scheme in Norway—I do not know whether I mentioned that before—where they found that the cost of providing child care was so high and not worth the effort that, I think, mothers half their salary for three years if they do not use government child care. I am not certain of the figures, but they give a substantial amount to mothers who care for their own children. I would recommend something like that.

Paid parental leave cannot be seen in isolation from childcare subsidies, from income tax and from family tax benefit A and B. The whole thing is a kind of incoherent package right across. It has to be rationalised and uniform and made simple to administer and simple to comply with the tax system. It is a hodgepodge—you get a bit here, you get a bit there if you do certain things. It eventuates in the single- income family being discriminated against. They do not get the second tax-free threshold. Family tax benefit B is not the same as the childcare subsidies. Why is a mother’s care valued at less than care by strangers, where the child can pick up infections and colds and where the child does not have someone who loves it. A child needs that in its early years, and I think that is why we are having problems with our teenagers, adolescents and even young adults—nobody told them they were the most important person in the world. A childcare worker cannot do that, no matter how dedicated or competent they are. To a mother that is the most wonderful baby in the world. That is what the baby needs and it needs it until it has developed its own self-esteem, its own identity and its own self-confidence. But our children are lacking that when they are left for most of their waking hours in childcare centres or are cared for by strangers.

Dr Jory —Could I point out that there is an anomaly in the drafting of the bill, which will be of considerable interest and concern to the committee. And it works like this. There are two streams of payment. If a woman is actually in employment at the time that she has the child then there is legal fiction whereby the government pays the employer and then, in return for getting this lump sum, the employer agrees to pay maternity leave to the mother. When the 18 weeks maternity leave comes that way, technically, it is the employer giving 18 weeks maternity leave. That 18 weeks is technically work, so if that woman then, say, gets pregnant halfway through there will be no problem of her getting the paid parental leave when her next baby is born, because you go back 13 months and all she has to do is have the 330 hours—essentially, that is two months—within 10 months of that. It can be fairly easily managed because, again, the key thing is that, when she is on maternity leave from the employer for those 18 weeks, the 18 weeks are technically work—employment. It is rather ironical because, on the one hand, she is not allowed to be in employment but, on the other hand, she is. But, still, that is in the bill. If, on the other hand, she has the required 330 hours over 10 months et cetera but she is not employed at the time that she gives birth or her employer has just gone broke or something like that then, sure, she gets the 18 weeks at the basic wage. But that does not count as 18 weeks of employment. So that is different from the other one. Therefore, if she gets pregnant within that 18 weeks she will not get the benefit for the next child because, technically, she cannot go back to work in any other way than being on maternity leave until the end of the 18 weeks. That means that then there are nine months and she will not be able to get the 10 months work out of nine months. It is a mathematical problem.

You have these two streams of payment. If the payment comes one way via the legal fiction of the paid maternity leave by the employer then the woman is pretty safe getting pregnant during the 18 weeks. But if, on the other hand, she gets it straight as social security because she is not employed at the time of the birth then if she gets pregnant at the same time, say, halfway through the 18 weeks she will miss out on the paid parental leave for the second child. So I do point that out as an anomaly.

CHAIR —As you point out in your submission?

Dr Jory —Yes.

CHAIR —Mrs Mongan, did you wish to add something?

Mrs Mongan —In relation to Senator Adams’s question about whether something is better than nothing, I think it is very difficult to predict exactly what impact this would have on families. Having been a long-time Canberra resident I know that, during the seventies and eighties, the Public Service employed probably most of the people in Canberra and maternity leave was available, and there would probably be a lot of stories from that time about the impact on families where the women did not work, even though I think Canberra at that time had a higher percentage of working women than the rest of the country, probably for that reason. So I think there is probably data out there as to what the likely impact would be if you looked at that period in Canberra of the seventies and eighties. Some of it may impact adversely—I think it will—on families where the mother does not work and do not get some sort of compensation for the work of the women in the home.

Mr Mongan —I think, especially in that period of the seventies and eighties in Canberra, it was very rare to have a generation above the parents to help with raising children, so Canberra was perhaps a unique example of having and raising children and participating in the workforce.

Senator ADAMS —Do you agree that women should have a choice as to whether they work or not?

Mrs Mongan —Yes, absolutely.

Mrs Francis —Absolutely. Endeavour Forum includes members who are full-time mothers and mothers who are in the full-time, paid workforce—single women, married women, widows, divorced women. We have all kinds of members. We just want an equitable system, not a discriminatory one, and the thing that stands out with this PPL is its discriminatory nature and the tremendous churning involved. Colin Jory just pointed out one of the churning aspects: if you left the paid workforce  three months before your baby was born then you are not technically employed, so then if you get pregnant you do not qualify for the next lot. For your information, I have eight children, so I know what I am talking about when I talk about both the joys and the difficulties of mothers.

Senator ADAMS —Have you looked at the coalition’s proposal for this particular issue?

Mrs Francis —I have not seen the detail of Mr Abbott’s proposal, but I think it is worse because he is talking about six months leave. This one is 18 weeks, so I think Mr Abbott’s is probably worse. I have not seen the detail of how it is to be funded. Maybe he is going to give the equivalent to mothers who stay at home, who are full-time mothers; I do not know. But if he just means six months paid maternity leave for those in the workforce then it is worse than this one.

Senator ADAMS —Why is it worse, when you have got 26 weeks versus 18 weeks?

Mrs Francis —Yes.

Senator ADAMS —Why is it worse?

Mrs Francis —I have not seen the rest of his family policies. Maybe he will give the equivalent to mothers who stay at home. I do not know. But if it is just a stand-alone thing, if he is giving that only to mothers in the paid workforce, then I think that is worse.

Dr Jory —The key thing in Mr Abbott’s scheme is that he intends to pay mothers in the workforce their full average salary from before for six months, so in that sense it is more discriminatory—quite apart from the other peculiarities in doing so, in the sense that the gap that is likely between what is paid to workforce mothers and what is paid to other mothers is much greater. For example, I find paying the baby bonus to women who are giving full-time care extremely anomalous and I cannot see any merit in that.

Mrs Francis —We have conveyed our views to Mr Abbott and his colleagues. The other way it will hit us doubly hard is because I think he is getting big business to pay for it, but big business is not going to fund it out of their pockets; they will raise the prices of whatever they are selling, and so the consumers, everyone, will have to be subsidising this. So it is going to hit the single-income families even harder—unless he balances it out with something in his family policy for the single-income families and the mothers who care for their own children and stay out of the workforce.

Dr Jory —The other thing is that, whereas the government’s scheme discriminates between women who have been committed to the paid workforce in some way and others, you have got this incredible differentiation with Mr Abbott, which implicitly is eugenics. It is sort of saying that we have got to pay more to quality mothers to get them out of the workforce to have children and look after their children than to common, run-of-the-mill mothers. The implication is that we should pay more to get high-class children than to get low-class or lesser quality children. I do not find that at all appealing.

Senator ADAMS —I do not think that was the intention. You talk about mothers breastfeeding up to 12 months. Have you got any statistics on how long mothers do breastfeed? In this day and age, I think 12 months is probably far more the exception than the rule.

Mrs Francis —I have not got the statistics for Australia. I am going by what the World Health Organisation recommends and what I and my daughters have done, and we have raised healthy babies without serious illnesses or requirements for hospitalisation. We have not had a baby that has had to be rushed to hospital for gastroenteritis or something like that. Just from personal experience, I think it is great. Not all babies will nurse for two years. Some will just laugh and walk away.

Senator ADAMS —That is something you have stated. Would you be able to let the committee know if you have got any evidence that states how long the average person does breastfeed for?

Mrs Francis —Breastfeeding in Australia?

Senator ADAMS —Yes.

Mrs Francis —I think the Nursing Mothers Association/Australian Breastfeeding Association would have that data. It is just what is recommended, what is ideal. We should always aim at the ideal here and not cut mothers short at the knees and say 18 weeks, six months or whatever. The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months—no solids, nothing else, just breast milk. I think one of the reasons we are suffering from an epidemic of obesity—and probably allergies as well—is that children are having other foods which they are not intended to have under the age of six months. I was born in India, and in India if you did not breastfeed it was a death sentence for your baby, so mothers breastfed. I have seen them happily breastfeed for two or three years. It is great for the bonding between the mother and baby. I have got that ideal in the back of my mind. Why can’t women in an affluent country like Australia do it when mothers in India, Africa and some of the developing countries can do it?

Senator FURNER —The Australian Human Rights Commission appeared before us today. Part of their submission to us reads:

The Commission endorses the Exposure Draft of the Government’s announced Paid Parental Leave Scheme as a sound first stage of achieving a beneficial and equitable scheme of paid leave entitlements for parents in Australia.

Consistently today we have heard some of you using the terminology of ‘discrimination’. To assist me in understanding where you are coming from, can you just point me to what part of the HREOC Act you attribute your arguments that this bill is discriminatory?

Mrs Francis —I have not based my argument on the HREOC Act, because I disagree with several aspects of it. It only recognises the child when it is born. It does nothing to protect the child before birth. As you know, a lot of brain development, child development, occurs before birth. So I will not go into the HREOC Act. But it is obviously discriminatory if you are giving a payment for maternity for women who have an attachment to the paid workforce and not to mothers who—

Senator FURNER —Wouldn’t you think the commission would have raised that this morning or raised that in their submission if that were the case?

Senator FURNER —But they haven’t. They are the Australian Human Rights Commission and they have not raised that either in their submissions or orally here today in providing evidence.

Dr Jory —Can I make a comment, Senator. I think an awful lot of people, probably most and certainly many, would regard the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission as highly ideological, would not regard it as at all impartial and therefore would not attach any importance at all to what it would deem in this matter.

Mrs Francis —For example, they recommend a charter of rights. They were tremendously enthusiastic about it—more jobs for the girls and boys. That was rejected even by the ALP cabinet. So let’s not take too much notice of the Australian Human Rights Commission. They are very selective in the human rights that they support. They certainly do not give any support to mothers who want to care for their children on a full-time basis. We have made recommendations to them and we have got absolutely nowhere.

Senator FURNER —I have not found that. I have represented workers for over 20 years and in many cases I have represented women in cases of discrimination. In all cases I have found the commission, whether it be the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission, very thorough, very helpful in terms of resolution in cases of discrimination.

Mrs Francis —We have not found them at all helpful. The charter of rights is an example, because we made submissions to them on that. The majority of the Australian public and governments, including Labor governments and Labor premiers—New South Wales—rejected their recommendations. Their policies do not work in the real world. I have not seen them make any submissions on behalf of, let us say, equity in family taxation—recognising the family as a unit; it is all based on the individual, ignoring even the individual who may be carrying a child in her womb. I agree with Mr Jury: they are ideological.

Mrs Mongan —Could I make a point?

CHAIR —Yes, Mrs Mongan.

Mrs Mongan —When you look at this as an employment act, it is obviously a perfectly valid act in that way. But if you look at the social aspects—what Babette’s argument has been about—there is discrimination against the child whose parent does not work. When you take that into account with the fact that the work that the woman does in the home is not counted under GDP, there is an element of discrimination if you look at it in that light. Senator Adams commented about women having to choose whether they work or not. I don’t think many women really do have a choice these days, with the high cost of housing and mortgages. I think that choice should be paramount and if low-income families need compensation to keep the woman at home, if that is her choice, it should be there. If you have women who are going out to work under duress, they become stressed and families become dysfunctional. Look at the mental health problems that confront us today. You can see often their genesis is in the pressure on young families.

Mrs Francis —Postnatal depression seems to be a growing epidemic.

CHAIR —Certainly. Most of your submissions actually talks about the baby bonus and family tax benefit B and do a calculation and compare it with the proposed PPR. That is the basis in one sense of your claim about discrimination. You are actually saying that under the current system—and you are all aware that the PPR is optional; any woman can choose not to have it and to choose the baby bonus instead.

Dr Jory —Yes, that is right.

CHAIR —Actually, I am not sure whether the baby bonus is optional. I honestly do not know. Maybe you can reject a payment, but I am not sure. It, simplistically, is an argument whether you think the baby bonus should be equal to the PPR?

Dr Jory —If so, it would be a matter of being indexed equally, because if it is equal you can get discrepancies. But if it is a matter of statue, that they are indexed equal, then you do get equality. As far as I can see, FamilyVoice and most organisations with a similar outlook would support that.

CHAIR —So it is as straight as that?

Dr Jory —I would think so. That would be provided it was indexed so that it was a fixed parity and not a casual one that could be blown away with the next bit of case or legislation. Again, I am assuming what FamilyVoice and others—

CHAIR —Certainly, most of the submissions lead off with that. There is no intrinsic opposition, although there is concern around the social aspects to having a paid scheme linked to work because women actually make that decision. I take your point totally, Mrs Mangon; often it is a choice, but it is actually a choice which has been affected by the environment in which they are operating—I take that fact. If women make the decision that they are going to stay in the workforce when they are having their family, one of the things is we support the fact that there should be a paid parental scheme. However, some of the submissions—yours included—say that if women choose not to be in what is the paid workforce—allowing for the fact that there needs to be absolute acknowledgement of the economic employment and value of people who stay in the home, as that is a given—you want to see some equity in the payment amounts.

Mrs Mongan —Yes.

Dr Jory —That is another reason that Abbott’s scheme is, I imagine from most of our point of view, far worse—the one that has been floated by him, to the detail that he has floated it. You could not then index it that way.

Mrs Francis —I missed his reply to the budget speech last night, I was at this function we had organised. I do not know whether he offered anything to the mothers who stay at home.

CHAIR —I think it is available now on the internet. That way you would also be able to see that there was some comment. But I do not think it went into the detail that you are seeking for this area.

I am afraid that we have run out of time. Is there any point that we have not been able to get from you which you want to make sure is on record?

Dr Jory —I am right, thank you very much.

Mrs Francis —I would just urge you to look at the Norwegian scheme. I do not have—

CHAIR —Yes, I have made a note that that was one of the things. If there is anything that you want to add when you go away and read other submissions and see the Hansard, please be in contact with the committee. Thank you very much.

Mrs Francis —Thank you very much for inviting us.

[2.47 pm]