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Shadow Minister considers a two-year maternity leave proposal.



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AM

 

Wednes day 17 January 2007

Shadow Minister considers a two-year maternity leave proposal

 

LISA MILLAR: The Australian Labor Party is considering the right to extend maternity leave for up to two years, and giving parents the right to request part-time work when they return to their jobs. 

 

The party is debating a draft proposal to change maternity leave provisions, which are now only available to workers on Federal awards. 

 

The ALP is hoping the plan will create a clear policy difference with the Government over the balance of work and family life ahead of this year's Federal election. Labor's Finance spokesman, Lindsay Tanner, is coordinating policy for the ALP's national conference. 

 

He's speaking to David Mark. 

 

LINDSAY TANNER: Well, one of the proposals that have been floated and in fact has been around in public debate for some time is of course to extend the general period of maternity leave that prevailed from 12 months to two years and to also give parents the right to request part-time work thereafter. 

 

And that's something that I think is an extremely important issue that we need to debate in our society, that people are working harder, they're working longer hours, they're under more pressure. And it's getting harder and harder to fulfil your family responsibilities. If you're bringing up young kids, if you're having kids, for a lot of Australians - including a lot that aren't very well paid - it's getting really, really hard to balance those responsibilities. 

 

John Howard just wants work choices, he just wants the employer to make all the decisions. We believe ordinary working people should have a say about fulfilling their family responsibilities. 

 

DAVID MARK: A year and half ago the Australian Industrial Relation introduced such a scheme for people on Federal awards. So your plan would be to extend that to all Australian workers? 

 

LINDSAY TANNER: Well obviously that's implicit in the proposal within the raw draft, but this along with everything else that's in that raw draft of our platform proposal, is yet to go through a variety of consultation processes including with the party leadership and senior shadow ministers. 

 

So, we don't know what the outcome of this will be, but this proposition I think will drive the debate forward. It's very important that we do focus on this question of people being able to fulfil their family responsibilities. 

 

DAVID MARK: Well, one could understand how a Federal Government Department say, could hold somebody's job for two years, but how is a small business going to hold a job over for two years? 

 

LINDSAY TANNER: Well, at the moment in the vast majority of cases you have a requirement of one year prevailing, and that seems to work fairly well. 

 

It's important also to keep in mind that many people won't want to take the two years. The whole purpose of the proposal that have been floated in this case is to provide greater choice. 

 

DAVID MARK: Lindsay Tanner, the Australian Chamber of Commerce in the Australian this morning, has given the draft policy the thumbs down. Does that surprise you? 

 

LINDSAY TANNER: Look, employers always resist, it doesn’t matter how innocuous or how limited in cost any improvement for the rights and circumstances of the working people in this country are, the employers always resist. They always claim the sky is going to fall in, the always claim the economy is going to collapse. 

 

Let's look at these issues on their merits, let's look at what people think about the balance between work and family life, what's important. 

 

And let's ask ourselves the question, should ordinary working people who are having kids have some rights to ensure that they can look after their kids, that they can bring them up, that they can give them the love the care that we all want our kids to get. I think the answer to that is yes, the employer's organisation will always no. 

 

LISA MILLAR: That's Labor's Finance spokesman, Lindsay Tanner, performing some of his own family duties in the background there and speaking to AM 's David Mark.