Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Community Affairs Legislation Committee
01/02/2017

BURGESS, Mr Mark, Chief Executive Officer, Police Federation of Australia

GRIFFITH, Mrs Alexandra, Member, Police Federation of Australia

HAYTHORPE, Ms Correna, Federal President, Australian Education Union

KEARNEY, Ms Gerardine (Ged), President, Australian Council of Trade Unions

MERLO, Ms Kelly, Member, Police Federation of Australia

RILI, Ms Emma, Acting Industrial Relations Manager, Victorian Branch, Police Federation of Australia

THOMPSON, Ms Sally, Federal Women's Officer, Australian Education Union

TKALCEVIC, Ms Belinda, Director, Social and Economic Policy, Australian Council of Trade Unions

[12:31]

CHAIR: Welcome. I will confirm with everyone that they have received information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses. No one has missed out? Excellent. We have your submissions. It is now time for your to provide an opening statement, and then we will move to questions after that.

Mr Burgess : Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear. Our evidence at this hearing will be premised on the fact that the proposed measures in the Fairer Paid Parental Leave Bill 2016, we argue, will adversely affect many police officers and their families as well as the wider community. If Australia is to have equitable modern police forces then highly experienced female officers are essential and every measure needs to be in place to facilitate their successful return to work. Paid parental leave is one aspect of a suite of measures required to support greater female workforce participation, particularly in policing.

The Police Federation of Australia represents the professional industrial interests of more than 60,000 Australian police officers. Policing requires a complete commitment 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 365 days a year. Police work is extremely rewarding but highly demanding. Police work is unpredictable due to the irregular working patterns and the high risks involved in the job.

As at June 2016, there were approximately 16,000 female sworn police officers, which accounted for 27 per cent of the membership of the police forces of Australia. Female participation in the police service is extremely low compared to national figures for most other occupations. However, rates have increased since the introduction of paid parental leave and flexible working arrangements.

The important thing for us is the retention of females in policing. It costs approximately $150,000 to train and equip a police officer in Australia. Our members access 18 weeks paid parental leave on top of what is available under their respective entitlements under award and enterprise agreements. This support is essential to ensure women and their babies' health is prioritised to support a woman's choice to breastfeed and ensure there is adequate recovery time in order to be fit for duty. Policing is a physically and mentally demanding job. Alex is going to talk about that in a minute on behalf of Australia's police.

We are advised that, on average, female police officers leave the force after only seven years service while their male counterparts leave after approximately 14 years service. Women are being penalised for having children. It is remarkable that in this day and age women are being put in a position to choose between a career or starting, or adding to, a family. Shortly, again, Alex will talk to that issue.

Community access to female police officers should not be compromised. Police services must be reflective of the community they serve. Further, there are many areas in policing in which female members are particularly vital to the welfare of victims—and we particularly include in that the areas of sexual assault and family violence. Again, Alex and Kelly will speak to those issues in a minute.

The other important issue is that we have had many commissioners around the country commit to fifty-fifty quotas of women in policing. We support that goal, but those things will not be achieved unless we have appropriate mechanisms within policing to allow those female members to remain in policing. If it pleases the chair, I would be happy at this stage either to ask Alex and Kelly to contribute or, if you wanted, to have opening statements from others.

CHAIR: Why don't we have these contributions, and then we will move to the other opening statements.

Mrs Griffith : I am currently on maternity leave after having a baby 11 months ago. I have a bit of a special scenario because I was actually on bed rest for 19 weeks prior to having my baby, so I had to commence my maternity leave at 34 weeks of being pregnant. That meant that, had I been required to go back to work and if I could not access the paid parental leave, my son, Easton, would not have been even six months of age before I had to return to work because of the time frames that were there.

Because I was on bed rest, I was not allowed to do any exercise for a great period of time. Since having Easton and being able to participate in exercise, it has actually taken a long time for me to get back to my peak physical fitness. I have weighed myself when I am wearing my police equipment. I am not sure if you are aware that we have to wear our ballistic vest and it is extremely heavy. I weigh 60 kilos. I have weighed myself with my equipment on—72 kilos. I carry around 12 kilos of equipment for eight hours. That is a lot and it is a lot on a small frame. It obviously takes a lot of fitness to be able to do that if you are back at work full time.

I also had a C-section when I had my son. I went back and did my shooting requalification last week and I noticed that my equipment belt and my pants actually rubbed on my C-section scar. If I had not had this amount of time to adequately recuperate after having that, I would have been at risk of probably damaging that site and that could render me non-operational. Then they would have to find a place for me to be able to work in a non-operational capacity at work, which is obviously very bad when I am one of the female supervisors. The ratio of female supervisors at many police stations is actually very small, so then they are missing out on me being in that supervisory capacity as a female—as a leader—to the other females at the police station. That in itself is very poor as well.

I was actually told not to train when I was breastfeeding because of the increase in the breast tissue—the force that goes through your body when you run can damage your breast tissue. Part of the requirement of being a police officer now, as a female, is that you have to attain a certain level of fitness and you must do a beep test, which requires you to run. If I were to come back from my period of maternity leave without accessing that paid parental leave, I would have still been breastfeeding at six months, whereas I had been told by my doctor that it was not advisable to run. I am not sure how you attain that level of fitness if you do not get an adequate recuperation period after having a baby. If you cannot attain that level of fitness, you are not operational and they have to find another desk job for you to do that does not require you going out on the roads. It does not benefit the police at all.

Mrs Merlo : Good afternoon, everyone. I am Kelly, and this is Alex. She is my 9½-month-old baby; she is my third daughter. I am due to return to work next week. The primary reason I am returning to work next week is that all my paid leave has expired. That includes my maternity leave benefits from work, combined with paid parental leave and any other annual leave I might have accrued. The reason I feel so passionately about this issue is that I have been lucky enough to breastfeed all three of my children, and a huge factor in being able to do that has been the paid parental leave. If that was not available to me, I more than likely would have had to return to work when my work-funded maternity leave ran out. Keeping in mind that, despite the fact that it can be strung-out at half pay to 28 weeks, I commenced my maternity leave with Alex here at 34 weeks, due to the physical stresses on my body. If I was relying purely on the leave from work I would have to have returned when she was about 4½ months of age.

I know from previous experience with my first two children that breastfeeding once I return to work became extremely difficult—not due to a lack of support from my workplace; Victoria police I find has generally quite a breastfeeding-friendly policy. I do not know if you have heard from lactation consultants or midwives, but it can be quite difficult as the body does not necessarily respond in the same way to a breast pump as it does to a human baby. This one will not drink breastmilk from a bottle and it is going to make us continuing to breastfeed quite difficult. We will be doing our best and luckily she is almost 10 months old but the thought of having to have that cease at potentially 4½ or five months of age, which is certainly well below any health recommendations, would have been extremely detrimental to her, to our family and to my wellbeing.

Having the paid parental leave has also allowed me to have time off with my two older children. We reduced their days at day care. My older child was able to switch from day care to sessional kindergarten and that in itself saved us a tremendous amount of money—it saved us from going into financial hardship—and it has also saved a significant amount in the childcare rebate. It has probably saved more in what was paid to us in the childcare rebate than my paid parental leave was. I see that as a huge win. Then there are the things you cannot put a price on—the time I got to spend with my children, had I not had that leave available to me.

Ms Haythorpe : Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. We represent more than 183,000 members in public education, from preschool, school and TAFE. We estimate that approximately 12,600 of our members would be women adversely affected by the Fairer Paid Parental Leave Bill. Most of our members are currently able to access 14 weeks of employer provided paid parental leave at replacement wages in addition to the Commonwealth paid parental leave. We believe this allows them to be with their babies for close to the 26 weeks that is recommended by the World Health Organisation.

This bill will heavily reduce the value of employer provided PPL for our members and there is nothing in the bill to allay the concerns that have been raised by our members across the country about this—not only with the 2015 bill but with some additional features in this bill, which we believe are either unworkable or likely to have unintended consequences. I want to raise two issues in particular with you. The bill seeks to limit access to the scheme on the basis of weeks of employer provided paid leave rather than the monetary value of the entitlement. Many of our members currently take their employer provided leave at half pay over a longer period of time and so they will be adversely affected by this and may have to return to work much earlier than otherwise anticipated. We are very concerned that access could be reduced for some of our casual and contract members because the bills suggests that women could be ineligible for the Commonwealth PPL because of the existence of an employer provided scheme in their industrial agreement. We have many members who are long-term casuals or who are on short-term contracts by the nature of the work that they do, so technically they have paid parental leave in their employer agreement or award, but they are unable to access this entitlement because they do not meet the eligibility requirements related to the patterns of their work in the proceeding time period.

A good example of this would be in a school where an Aboriginal education worker is working on a casual basis. Her enterprise agreement allows her to access the unpaid parental leave and paid parental leave for long-term casuals, but, because her hours vary from term to term, she is unable to meet the requirements set out in her industrial agreement to access that leave. The bill suggests that the existence of the leave in the industrial agreement is the defining factor in determining her eligibility, not whether she has actually been able to access the paid leave, and that is of grave concern to us. We believe that this will adversely affect our members in causal and contract work by not only missing out on the employer provided leave but also missing out on the Commonwealth PPL scheme. That will have a huge impact on their capacity to spend time with their babies and may mean that they have to return to work just to survive financially.

The Commonwealth PPL scheme, we believe, is a very modest investment, in terms of what we need for female education workers in their working lives, and it provides a very strong return on government investment, in terms of keeping highly-skilled professional women engaged in work. That is of great social benefit, and that is educating our children. Not only that but there is no question the capacity for people to spend time with their new babies is very important for families. We are strongly opposed to any reduction in paid parental leave, and we are very happy to take questions.

Ms Kearney : The ACTU welcomes the opportunity to appear before the committee, and we note Senator Dastyari's comments that it does feel a little bit like groundhog day in that we are here, again, trying to defend a very important piece of social infrastructure.

A work and family balance is a long-standing priority for the ACTU, and we are incredibly proud of the work that all my comrades and all my colleagues and all the union members have done over the years to make the workplace system more palatable for working women because, as we all know, for too long they have been ignored, undervalued and undersupported. Of course, most importantly, paid parental leave gives babies and our future generations the best start in life, and we have heard some wonderful examples here today of how that is. A work and family balance is fundamentally important to a fair and decent society, a society that cares for children, provides decent employment opportunities for women, promotes family-friendly workplaces and takes collective responsibility for the future of the next generation. I must say that we are absolutely dismayed by the government's continuing attack on new parents and babies.

It is commonly assumed that employees entitled to employer funded paid parental leave have access to generous arrangements and can readily afford to forego the government contribution, but this is untrue. Just under 80 per cent of recipients earn less than $78,000 per annum and half of all recipients earn less than $52,000. We believe it is unconscionable for the government, which has rejected any number of tax and economic reforms which would raise government revenue, to target cuts to vital support programs for women, families and children.

Our submission contains detailed arguments and evidence that support the need to not only maintain the existing PPL scheme but work to build on it by providing access to 26 weeks paid leave plus superannuation at the guaranteed contribution rate for all working parents through a combination of employer and government funding. The current scheme is based on rigorous consultation, independent evidence and continues to have broad support from unions, employers and the wider community. Based on evidence that the desirable duration of parental leave is around six to nine months, the Productivity Commission recommended a government funded minimum leave period of 18 weeks combined with negotiated workplace leave entitlements to hopefully make the leave up to the recommended 26 weeks.

The success of the existing legislative arrangements is a matter of public record. With academic evaluation demonstrating that paid parental leave has had a clear effect in maximising the time taken at home up to about six months after the birth of the baby, but, importantly, it also increases the probability of women returning to work before the baby's first birthday. Simply, it is women on lower-middle to low-income ranges who benefit the most from PPL. The payments for them make up a significant proportion of their regular earnings.

Eighteen weeks government funded PPL is the base level of financial support recommended by the Productivity Commission. Restricting eligibility for employees that receive supplementary leave entitlements from their employer should be rejected outright as being completely inconsistent with the objectives of the PPL scheme and the minimum safety net for working parents. I emphasise this is one scheme; it is not two schemes. It was designed to be a scheme that was co-funded by employers and government contribution.

We feel the proposed changes are especially unjust given that many employees, as we have heard today, have traded off wage increases and other entitlements in order to secure the supplementary leave entitlements in bargaining. Who will compensate the workers for this? Who is responsible for returning those lost earnings that people could have had in their pockets instead of paid parental leave? Not all women who negotiated these entitlements took paid parental leave, but all women and all workers did forgo the extra wages that were used to put in place the paid parental leave entitlement. The fact that workers were prepared to do that—because we know not all workers will take paid parental leave—shows just how important PPL is.

Reducing paid parental leave will have a detrimental effect on children and parents. A key objective of the scheme is to improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for mothers, and we have heard some amazing evidence here this morning from the workers in the police force. We heard that mothers need time to recuperate for a whole range of reasons, not the least of which of course is breastfeeding and bonding. The duration of paid leave is a critical factor. There is compelling evidence that mothers and infants benefit from a period of absence from work for the primary carer, as we know, for around six months. Longer periods up to 12 months are beneficial as well. The cost of raising children in Australia for a family on a middle income has grown by 50 per cent since 2007. So reducing family incomes by up to $12,000 will create significant financial and emotional pressures at a time when parents are particularly vulnerable. Reducing PPL negatively affects workforce participation, gender pay equity and economic growth.

Paid parental leave is one of the few areas of social expenditure that actually encourage women to work. Decisions made by women around the time of the birth of their baby are critical to their future employment. In the absence of paid leave, women, as we know, resign from their jobs and lose contact with their employers, and it is much harder to re-enter employment from outside the labour force compared with an expected return to work implied by taking a period of paid leave.

Cutting government funded PPL is completely inconsistent with Australia's commitment to reduce the gap between male and female participation rates by 25 per cent by 2025. If we are to meet the agreed target for G20 nations and address the gender pay gap, we need to do more, not less, to enable women to return to work following the birth of a child. Further, the proportion of the population participating in the workforce is actually expected to decline over the next 40 years as a result of population ageing. Policies such as paid parental leave that boost women's participation and contribute to economic growth are critically important to ensuring that we have a sustainable tax base for the future and decent living standards for everybody.

Honestly, I just have to say that to me personally this is just a stupid policy with regard to the government's stated position on the economic benefits of improving the participation of women in the workforce. The two policies cannot exist side by side. They are counterproductive to each other. I feel myself saying—I cannot believe I am saying it—that it is almost Trump-esque in its nature.

The benefits to business arising from negotiated parental leave arrangements include increased retention rates, reduced recruitment and training costs, improved staff morale and productivity, and improved organisational efficiency. Employers who are committed to providing family friendly work arrangements, as we have heard in this inquiry, may indeed replace these entitlements with other benefits. We should be encouraging, not discouraging, employers to support working parents.

Reducing paid parental leave is unlikely to produce significant savings. If the majority of businesses withdraw their support for paid parental leave, the amount clawed back under the proposed amendments will be minimal and savings made over the forward estimates will be much lower than the government anticipates. The proposed cuts to paid parental leave are likely to generate increased unmet demand for childcare places and maternal and child health services. The government has made no effort to quantify the broader economic implications of reducing paid parental leave. In our view, the proposed amendments are unlikely to generate significant savings over the forward estimates and may ultimately increase the burden on taxpayers.

Reducing the minimum paid parental leave payment to address budget shortfall is, in our opinion, reprehensible. The overall net cost of the PPL scheme to the taxpayer is small because of the significant offset from reduced social welfare payments, including the removal of the baby bonus, and the tax revenue from paid leave. It is morally reprehensible to cut paid parental leave for low- and middle-income families while offering generous tax cuts to companies and wealthy individuals. Instead of reducing government assistance for working families with access to modest paid parental leave entitlements, the ACTU has argued strongly that efforts should be made to address corporate tax avoidance and reform egregious high-income concessions in areas such as negative gearing and capital gains and superannuation.

The bill also contains provisions that abolish the mandatory role for employers to administer government payments. The policy rationale for shifting administrative responsibility to the government is that it will help reduce the cost of compliance on employers. While employer groups have supported the removal of the mandatory paymaster function, the evidence is that the vast majority of employers do not object to administering the scheme and report few difficulties in registering for paid parental leave. We believe it is important to retain the employer paymaster function in order to ensure that paid parental leave is seen as a normal part of employment. Enabling businesses to provide the package of government-employer PPL in accordance with an employee's normal pay cycle is quite an efficient way of administering the payment, and it keeps the employee firmly attached to the workplace.

Finally, paid parental leave should be extended to 26 weeks, in line with international norms. The government's current proposal is a retrograde step that will widen the gap between Australia and other OECD countries with respect to PPL and is inconsistent with expert advice and community expectations. We urge the committee to reject the proposed bill in its entirety and recommend that the Commonwealth PPL scheme be extended to provide access to 26 weeks paid leave plus superannuation at the guaranteed contribution rate for all working parents through a combination of employer and government funding. Thank you.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: I only have a few questions. They relate to access to child care and are particularly for the panel members here today from the Police Federation. The work that you do is clearly shiftwork a lot of the time. Have any of you had any personal experience with trying to access child care with your irregular hours? How difficult was that for you?

Mrs Griffith : I live in South Melbourne and we have not been able to get our son into child care. We are still on the waiting list. So I am having to return to work and I am taking a paid leave day each week and my husband has already gone part time so that we can look after our son. So he is not in child care at this present time.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: How old is your son?

Mrs Griffith : He is 11 months old.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: How long have you been on the waiting list for?

Mrs Griffith : Since before he was born.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Will you be going into shiftwork?

Mrs Griffith : Yes, that is part of the problem. Both of us will be. It kind of has assisted us that we can both work on weekends so that we can look after him during the week, but we will have to rely upon his grandparents to be able to look after him from time to time.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Does anybody else have any feedback on the childcare predicament that a lot of new parents will find themselves in?

Ms Kearney : As we said in our submission, we think it will increase the demand not only for childcare places if parents have to go back early but also for early maternal and child healthcare services. It is, in that respect, quite counterproductive, we think.

Ms Thompson : One of our members put in a submission to the inquiry. It was a male member, and he was talking about the impact on his family. He and his wife were both working in a remote community where there is no formal child-care provision that they could access, even if they wanted to.

Mrs Griffith : Also, my husband and I are both operational, and we will both be required to work night shift. At the moment, we have not actually crossed that bridge about what we are going to do when we have to do night shift. It is going to be extremely difficult.

Mr Burgess : On page 3 of our submission, we talk about a survey that the Police Federation have just conducted across Australia and New Zealand. We have had in excess of 11,000 respondents to that survey. We intend to release the results of that survey in the Senate President's courtyard on Monday, 13 February, and we would certainly invite the committee along when the results of that survey are released.

Clearly, the survey results to date indicate the number of our members who would be working full time if they had had appropriate childcare available to them and indicate the difficulties our members have had. In fact, when you extrapolate the survey, we believe in excess of 2,000 additional female officers would have been working in full-time police work had they had appropriate child-care arrangements available to them, which is a significant advantage to policing, as we spoke about earlier in our submission.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: You have pre-empted my next question in relation to the importance of having female officers on the ground, particularly when dealing with victims of sexual abuse or domestic violence. In your estimation, how many female police officers are you currently lacking in terms of victims having access to an officer if they so wish, and how much worse do you think the situation will be where we have families that are struggling to return to operational duty?

Mr Burgess : It is probably a difficult question to answer as such, except that, having said that, the survey results are being collated as we speak and, as I say in our submission, we were fortunate enough to get some initial results. When you talk about an additional 2,000, we potentially have 16,000 female police officers across Australia. If you can have another 2,000 of those available for full-time work, then that is certainly going to assist in the concept of having them available to help with child sexual assault, domestic violence and those sorts of issues. I think we would all agree—particularly in those matters—that having a female police officer involved in those types of matters and attending the scenes of those types of matters is beneficial not just to police and not just to a male police officer such as me but certainly to the wider community and to the families involved. And childcare, apart from PPL, is a major issue for police officers across Australia.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: That is all from me, thank you.

Senator DASTYARI: I note that we are kind of following on from an earlier conversation. Mrs Merlo, what is your daughter's name?

Mrs Merlo : Alexandra.

Senator DASTYARI: And how old is Alexandra?

Mrs Merlo : She is 9½ months.

Senator DASTYARI: Chair, can I move a suggestion that we include the evidence given from Alexandra Merlo as formal evidence to the Senate committee—the noises she made earlier—and also ask the clerk to check, through the secretariat, whether or not Alexandra is the youngest person ever to give evidence to the Australian Senate and that, if so, the committee write to her to congratulate her on that honour. That was it. She was definitely expressing opposition to the government!

Senator WATT: I got that too, actually!

Senator DASTYARI: In the Labor Party she would be voting for preselections already!

Senator WATT: You can always rely on Senator Dastyari for the much snappier lines. To return to the mundane: I will not recap some of the issues we explored with some of the other unions, and I appreciate the evidence that you have given which has reinforced what they have told us. Again, I particularly thank the individual members who have come along and told us about the really practical consequences of these changes. One thing that I did not put to the earlier unions and individual workers was your views on some of the possible compromises that have been floated in the media in order to get these proposals through. The main one that has attracted attention is that, perhaps in return for going ahead with these changes, the government would lift its payment to employees who do not receive any employer PPL from 18 weeks to 20 weeks. I asked some of the researchers about this earlier and they expressed some concern about that proposal, should it go through. But I would be interested in your views if that is where we ended up here.

Ms Kearney : We would not support that, simply because it is about how we as a society value paid parental leave generally. And to take it away from some women, to give to other women, we do not think really is a fair and just way of dealing with the issue. I think we have to start from the premise that the Productivity Commission, the World Health Organization and everybody who talks about paid parental leave and its maximum benefits talks about 26 weeks. It is saying to some women who are—through giving up all sorts of benefits, whether it is extra pay, whether it is other paid leave, whether it is other entitlements—trying to reach that goal and who have been in a position to bargain to do that: 'We are taking leave away from you to raise the bar for some other women.' From my perspective, it is much better to raise the bar without taking leave away from someone else. That would be my answer to that, Senator.

Senator WATT: Thank you.

Mr Burgess : It is certainly not a position that we would be prepared to endorse. In fact, one of the fears that we would have is that some employers could see it as an option for them to opt out of what they currently provide for their employees. That would certainly be something that we would not support.

Senator WATT: On that point, we had some interesting evidence earlier from some of the employer groups, who conceded that that is quite possibly what will happen: employers will, without being mean-spirited, say, 'What is the benefit to the employee, in me continuing to offer this to you?' In fact, that could end up leading to an increased cost to the government in the payment of PPL, compared to what they expect.

Ms Kearney : Can I say that we are already starting to see some moves that way in bargaining, with employers anticipating that change. Unions have mentioned to me already that employers are making approaches that way—to reducing the paid parental leave, given that two weeks will come on the end.

Senator WATT: What kinds of sectors?

Ms Kearney : The aged-care sector.

Senator WATT: Again, we are not talking about highly paid people there.

Ms Kearney : We are not talking about highly paid people at all. In fact, they are amongst the lowest paid.

Ms Haythorpe : We concur. There can be no compromise in terms of PPL. We think it is very, very important that we actually enhance the schemes that we have in place for our members, so we would not accept any compromise. I think, in terms of the conversations that are possibly occurring with employers, we also have evidence in the education sector, with recent bargaining discussions where that approach has been put forward as part of the conversation about possibly reducing people's entitlements in the context of this bill.

Senator WATT: One of the other compromises that has been floated in the media is that, rather than eligibility for government-provided PPL being determined on the basis of a woman's personal earnings—because I think the cap at the moment is $150,000 a year—there has been some suggestion that that should be changed to take into account the overall household income. Presumably the threshold would be raised to $200,00 or $250,000; whatever it is. We have asked other witnesses about that. Do you have anything to say about that, if that were to be the end result?

Ms Tkalcevic : I think the Productivity Commission looked at this in its original design, and landed where it did because it acknowledged that that sort of means testing would have, possibly, a negative effect on the decisions that women make at a critical period in their career. We know that the time of childbirth coincides with the time that careers usually take off, and so women already—by the nature of taking time off work and then often coming in part-time—suffer in their career development. If they were to make those decisions in the context of a family income, which might be totally irrelevant to the capacity for them to continue to build their career, that would be a very negative and retrograde step in terms of us trying to support increased participation of women and to diversify our workforces, just as the Police Federation acknowledged.

Ms Rili : I concur with those comments in terms of diversifying the nation's police forces and workplace participation, particularly of women, and the 24/7 coverage so victims having access, and the community having access, to female officers would reduce for that reason and that dimension.

Ms Kearney : It comes right back to the fact that this would be a pay cut. It would essentially be a pay cut for low- and middle-income women even if you do that. You try to justify it anyway. At the end of the day, this is about families who are struggling to grow and they are struggling with financial pressures. They are at an emotionally vulnerable time and we are saying to them as a society, 'You have to take a pay cut, guys.' It just does not fit well with the overarching premise of what is a decent society.

Ms Tkalcevic : Can I just add one quick comment in relation to all of this. I guess it goes to why we are looking at this bill and the government putting it forward, pretty clearly, as a budgetary measure. The government has many choices that it can make to deal with revenue raising and budget measures, and I think many women and families are pretty annoyed that rather than looking at things like, for example, negative gearing, they are looking at this; they are looking at family tax benefit. These are all fundamental measures that are important to a lot of working families and it has been very consistent that that is the target rather than some other measures. In our view and I think in the public's view—looking at the polling today about some of the corporate tax cut responses from the public, negative gearing benefits—people are clearly saying, 'Actually, we should be looking at that and not penalising working families, working mothers and babies.'

Senator WATT: I happen to agree with you. One of the other really interesting things that has come out of today is the number of witnesses, and probably from across the political spectrum, that have conceded that the savings the government is expecting to generate from this are probably a bit inflated when you take into account extra child-care costs and the issue that we have talked about with employers pushing people onto the government PPL scheme being more than expected. I am not sure that they are going to generate the savings that they want even if that was the right way to go.

Ms Kearney : Reduced workforce participation. It is absolutely—

Senator WATT: That is right, and the tax revenues that come with it.

Ms Kearney : And we go to that point, Senator, in our submission. I think you will find that.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. We are out of time. Thank you all for attending today and for your submissions and presentations.

Proceedings suspended from 13 : 12 to 14 : 01