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Abbott wrong on paid maternity leave.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Leader of the Australian Democrats 10 July 2002 MEDIA RELEASE 02/358

Abbott wrong on paid maternity leave

Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, said Minister Abbott’s comments today show a complete lack of understanding of the paid maternity leave issue.

“Minister Abbott, in his one-size-fits-all comment, is mistaking a safety net for a straight-jacket,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“His comments are the latest in a long list of furphies by Government Ministers.

“In terms of the Democrats’ model, we are proposing a common, Government-funded minimum benefit for all, but with the flexibility for top-ups negotiated at a local level. My Private Members Bill proposes 14 weeks leave at minimum wage level.

“Many employers already offer better than this, and they will top up the basic benefit. Others - like small business - will never get there without a Government-funded basic scheme.

“Minister Abbott wants to hide behind the Baby Bonus rather than face up to Government funding of a minimal benefit that ensures no working woman misses out.

“His enterprise approach would mean a continuation of the current system - paid leave for higher paid women in the public sector and big business, and nothing at all for the majority. This is the outcome of his preferred approach. Progress by this road has stalled, with most Australian women left behind.

“Many employers, the Australian public, the ACTU, community organisations, and - most of all -Australian women, want to move forward.

“The Baby Bonus approach was tried in New Zealand and, according to Pru Goward, proved a dismal failure. It is expensive, regressive and declines if women return to work, as most do.

“We can provide a quality national system for Australia’s working mothers and their families for less than the Baby Bonus costs, and have some left over to assist women outside paid work,” concluded Senator Stott Despoja.

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