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14 weeks PML the first step.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja   Democrat Senator for South Australia 


14 WEEKS PML THE FIRST STEP  The Australian Democrats welcome HREOC's proposal to eventually implement 48 weeks paid maternity leave, two years after 14 weeks Government-funded leave at the minimum wage is introduced for Australia's working women.

"The Australian Democrats have long called for 14 weeks paid maternity leave to be introduced as a basic minimum standard for all working women. We recognise this is a start - even a baby step - and should be increased in the future," Democrats' Work and Family Spokesperson Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said.

"A longer period of leave, at a higher level of payment, is desirable and reflects PML schemes in some other industrialised nations. My Private Senator's Bill for paid maternity leave also allows for employer top-ups and would work with existing workplace-based paid maternity leave schemes, allowing many women to receive a higher level of payment from the outset.

"However, my most immediate concern is to ensure that the nearly two-thirds of working women who have no access to paid maternity leave are able to receive a basic safety net entitlement.

"Women should not be forced to return to work only weeks after having a baby, due to a lack of leave entitlements or financial reasons.

"The International Labour Organisation recommends a 14 week scheme of paid maternity leave for this purpose, and my bill is based on this recommendation.

"For six and a half years, I have campaigned for this basic minimum standard of paid maternity leave without support from either major party, so I am well aware of the political realities at work here. Any higher payment or longer period of leave would be wonderful, but our priority must be ensuring all women have access to at least 14 weeks paid maternity leave," Senator Stott Despoja said.

Senator Stott Despoja has been an advocate in the Federal Parliament for paid maternity leave since 2001, when as Leader of the Democrats she took the first fully costed PML proposal to the Federal Election. In 2002, she introduced legislation to provide 14 weeks Government-funded paid maternity leave at the minimum wage for working women. This bill was reintroduced in 2007.

Media contact: Raina Hunter - 0417 085 260