Paid Parental Leave Cuts Hurt Working Families

Posted 15th May 2015 by Clare O'Neil in News | 0 Comment

When I had my child two years ago, I was back at work full-time at 8-weeks. Like many working mums, I pretended that everything was a breeze. But in truth, at the best moments it was difficult, and at the worst, it was horrible.


When you’re balancing full-time work with parenting a newborn, everything is that bit tougher. Feeding is harder. Travelling is a nightmare (I need to be in Canberra 22 weeks a year). You’re not getting the sleep you need. And there are times you are painfully aware you are not providing the care you want for yourself, or your child.


So any policy which might force mums back to work when they’re not ready, I’m going to stand up and fight against.


When the government announced in its Budget this week that it would strip back paid parental leave to the bare minimum for many more working mums, I was incredibly angry. About half of new mums will be worse off, many losing months of maternity leave.


About 34,000 mums will lose access to the government scheme entirely, leaving them $11,500 worse off.


Just a few months ago we were debating how to improve support to parents after the birth of their child! I thought we’d settled this with a policy where the government provided minimum leave, and employers topped it up. I guess I had that wrong.


Labor will not back these changes that will limit the time mums spend with their newborns – and we never will.


Yesterday’s budget also included changes to childcare. Australia’s childcare system needs reform, there’s no doubt about that. It’s challenging to get a place (we’ve been on the waiting list for the community centre closest to our home for almost a year now – and bub’s three days of care are split across two different centres), and virtually impossible to find flexibility. When you need to change your childcare days, many families wait for months.


While the plan presented by the Coalition has good aspects for some families, it comes with a ransom note: the government will only allow the additional funding if Labor agrees to cut the Family Tax Benefit for 1.6 million families, some to the tune of $6000 per year.


But the biggest disappointment with the childcare proposals is the missed opportunity. With all parties acknowledging the need for reform, this was a chance to create an early learning system for Australia with a genuine focus on child development. In the first years of life, the foundations for a child’s success are laid down.


This is a unique area of public policy where we can address inequality, promote growth, support working parents and give kids a head start. A no-brainer. Yet nothing in this Budget will improve quality in our centres.


We have to change the focus of this debate, so that early learning is seen for what it is: an opportunity to ensure every Australian child gets off to a good start.


And you can be sure that a group of us MPs with very young children –like Kate Ellis, Penny Wong, Michelle Rowland, Amanda Rishworth, Terri Butler and me – will be fighting tooth and nail to make it happen.


This piece was originally published on Mamamia on Wednesday the 13th of May, 2015 here: LINK

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