Social Services Minister Christian Porter. Photo: Alex EllinghausenThe Turnbull government’s proposal to wind back publicly funded paid parental leave is doomed after Senate crossbench powerbrokers the Nick Xenophon Team were forced to rule out support because of an election commitment.
The measure, intended to save $1.2 billion, would reduce the 18 weeks of government-funded leave offered to up to 80,000 families by factoring in any paid leave offered by their employer.
NXT was considering supporting the proposal but only if it kicked in at a later date. It now appears that further concessions – such as protections for families on lower incomes – will be required for the government to gain their three votes.
With Labor and the Greens opposed, the government needs NXT to join One Nation’s four senators, libertarian senator David Leyonhjelm and others in support to reach the 39 votes required to pass the legislation through the 76-seat Senate.
It emerged on Sunday that NXT senator Skye Kakosche-Moore had explicitly promised women’s advocacy group Fair Agenda that “we would vote to protect the current paid parental leave system and oppose any diminution of the current system”.
Senator Nick Xenophon told Fairfax Media that he was “acutely aware” of the importance of the election promise and would be meeting with his MPs and Social Services Minister Christian Porter this week to negotiate the details.
“We don’t support the proposal in its current form. We want to make sure Australia has a strong paid parental leave scheme that is fair,” he said.
A spokesperson for Mr Porter said he was looking forward to meeting with Senator Xenophon to discuss the package, which could now be worth significantly less than the $1.2 billion.
The current scheme guarantees mothers $12,100 – the minimum wage for 18 weeks – which can then be topped up by an employer scheme if available.
The Coalition proposal, meant to start next year, would reduce the government-funded benefit for 76,000 mothers and wipe it out completely for 3160. Mr Porter has argued the government scheme must be a sustainable safety net prioritising low-income earners and “the best way to find savings is to look at that top part of the scheme, where there there are people with very generous employer-funded schemes who are also receiving a full $12,000 amount, which leaves them with an 18-week amount, far in excess of what some people earn in an entire year”. “It’s always been the case that the scheme has been designed, and these changes are also designed, to try and ensure that as many mothers are participating in the workforce and are able to re-participate after the birth of a child, having provided for a fair amount of time to bond with the child after birth,” he said last week.
On Saturday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told the Queensland state Labor conference that he would “stand up for working women”.
“They’re launching their third attempt to strip paid parental leave from nurses, from Woolies workers, from the people behind the counter at Medicare,” he said.
“If Mr Turnbull gets his way with his current legislation, women who are already pregnant will lose up to $12,000. I mean, that’s just a retrospective rip-off – it’s oxygen-stealingly audacious in its shame.”
The former Abbott government initially promised a landmark “Rolls-Royce” paid parental leave scheme but dumped it citing budget restraints and the Coalition has since sought to dial back the existing benefits with various proposals.
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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.