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FOR – Bills — Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Improvements for Families and Gender Equality) Bill 2022; in Committee

Andrew McLachlan

Honourable senators, with the concurrence of the Senate, the statements of reasons accompanying the requests circulated for this bill will be incorporated in the Hansard immediately after the requests to which they relate. There being no objection, it is so ordered.

Larissa Waters

Before moving to the Greens committee stage amendments, I would like to ask the representing minister a handful of questions. We just saw the chamber vote against paying superannuation on paid parental leave entitlements. This used to be Labor policy, and the minister even quoted the relevant minister in his contribution, saying, 'When we can afford it, we'd like to do it.' This is a government crying poor, and women are missing out because of that poor judgement call.

My first question to the representing minister at the table is: super used to be your policy on PPL. Why did you just vote against it?

Don Farrell

I thank Senator Waters for her question. I can remember when superannuation was limited to a very small number of people, generally males, generally in white-collar occupations and, more specifically, in managerial roles. It was under the leadership of Paul Keating, particularly with Bill Kelty, as part of the development of the accord to deal with some of the economic problems this country faced in the eighties and nineties, that they developed the concept of universal superannuation. So, to be honest, Senator Waters, I won't be lectured by the Greens about the role the Labor Party has played in creating the current superannuation scheme, in developing that scheme, in protecting that scheme from all of the things the Liberals and Nationals would have done to it in government if they'd had the chance.

If we fast forward from the time when Keating and Kelty developed the concept of universal superannuation, it's now a scheme that's the envy of the entire world. There's no country that has a better superannuation scheme than Australia. That's because Labor governments have worked in conjunction with the union movement in this country to develop this world-class superannuation scheme.

Why are we here today? We're here today because that terrific minister, Minister Rishworth, has brought forward this bill to expand the availability of paid parental leave. That's what we are doing here today. Unfortunately, when we came to office we discovered what? I want to put this into some perspective. When the Gillard government lost in 2013 we had a national debt of around $300 billion. When Anthony Albanese became Prime Minister nearly 12 months ago—

Raff Ciccone

How much?

Don Farrell

You asked the question, Senator Ciccone. We had a debt of $1 trillion. So in the nine years that the conservatives were running this country into the ground we trebled our debt from $300 billion to $1 trillion. That's the economic circumstances in which we find ourselves. What has the government done? It took a policy to the last election in respect of paid parental leave. We told the Australian people what we would do in terms of paid parental leave. What was the first thing we did in our first budget to implement that policy? We did exactly what we said we were going to do, and that's what we're asking the Senate to do on this occasion. The bill has passed the House of Representatives, and we're now asking the Senate to say: 'Look, we accept that you went to the last election with this proposal. Here it is for you to vote on—no more and no less than what we said we would do. We're asking all of the people in this place to support what we took to the Australian people last year at the election.'

Of course there are a whole lot of things a Labor government would like to do. This proposal by the Greens is just one of the many things that Labor in government would like to do. Can I say, Senator Waters, we intend to be a long-term Labor government—not one term, not two terms, not three terms but four terms.

Sarah Henderson

That's arrogant.

Don Farrell

There's no arrogance there, Senator Henderson. We intend to be a long-term Labor government, and that's the way long-term—

Opposition senators interjecting—

No, no.

Paul Scarr

Two more years! Twenty-four months feels like forever!

Don Farrell

No, not two more years. We intend to, over time, build on the terrific work that the Labor government has done in the past—

How many more years? I can't tell you. I can't forecast just how many years, but I know that under Anthony Albanese we intend to be a long-term Labor government.

Sarah Henderson

How many more broken promises, Senator Farrell?

Don Farrell

No broken promises. We took our paid parental leave policy to the people at the last election. They're endorsing it. We've put it into our budget. We've now put it through the House of Representatives. Our job, as senators, is to say, 'We're doing the final step.'

If we could do everything we wanted to do—if we had an unlimited amount of money—then there are a whole lot of other things that an Anthony Albanese Labor government would like to do. At this point, we're doing what we said we would do. And, as I said in my summing-up speech, there are other things that we want to do and there will be other things that we will do in the future.

But, Senator Waters, we are the government. We were elected by the people to govern this country. We took a set of policies to the people and they endorsed those policies, so what we're here to do is to implement those policies. That's what we'd like this Senate to do, and we'd like you to be part of that.

Larissa Waters

Just sticking with superannuation briefly, before we move to our other detailed amendments, the former government commissioned a retirement income review, which costed paying superannuation on paid parental leave at a mere $200 million. That was for 179,000 recipients. I understand that we're up to about 181,000 recipients now, so it's possible that that $200 million cost might have increased by one or two million. My question, representing minister, given that you say you'd like to do it when you can afford to do it, did you re-cost how much it would cost the budget to pay superannuation on paid parental leave?

Don Farrell

I thank Senator Waters for her question. We don't have an updated cost.

Larissa Waters

From that, I can infer that you're relying on the $200 million cost and you're making the active decision that the women of Australia are not worth the $200 million to pay for superannuation on their paid parental leave despite the fact that that was a 2019 election promise by the then Labor opposition.

I'm going to move some committee stage amendments now. I seek leave to move Greens amendments (1) to (5) on sheet 1819 together.

Leave granted.

I, also on behalf of Senator Barbara Pocock, move:

(1) Schedule 1, item 2, page 4 (line 13), omit "100", substitute "130".

(2) Schedule 1, item 38, page 13 (line 6), omit "100", substitute "130".

(3) Schedule 1, item 66, page 25 (line 19), omit "90", substitute "120".

(4) Schedule 1, item 66, page 25 (line 31), omit "100", substitute "130".

(5) Schedule 1, item 66, page 26 (line 12), omit "100", substitute "130".


St atement pursuant to the order of the Senate of 26 June 2000

Amendments (3), (4) and (5)

Amendments (3), (4) and (5) are framed as requests because they amend the bill to increase the maximum number of days for which paid parental leave can be paid in relation to a child from 100 days to 130 days.

As this will increase the total amount of paid parental leave that can be paid, the amendments will increase the amount of expenditure under the standing appropriation in section 307 of the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010.

Amendments (1) and (2)

Amendments (1) and (2) are consequential to amendments (3), (4) and (5).

Statement by the Clerk of the Senate pursuant to the order of the Senate of 26 June 2000

Amendments (3), (4) and (5)

If the effect of the amendments is to increase expenditure under the standing appropriation in section 307 of the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 then it is in accordance with the precedents of the Senate that the amendments be moved as requests.

Amendments (1) and (2)

These amendments are consequential on the requests. It is the practice of the Senate that an amendment that is consequential on an amendment framed as a request may also be framed as a request.

I will make some very brief remarks before asking a handful of questions. Australia is the second-worst country in the OECD for paid parental leave equity. That is an embarrassment. Today is an opportunity to redress that. The international best practice for paid parental leave is 52 weeks. It's not a measly 20 weeks. It's not a three-year wait to get to 26 weeks. It's 52 weeks. Also, it has structured 'use it or lose it' provisions and higher rates of pay. That's international best practice. If this government were to axe the unaffordable and unnecessary stage 3 tax cuts for the very wealthy, it could afford to fund a decent Paid Parental Leave scheme that might put Australia towards the front of the pack of the OECD rather than being the second worst of comparable developed nations.

I still don't understand why they're making the decision not to prioritise women. As my colleague said, in another instance, they're robbing Peter to pay Peter, but, in this case, they're just giving yet more money to Peter, and it's Peter who's benefitting because it's men who will mostly be in favour and benefitting from the stage 3 tax cuts. Rather than sticking with that, you could give some money to women and lift the minimum wage; you could pay super on PPL; you could increase the number of weeks that paid parental leave is given to new parents; and, ideally, you could do it at replacement wage or at least look at different models that get it close to replacement wage.

None of that is happening, so the amendments I'm moving today on sheet 1819 will bring forward this promise of 26 weeks. In his closing speech, the minister said that they will legislate that next year, 2024, and it will kick in in 2026. Why are you making women wait? This is good policy. It is a step along the way to, I hope, a 52-week paid parental leave policy, which the ACTU and many other women's groups have been pushing for for years and a move that the Greens would support. Why are you making women wait three more years? Are you crying poor again? It's just not plausible to cry poor when you're handing out those stage 3 tax cuts. People see right through that. They know you are making an active decision to make women wait for three more years. They're not going to like that, I can tell you! Our amendments will ensure that new parents and women, in particular, can benefit from that increase to 26 weeks right away, from 1 July this year, not in three years. I commend the amendment to the chamber.

Long debate text truncated.


Date and time: 12:46 PM on 2023-03-06
Senator Pocock's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 12
Total number of "no" votes: 27
Total number of abstentions: 37
Related bill: Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Improvements for Families and Gender Equality) Bill 2022

Adapted from information made available by