Senator Hinch: Please stand against cuts to new parents' time with their babies

BREAKING: Social Services Minister Christian Porter will bring yet another proposal to cut parental leave before parliament this week – tearing away the time working parents are able to spend at home caring for their new baby.[1]

The good news is, last time this happened pressure from Fair Agenda members pushed the Senate cross-benchers to make public commitments to block any cuts to paid parental leave - stopping the proposed cuts in their tracks. 

Making sure Senators know how we feel about this new proposal is critical. Can you take a few minutes to call Senator Hinch's office on (03) 9820 2222 and leave a message asking the Senator to stand up for families and block cuts to parental leave?

Some tips on what you could say!

You can call Senator Hinch's electorate office on (03) 9820 2222 (between 9am - 5pm).

Here are some helpful hints on how your call can have a big impact. 

  • Ring ring - A staffer will answer the phone. If you don't get through straight away, wait a moment and then try again.
  • Introduce yourself - Mention who you are, where you live. You may also want to mention what you do (be sure to note if you have any relevant expertise or experience in this area, like working in early childhood or maternal health).
  • Explain the reason for your call - Tell the staffer that you're calling to urge Senator Hinch to vote against *any* cuts to the paid parental leave system. 
  • Share why you care - Explain why you cared enough to call. You may want to mention:

- The impact that parental leave has had in your life, or the life of someone you know. 
- The fact that the current system was designed to be used in combination, to ensure more newborns are able to have 26 weeks with their primary carer (the minimum amount recommended by health and welfare experts). 
- The complete inadequacy of the Government's proposed system because it would treat 18 weeks as a ceiling of leave for women; instead of as a floor upon which they can add in any leave they've negotiated into their employment arrangements.
- The fact that modelling shows these cuts would tear precious weeks of care time from workers like nurses, teachers, ambos and Woolies workers (See here)

  • Ask for a commitment - Ask if the Senator will protect new parents' time to care. (They may or may not commit, but by asking you will send a clear message that you're serious about holding them to account.)
  • Say thanks! - Thank the staffer for taking the time to listen to you, and ask them to please pass your message onto the Senator.

Once you finish your call please send the Fair Agenda team a quick email at info@fairagenda.org to let us know what response you got, so we can keep track of where each of the Senators stand on this new proposal.

Want a quick refresher? Click here for facts on the proposed cuts to paid parental leave

It's unclear what this new proposal will be, or if the government is still trying to push through their previous proposal, but here’s what we know about the core of their last proposal:

  • The Government's proposal will cut the time tens of thousands of new parents can spend at home caring for their new baby.
  • Instead of providing 18 weeks of support at the minimum wage, as the current scheme provides; the government are proposing a cut that would treat 18 weeks as the capped time most new parents are supported to care for their baby.
  • What would that mean exactly? Well, looking at the case study of the impact on a part-time nurse working in Victoria who is entitled to 10 weeks of employer provided care time for a new baby…
    • Under the current scheme, they would receive 18 weeks of minimum wage support from the government ($11,826) – topped up by 10 weeks of employer provided care they have negotiated into their contract ($7,200). That comes to a total of $19,026 – or enough for two parents and a newborn to cover living expenses for about 11 weeks.
    • Under what we understand as the government’s proposed new scheme, a nurse with 10 weeks of employer care negotiated into her contract at ($7,200), would have her government support cut down to provide combined support over just 18 weeks. That means government support would be reduced to 8 weeks (at the minimum wage - that’s $5,256). That would leave the new family with just $12,456. That’s enough to cover that family’s expenses for about 7 weeks.
  • The proposal appears to include two other changes, which haven't been explained by the government yet. Those are:
    • Changes that would mean parental leave is included in the income test for social security payments, a change that would mean $105.1 million less for families over the next four years.
    • Altering the current work test to enable more women to be eligible for parental leave. That’s a positive change --  but it shouldn’t be reliant on cutting the tim tens of thousands of other parents have to care for their baby. That’s why it’s critical we let our Senators know we oppose any cuts.

It's important to remember that any cut to paid parental leave can be expected to also exacerbate childcare accessibility problems. If mums and dads are forced back to work early by this change, we can expect flow on effects to hit the already strained childcare system -- which already has enough problems catering for babies between 6-12 months old.

-Find out more - 

  • Paid parental leave: Government to change proposed offerings, Social Services Minister confirms, ABC, 16 December 2015.
  • MYEFO: Christian Porter finds $36 million to soften double-dipping, The Australian, 16 December 2015.

Any cut to parental leave is bad for the country and bad for families. This is an area we should be expanding support, not taking it away. Let’s not forget that when it first looked at the issue of care time for parents, Australia’s own economic advisory body the Productivity Commission recommended parents should have 26 weeks leave as the minimum time needed off work to provide health and welfare benefits to new mothers and newborns.

Can you help make sure Senator Hinch knows his constituents care about this issue? Give his office a quick call on (03) 9820 2222 . Once you finish your call please send the Fair Agenda team a quick email at info@fairagenda.org to let us know what response you got.