Senator Madigan: Don't cut parents' time with their new babies

BREAKING: Social Services Minister Christian Porter will shortly announce a new proposal that will cut parental leave – and the time new parents are able to spend at home caring for their new baby.[1]

The good news is, the Minister has told reporters he’s still in negotiations with the Senate crossbenchers about these new cuts – which means there is still a chance for us to stop them.[2]

Last time this happened, community pressure pushed the Senate cross benchers to stop the proposed cuts in their tracks. It means making sure they know how we feel about this new proposal is critical. Can you take a few minutes to call Senator Madigan's office on (03) 5331 2321 and leave a message asking the Senator to stand up for families and block attacks on parental leave?

Yes I can make a call, but what should I say?

You can call Senator Wang's electorate office on (03) 5331 2321 (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 - Who you are? Where do you live? What do 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 how you feel about the proposed cut to paid parental leave.
  • Share your story - Illustrate your point with an example from your life, or the life of someone you know. How would your life be different if the cut to paid parental leave comes into effect? How would it affect your family or your community? What sacrifices might you need to make? What would it mean for trying to access childcare?
  • Ask for a commitment - Let the staffer know you're calling to ask if the Senator will commit to vote against the attack. They may or may not committ, 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 an explainer on the cuts? Click here

The government is keeping its proposed changes close to its chest, but here’s what we’re hearing about the core of their new proposal:

  • They still want to cut the time thousands of new parents can spend at home caring for their new baby.
  • Remember, right now the government provides eligible parents with 18 weeks of paid leave at the minimum wage. This is part of a combined leave package that they can then top up with the additional leave they've negotiated with their employer to extend the time they're able to spend caring for their new baby (experts recommend 26 weeks as the minimum time that should be spent with a new hub).
  • Under this new proposal, instead of providing 18 weeks paid caring time as a minimum, the government want to treat it as a ceiling. That means anyone whose employer provides them with weeks of parental leave will lose an equivalent number of weeks of government support.  
  • What would that mean exactly? Well, for a part-time nurse working in Victoria who is entitled to 10 weeks of employer provided care time for a new baby…
    • Currently they would receive 18 weeks of support from the government at the minimum wage (that's $11,826 total) – which they could top up with their 10 weeks of care time they have negotiated into their employment contract (total of $7,200). That comes to $19,026 – or enough for two parents and a newborn to cover living expenses for about 11 weeks.
    • Under what the government is proposing, a nurse with 10 weeks of employer care negotiated into her contract at ($7,200), would have 10 weeks of their leave cut. That means government support would be reduced to 8 weeks (at the minimum wage - that’s $5,256). That mans the new family would be left 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 in detail. 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 time 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 Madigan knows his constituents care about this issue? Give his office a quick call on (03) 5331 2321. 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.