Feminist-backed push to disadvantage parentcare

July 10th 2010

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NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Julia Gillard's long-term agenda

CANBERRA OBSERVED: No easy policy options for new PM Julia Gillard

Shuffling the deck-chairs leaves key issues unresolved

Feminist-backed push to disadvantage parentcare

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Have we reached the end of the beginning?

LEGAL AFFAIRS: Move to centralise control of the legal profession

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Beijing's softly, softly approach to Taiwan, Hong Kong

CHINA: China labour activism heralds profound change

EUROPEAN UNION: EU President admits people misled by euro project

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Suppressing the truth about maternal deaths

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PARENTHOOD: No man will ever replace a real mum

Vietnam veterans (letter)

Tony Abbott and his faith (letter)

New states deserve support (letter)

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Who jails and tortures the most journalists on earth?; US Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan

BOOK REVIEW: A RAT IS A PIG IS A DOG IS A BOY: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement, by Wesley J. Smith

BOOK REVIEW: WAR IN THE PACIFIC, 1941-1945, by Richard Overy

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Feminist-backed push to disadvantage parentcare

by Tempe Harvey

News Weekly, July 10, 2010
Feminists have successfully foisted the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 on an unsuspecting Australian public. Unchecked, this scheme will discriminate heavily against families with stay-at-home mothers.

In an historic setback for women's equality, Labor and the Coalition joined forces to entrench discrimination against family-work mothers with the passage of minimum-wage paid parental leave (PPL) legislation on June 17, 2010.

(The term "family-work mothers" is preferable to "stay-at-home mothers", as the latter suggests passive prisoners at home or indolent parasites.)

The new law is really a Bonding Time Reduction Scheme, because of the scheme's discriminatory "work test". To be eligible for benefits for later pregnancies, mothers must give up exclusive care of their 18-week-old babies and remain in paid work until six months pregnant again.

However, budget estimates show that around 56 per cent of mothers will not qualify for the "work test" in 2011 - and be an average $3,100 worse off with the Baby Bonus. This will be especially so for mothers caring for older siblings at home between pregnancies.

An even greater danger will emerge as the percentage of dependent mothers increases. Governments will seek to economise by reducing payments for family-work mothers, putting them under greater pressure to seek paid work once parental leave expires.

This has occurred in Canada and Sweden. In Sweden, PPL expanded over time, resulting in reduced funding for mothers doing unwaged family work. As a result, more than 80 per cent of children, aged one to five, are now in state-subsidised daycare. Unsurprisingly, Sweden's birth-rate is lower than Australia's.

In Australia, Galaxy polling in March 2010 found that 71 per cent of parents, and 79 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds, wanted paid parental leave to be paid equally to all mothers.

By contrast, the Labor/Coalition scheme, which restricts PPL to mothers in paid employment, is not only discriminatory, but exceedingly unpopular. So what induced federal MPs to vote for it?

The push by businesses and unions for "corporate welfare" to boost the numbers of women in paid work explains only part of the push for PPL.

However, the blatantly discriminatory aspects of the new PPL laws come from feminist dogma. This holds that governments should offer financial incentives to women to pursue paid work, but impose financial penalties should they opt to do unwaged family work (through loss of a couple's second tax-free threshold and withdrawal of family benefits). All women are supposed to conform to the feminist ideal of continuous wage employment.

Backing this coercive approach is none other than the Australian Productivity Commission. In its 2009 report Paid Parental Leave: Support for Parents with Newborn Children, it chillingly stated: "A paid parental leave scheme can only achieve its objectives if the amount government pays is greater than the benefits parents would get had they exited from the labour force."

The public faces of this feminist-inspired campaign are Labor Minister for Families Jenny Macklin, Coalition spokeswoman on paid parental leave Sharman Stone, and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Many MPs privately opposed PPL. However, the Coalition remained united behind Tony Abbott's full-wage paid parental leave policy to avoid feminist retaliation and the need to "back-flip", despite the scheme's cost and gross unfairness.

These MPs threw away their best chance to defeat the scheme at its inception. If they had educated the public on its dangers, it would have unravelled like Kevin Rudd's emissions trading scheme and been a positive with voters.

Instead, opposition to PPL was overcome by resort to outright falsehoods. The first of these was the claim that the scheme would promote mother-child bonding and welfare, despite the scheme's effective cap on bonding at 18 weeks.

But what of the welfare of older children whose mothers are arbitrarily excluded from these benefits, merely because they are caring for them in the period before the birth of their next child?

Far from enhancing women's career and childcare choices, the scheme deprives them of the most popular choice of all.

PPL would aid productivity, we were told. Yet the Productivity Commission has failed to factor in the billions of dollars that government will have to raise in taxes to pay for institutionalised day-care for children of mothers conscripted into paid work.

The Senate committee's report on PPL (June 3 2010) concluded that "stay-home" mothers would be better off with the Baby Bonus instead of paid parental leave.

However, the report's worked examples failed to account for the single-income, two-parent family's loss of a second tax-free threshold - thus completely skewing the data. In reality, families with stay-at-home mothers will be worse off by $4,000 to $7,000 under the legislation.

The only way to stop a state-funded takeover of children's care is to confer equal support on all mothers under a single scheme, as an alternative to wage-based discrimination.

Tempe Harvey is a Queensland lawyer and president of Kids First Parent Association of Australia.

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