PAID PARENTAL LEAVE: by Colin H. JoryNews Weekly
Gillard's pseudo-PPL scheme a malign charade
, March 5, 2011
On New Year's Day, the Gillard Labor Government's so-called "paid parental leave" scheme came into force. It has attracted considerable protest from some employers because of the cost and pointless inconvenience to which it will put them. They would protest much more stridently, however, if they realised how the scheme is pre-programmed to evolve.
Under the scheme, mothers of newborn children who have demonstrated a "commitment" to the paid workforce will receive 18 weeks' payment at the Commonwealth minimum wage rate. At the current rate of $569.90 per week, this amounts to $10,258.20.
From June 1, a qualifying mother who is in paid employment at the time of the birth will receive the payment in instalments from her employer, who will be given in advance the same amounts by the government.
A qualifying mother who is not in paid employment at the time of the birth will receive the payment fortnightly directly from the government, via the Family Assistance Office. Until June 1, qualifying mothers who are in paid employment will also receive the payments via the Family Assistance Office.
To qualify, a mother must have done at least 330 hours of paid work spread over 10 continuous months out of the previous 13 months, whether full-time or part-time, and whether under one employer or more. The 330 hours equates to 8.7 38-hour working weeks of eight-hour days - roughly two months. If done part-time over the 10 months, the 330 hours equates to 8¼ hours per week.
Since to qualify a mother does not have to be in paid employment when she gives birth, and thus does not have to be on leave, the grant is not genuinely a leave-payment at all. It is actually a discriminatory special maternity grant, or super-baby bonus, for mothers who have done the required wage-work during the preceding 13 months, given as a reward for their demonstrated wage-force commitment.
Of course, most first-time mothers will have no trouble achieving eligibility for the pseudo-paid parental leave grant for their first child, since most will have been in paid employment until near the birth-time. Among the unlucky, though, will be many mothers in high-unemployment areas, typically country districts; and many wives of servicemen.
Yet the largest group of mothers who will be ineligible will be those who have been caring full-time for prior infants. Indeed, the only reason the 330 hours of required wage-work cannot be performed anytime during the 13 months before the birth, but must have begun at least 10 months before then, is to ensure that women who become pregnant while caring full-time for their infants do not get the grant.
In other words, the scheme is intended to punish such mothers for not outsourcing the day-care of the prior infants and returning to the wage-force.
A mother who accepts the pseudo-PPL grant will forego the Baby Bonus, which is currently $5,294; and during the 18 weeks over which the grant is spread she and her husband/partner will forego Family Tax Benefit B.
How much of a loss that will be will vary with family income and the number of other children; but the government's 2009 paid parental leave brochure estimates that for a couple with no other children and annual incomes of $52,000 each it would be $919. Thus the net financial discrimination against mothers who care full-time for their infants will typically be about $4,000.
Why has the government not simply called the pseudo-PPL scheme what it really is, a super-baby bonus, and made it non-discriminatory by granting it to all new mothers in place of the present Baby Bonus?
The answer is that the fundamental purpose of the scheme is to discriminate. It is the feminists' revenge against the Baby Bonus for being non-discriminatory.
When the Baby Bonus was introduced by the Howard Government in 2002, the organised feminists bitterly opposed it, and did so explicitly because it was non-discriminatory and thus did not selectively reward wage-force mothers and punish full-time mothers.
During the parliamentary debates over the Baby Bonus it was the Greens and their ideological twins, the Australian Democrats - the most pro-feminist parties in the Parliament - who were loudest against it.
Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja of the Democrats demanded that it be junked, and that in its stead there be a paid parental leave scheme for wage-force mothers alone. Senator Bob Brown argued that the tax money needed would be better spent on social services such as dental care.
In government documents issued to justify the pseudo-PPL scheme - an Australian Productivity Commission report on paid parental leave; the 2009 Paid Parental Leave
brochure; and the exposure draft of the PPL bill - a central theme is that a discriminatory PPL scheme is needed as a means of "offsetting the disincentives to paid work generated by social welfare and taxation arrangements".
The principal "disincentive" in question is the Baby Bonus. In the feminists' jaundiced dogmatics, any financial measure which could assist a mother to give full-time care to her infants, except during a short leave from full-time wage-work, is always represented negatively as a "disincentive" for her to do full-time wage-work.
It is this fundamental ideological, social-engineering purpose of the pseudo-PPL scheme which explains the extraordinary inconveniences and expenses which it imposes on employers, in violation of every tenet of economic common-sense, justice and basic sanity.
The ideology dictates, among other things, that every woman who is in the wage-force when she gives birth is entitled to a continuing wage from her employer as a work-right, like paid sick-leave and paid recreation-leave.
Therefore every employer is to be compelled not only to grant at least 18 weeks' maternity leave to any employee who has been with him for at least 12 months and who gives birth (which is reasonable), but he must pay her for the 18 weeks - at the basic wage rate - and must enter these payments in his books as maternity-leave payments of his own and not as government payments made through him, even though the government will fully subsidise the payments in advance. This absurd charade is enunciated in Clause 78 of the exposure draft for the PPL bill.
The draft says: "PPL funding amounts, once paid to the employer are legally and beneficially the property of the employer, to do with as they wish. The employer has a separate obligation to pay an equivalent amount to a person as instalments. PPL funding amounts paid to an employer are not held in trust for the Commonwealth or the person."
A more ridiculous, wasteful, pea-and-thimble trick imposed by a government on its citizens, and especially on its business community, would be difficult to imagine. Yet pervading the charade is the ominous implication that, although for now the government might fully subsidise the maternity grant it compels employers to pay, it considers itself under no obligation to continue the subsidy indefinitely.
Making employers pay the pseudo-PPL maternity grant is also supposed to keep the mother psychologically attached to the work-place and thus lessen her temptation to take the grant for the 18 weeks but then resign her employment and continue caring full-time for her new baby.
Families Minister Jenny Macklin has been extolling this purpose, even though it reflects cynical contempt for a mother's right to care for her own children.
In sum, the Gillard Government's pretended paid parental scheme is a thoroughly dishonest, malignant and economically irresponsible exercise in anti-maternal and anti-business social engineering.Dr Colin Jory is a Canberra teacher, historian, Shakespeare scholar and pro-family activist.