April 30, 2014



GREG JENNETT: Labor’s spokeswoman for families and payments is Jenny Macklin and she joins us in Melbourne, Ms Macklin, thank you. Hasn't Tony Abbott now taken some of the sting out of the argument that paid parental leave mark one was just too generous?

JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND PAYMENTS: Let's have a look at the facts. The facts are that Tony Abbott wants to say that a wealthy women having a baby can get $50,000 to have six months off while at the same time he is saying to pensioners, whether they're Disability Support Pensioners, people on the Carer Pension, people on the Age Pension, that they have to tighten their belt when they get $20,000 a year.

He really has his priorities totally twisted and I don't think this change makes any difference at all. It is still unfair.

JENNETT: But for those who wanted it and are going to get it, doesn't this still deliver a bigger benefit than is the case under the current Labor scheme?

MACKLIN: Well, Labor introduced Australia's first national paid parental leave scheme and we have a scheme that's affordable, it's targeted to those who need it most and more than 340,000 families who have already benefitted. What we see from Tony Abbott is first of all he can't even stick to what he's championed as his signature policy. And his latest announcement is that people could get it on any income, so you could still be earning $200,000 or $500,000 a year, and Tony Abbott will give you $50,000 to take six months off to have a baby, so it's grossly unfair and it will still cost an enormous amount on the Budget. It's likely to cost still in the order of $5 billion a year, that's massive amount of money when Tony Abbott is saying to pensioners you have to tighten your belt.

JENNETT: So nothing you're seeing or hearing looks like it will detract from Labor's attack, from what you’ve called in the past - a millionaires paid parental leave scheme. The mechanics of this mean, do they not, that the same people who would have been eligible are still eligible but just get less?

MACKLIN: That's right. It's still a lot of money that people would be getting, $50,000 is a lot of money, a lot of taxpayers' money to be paying to people who don't need it, who have plenty of money themselves, especially at a time when we see pensioners being told that their pensions are going to be cut or the conditions around their pensions are going to disappear. It is grossly unfair and that is why we are calling on Tony Abbott to just get rid of his paid parental leave scheme.

JENNETT: But his response of course would be seen in the totality of the Budget those people who get this are taking a hair cut in other areas, for instance, the levy on higher income earners to pay down the debt, it's all part of the same mix, isn't it?

MACKLIN: That’s another broken promise from Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott said before the election no more taxes, no new taxes from a Liberal Government and here we are, before the first Budget, being told that Tony Abbott is going to introduce a new tax, a new tax that many working people are going to have to pay.

When they voted at the last election, voters didn't know that they were going to have to pay an extra tax. Pensioners didn't know that they would have to tighten their belt. None of this was told to voters before they elected Tony Abbott and now he's coming along breaking promise after promise. Every day is another broken promise.

JENNETT: Just on the practicalities of numbers and the Senate when it comes to paid parental leave, this is a pragmatic move by the Government, because it does increase the chances that one or other party might now support them, for instance the Greens. Won't you have even more trouble stopping this mark two version in the Senate?

MACKLIN: I would just say to the Greens party, how could you possibly support a policy that gives $50,000 to wealthy women to have six months off to have a baby, while at the same time this Budget from Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey is going to cut into people on the Disability Support Pension, cut into the Age Pension, cut into the most vulnerable people in our communities. That is not a fair Budget, it's totally unfair, and so the Greens are going to have to make some very, very hard choices.

JENNETT: Alright, Jenny Macklin Labor's families spokesperson, thank you much for joining us today.

MACKLIN: Thank you.