During a recent interview with Ann Sherry, who is arguably the architect of paid maternity leave in corporate Australia, she expressed her disappointment that the government paid parental leave debate has been “hijacked by politics” – a debate about privileged women versus ordinary working women.
“It’s about men arguing with men about who should get stuff,” she said. “You talk to women and women understand the issue is that everyone needs to stay connected, somehow, and you need enough cash to get over the hump of having a baby. You need to keep people connected and give them the flexibility about when they want to come back. That helps you keep the skills and investment you’ve made in people, and that’s productivity.”
We could be up for seeing the debate hitting a whole new level — women against women — with Families minister Jenny Macklin set to up her campaign against the Coalition’s more generous leave scheme today by declaring mums in ‘wealthy suburbs’ will benefit at the expense of mums in ‘poorer suburbs’ who’re the ones having the babies.
Macklin will use suburb data to make her point in a speech to be delivered at the Fifth International Community, Work and Family Conference, according to The Australian.
She’s expected to also go into fertility rates according to the report, claiming the rate for women in Penrith is 1.99 children per family compared to 1.39 in North Sydney.
Macklin will deliver stats to support her argument in different cities, for example comparing the wealthier electorate of Ryan in Brisbane to regional electorates of Fisher and Hinkler.
It’s all in a bid to show the Coalition scheme is far too generous. Tony Abbott’s proposed policy will offer mums 26 weeks’ paid leave at their full wage, receiving a maximum of $75,000 during the six months and funded via a 1.5% levy on the country’s largest businesses. That’s compared to the existing Labor policy offering 18 weeks at the minimum wage.
So, brace yourselves for the new means to winning the women’s vote. We won’t necessarily be learning about or investigating the productivity benefits of paid leave and the best amount needed for getting the balance right, but rather debating who deserves what when it comes to having babies, making parental leave look more like a handout.