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Universal paid parental leave a must for family-friendly Budget

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has urged the Federal Government to heed community sentiment and provide for paid parental leave in next Tuesday’s Budget.

Senator Hanson-Young spoke to media and new mothers at a morning tea in Adelaide this morning. It was also reported today that BHP Billiton is introducing 18 weeks’ paid parental leave for its employees from July.

“The evidence pointing to Australia’s need for a government-funded paid parental leave scheme, coming from diverse sectors of the community, is overwhelming,” she said.

“While it is encouraging to see BHP Billiton take on the initiative of paid parental leave, it highlights the need for a universal scheme so that all employees in all industries are covered.

“The Greens are standing alongside health organisations, women’s organisations, unions, academics, media commentators, mums and dads in calling for the Government to introduce universal paid parental leave as a matter of urgency.”

Senator Hanson-Young referred to a number of recent studies and polls showing widespread support and compelling research for introducing paid parental leave, including an Auspoll finding 82 per cent of those polled preferring paid parental leave to be funded in the Budget over tax cuts for high income earners, and the Australia Institute’s recent report Long overdue: The macroeconomic benefits of paid parental leave.

“Yesterday we heard about yet another study, this time from the University of Sydney*, showing the current arrangements under enterprise bargaining are not sufficiently covering Australian mums and dads. The need for a universal government-funded scheme is clear,” she said.

Senator Hanson-Young said an assurance of government-funded paid parental leave scheme being included in the Federal Budget would make an excellent Mother’s Day gift for Australian mothers this Sunday.

“Mr Rudd and Mr Swan have the opportunity next week to deliver something that will be much appreciated by Australia’s working mums and dads: our long-overdue paid parental leave scheme.

“At a cost to government of $740 million for the Greens’ proposed 26-week scheme, paid parental leave should be prioritised as an affordable way to stimulate the economy that’s good for mums, dads, babies, and Australian workplaces too.

“A delayed, watered-down version of the Productivity Commission’s 18-week recommendation, as has been rumoured in pre-Budget speculation, will just not cut it.”

* University of Sydney study is ‘Bargaining for paid maternity and paternity leave: An analysis of current enterprise agreements in Australia’ by Marian Baird, Betty Frino and Sue Williamson

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