Speech by Penny Spalding, Assistant Secretary – Women’s and Social Welfare Issues at the Big Brisbane Baby Blockade 1 June 2015
Today, I want to speak to you from two perspectives.
The first is as Assistant Secretary for women at the Queensland Teachers’ Union. The members of my union, along with those from the Queensland Nurses’ Union and other female public servants, stand to lose the most from the Abbott government’s changes to parental leave.
75 per cent of the QTU’s 43,000 members are women. At any one time, around 1,000 are on maternity leave. Those women are entitled to paid parental leave from their employer, the Queensland Government, and are entitled to paid parental leave from the Australian Government.
It is their right – they are not double dippers, they are not rorters. They are the primary carers for brand new human beings.
If they lose the national PPL payments, women will be left with two choices – and neither of them is good. One is to go back to work while their children are still tiny infants. The other is to take leave without pay.
The effects of that second choice will hit decades later, when they retire from the workforce.
Women retire with just over half the superannuation of men – that’s because they tend to earn less than men and spend time out of the workforce raising their families. That means the average female worker with children would have to work for 25 years longer, just to catch up.
It’s called the superannuation gender gap. And that, combined with women’s longer life expectancy, means that far more women than men end up entirely dependent on the age pension to survive in retirement. For a single woman, that’s only $430 a week.
Despite this fact, and despite the Productivity Commission’s advice, the national parental leave pay includes no super contributions. And now Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey want to take even the minimum wage payment away from us. Shame.
I said I would speak from two perspectives. The second one is that – you may have noticed – I am going to have a baby.
I will be taking my employer’s maternity leave, and I will be taking the national leave. I will spend this time raising my new baby. But it’s not all about me.
It’s about having time helping my five-year-old adjust to having someone new in the family. It’s about having time with my partner and my mother, nurturing this new arrival.
I’m one of the 80,000 women who will be denied that right if Abbott and Hockey have their way. That’s 80,000 babies who will be denied their mothers’ time, and hundreds of thousands of siblings and partners and grandparents and extended family members who will all be shortchanged.
With all the talk of double dipping, I’ve been thinking about who’s doing the wrong thing. It’s not me doing the wrong thing. It’s not women and their families doing the wrong thing. It’s not the majority of employers who are doing the wrong thing. No. So I have to say to Tony and Joe – it’s not us, it’s you. So stop it.
Together, we can stop them.
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