Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 13 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 4120..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
In the UK, the British government has gone beyond the 14-week minimum. From April next year the Work and Families Act will see men entitled to six months unpaid paternity leave. The act increases paid maternity leave from six months to nine months, with employers reimbursed by the state. It also introduces a few new provisions, such as keeping in touch days, which allow a woman on maternity leave to go into work for a few days without losing her right to maternity leave, where the employer and the employee agree. There is a two-month notice period for women changing their return date from maternity leave—for example, if they would like to return early—and there is a provision that employers can make reasonable contact with their employees on maternity leave to help them with planning and ease a mother's return to work.
So there is a range of changes happening across the world. It is a shame that the Senate report did not provide a way forward for us here—in Australia generally, but also in the ACT. I think it was an opportunity lost. I agree with Dr Foskey that the process around the report was obviously flawed, but there is a dissenting report from the Labor members of the committee. However, Australia is way behind in its childcare policies.
I agree that the states and the commonwealth should work together. It does not necessarily mean that we should accept all the costs from the commonwealth or that the commonwealth should accept all the costs from us. There is an opportunity to work together, but we really need to move away from the 1950s approach and into the modern world. The current arrangements are not working for working families; they need to be modernised. Every country in the developed world other than Australia seems to be able to do it.
MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (5.54), in reply: I thank members for their contributions. I agree with Ms Gallagher that we are way behind the eight ball with regard to childcare policy and that there are many models across the world that we could be fruitfully considering and introducing. I also agree that every time we raise a matter about the commonwealth government in this place it appears that the opposition want to say, "But of course it is not the commonwealth government's fault; it is the fault of the states and territories, because they are not cooperating."
I suggest that this committee has lost an opportunity to recommend some sound, innovative and up-to-date policies—policies that will be equitable for all families and all parents and that will assist all children, not policies that are just going to assist one section of our community; that is, the wealthy and those who can perhaps already afford to make other arrangements.
We again have recommendations and policies coming out of the commonwealth government that suggest to us that the wealthy, those who are already well off, are benefited and that those who are not wealthy can just hang fire. They say, "One day we might actually come to you, but at the moment it is the trickle-down effect."Trickle down? They say, "At some stage or other, what we do for the wealthy will eventually get down to you poor people who happen to be at the middle or the lower end of the scale."The trickle-down effect has always been the policy of the conservative federal government. And what happens? It does not trickle down.