Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
GORGI COUGHLAN: Finance Minister Mathias Cormann joins us now from Canberra. Mathias, a pretty ordinary Mother’s Day present?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Not at all. This is actually something that we very clearly outlined in the lead up to the last election. We said then that we would get rid of double-dipping and we are acting on that commitment. The thing to understand here is that most women have access to just one paid parental leave scheme. Only some women have access to two paid parental leave schemes. In particular across the Federal public sector, women are able to access a Government paid scheme which provides full replacement wages and on top of that they are able to access a second scheme...interrupted
GORGI COUGHLAN: Minister, Minister, the reason we don’t agree with the term double-dipping. The reason why mothers have to try and compensate and add their own employer’s maternity payment on is because the Government system doesn’t fulfil the recommended 25 weeks’ maternity leave.
MATHIAS CORMANN: And those families who have access to a more generous paid parental leave scheme through their private or public employer will continue to do so...interrupted
GORGI COUGHLAN: But, Minister the reason why...
MATHIAS CORMANN: But they shouldn’t also be able to access a second paid parental leave scheme funded by the taxpayer.
GORGI COUGHLAN: Sorry to interrupt you Minister but the reason why millions of mums around the country tonight are feeling really jibbed by the Abbott Government to be honest is because you promised six months ago that one of your key policies was going to look after new mums.
MATHIAS CORMANN: And we have said some time ago that we will be prioritising an additional investment in childcare, more affordable childcare instead. We have made some announcements in relation to that today. But in terms of paid parental leave arrangements, what we have announced over the past 24 hours is a fairness and equity measure. Most women have access to one paid parental leave scheme. Essentially it is a matter for families to choose whether they go ahead with the more generous paid parental leave arrangements provided by their employer or whether they want to access the taxpayer funded default scheme through the Government. People shouldn’t be able to access both.
STEVE PRICE: Mathias I think everybody probably agrees with that. But look, hang on here, what you did as a Cabinet was tell Tony Abbott your scheme is too good, it’s going to cost too much money. It’s too generous, you’ve got to dump it, or we dump you. That’s what happened.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That’s not what happened. You would remember…interrupted
STEVE PRICE: Yes it is.
MATHIAS CORMANN: You’re the commentator. I’ll leave that to you.
STEVE PRICE: What, are you saying that you didn’t argue with Tony Abbott that his scheme is too generous. No one in Government told him that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I think that you put a couple of other comments behind that. What we have done of course as a Government is, we have considered the situation we were in. We considered the priorities for families. We considered what was affordable and we made a judgment to prioritise helping families get access to simpler, more affordable, more flexible childcare as a way of helping families get into work, stay in work and be in work. That is exactly what we did.
STEVE PRICE: But it’s a broken promise.
MATHIAS CORMANN: You can characterise it. I will leave the commentary to you. What we have set out to do is do the best we can to help families get access to better, more affordable, simpler, more flexible childcare.
GORGI COUGHLAN: Minister, Minister, we can go down that path and say it’s not a broken promise, but it is a broken promise. You’re asking mums to go back to work earlier and we are not guaranteed of a childcare placement. I’ve got mums that I work with here at The Project, Minister who can’t find a childcare placement for 12 months.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is why we’ve put in a significant additional investment into the childcare system…interrupted
GORGI COUGHLAN: I know but if you want to get mums to go back to work Minister, you can’t throw them back into work unless you fix the other part of the system first. You’re asking mums to go back to work. They’re going to be more tired, even the World Health Organisation recommends that mothers must bond with their babies for at least six months.
MATHIAS CORMANN: And we agree with that. And there is a paid parental leave scheme in place and families will have a choice whether they want to access a more generous scheme that is provided through their private or public sector employers and where that is not available, there is the taxpayer funded Government scheme available as the default scheme.
PETER HELLIAR: Mathias, Scott Morrison is being accused today of upstaging your boss, Joe Hockey, in the lead up to the Budget. Have a listen to him this morning talking up the Treasurer.
SCOTT MORRISON [EXTRACT]: In this role, that’s him, he is our Greg Bird. I will be the prop forward, taking it up and he can be the one who will score the try. And that is what he will be doing on Budget day.
PETER HELLIAR: Now, Greg Bird is one of the biggest bad boys in the NRL. He is currently serving an eight-game ban for an illegal tackle. He was charged with urinating on a police car in December. Did he nail the comparison?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have to admit I am not an expert when it comes to the NRL. I am from an AFL State. I work very closely with both Joe Hockey and Scott Morrison. Joe Hockey is the leader of the economic team. He is doing an outstanding job. He will be delivering a very good Budget tomorrow. It is of course a team effort, but it is very much Joe Hockey who has been in charge, making sure that we have the right economic plan for these times in place for the next four years.
STEVE PRICE: Just finally, have you got any chance of getting this reworked paid parental leave scheme through the Senate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, let’s wait and see. We’ll certainly be putting our case to the Senate that double-dipping is not a sensible allocation of limited taxpayer resources and that it is appropriate to ensure that all women have access to one paid parental leave scheme, but that it is not fair for some women to have access to two paid parental leave schemes, including one funded by the taxpayer.
GORGI COUGHLAN: Well, Minister, we hope that in time you can see that new mums need support, they don’t need singling out.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I totally agree with that.
GORGI COUGHLAN: Okay, thank you very much for your time Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good to be here.