Michelle Lensink

Maternity Leave

I seek leave to ask the Minister for Industry and Trade, representing the Minister for Industrial Relations, a question about maternity leave.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: At 1 o’clock this afternoon, the full bench of the Industrial Relations Commission handed down a decision in relation to paid maternity leave. It decided to set aside its decision in relation to three major matters, including salary adjustments, paid maternity and adoption leave and the length of any settlement determined by the commission. The existing interim award generally provides for four weeks paid maternity leave. The Public Service Association had sought 14 weeks and the government’s response had been to propose eight weeks of paid maternity leave. On 4 April, I asked a question in this place in which I quoted Dr Barbara Pocock, who said as follows:

The state government can either send a signal of support for working women and their families by matching the increasingly common level of 14 weeks paid maternity leave for its own workers or hang onto its status as national delinquent and the family unfriendly government.

The full bench of the commission has also stated that there is strong evidence to support the contention that a minimum period of 14 weeks after the birth of a child should be taken as maternity leave and that most of this should be as paid leave. Having regard to all the circumstances of this case, the full bench has concluded that this award should provide 12 weeks of paid maternity and adoption leave. My question to the minister is: does he agree with the decision by the full bench of the Industrial Relations Commission, and how much will it cost the government?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Industry and Trade): I will refer that question to the Minister for Industrial Relations and bring back a response. However, I find it remarkable that, if a member of the Liberal Party is suggesting that there should be increased benefits to workers in this country, it really would be a first for the Liberal Party, because its track record is exactly the reverse. One has only to look at what is happening federally at the moment. The agenda of the Liberal government federally is to remove a whole suite of measures that provide protections to Australian workers. On the other hand, as indicated, this government has put an offer significantly increasing paid maternity leave for state government workers certainly well above that of the previous government. I did not notice any attempt during the previous eight years when we had a Liberal government to improve benefits in that area.

The Hon. A.J. REDFORD: As a supplementary question:

is it not the case that, over the past three years, the wage increases in this state have been the worst in this country?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: What was the question?

The Hon. A.J. REDFORD: Is it not the case that wage increases in this state have been the worst over the past two years in this country?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: The wage increases for whom? I suggest that the honourable member asks a question on notice that defines exactly what he means. I do not know whether the honourable member is referring to average wages, average weekly earnings, male wages, female wages or whatever. The question was about maternity leave. I suggest that the honourable member asks a properly-framed question on notice to the minister.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: As a supplementary question: this government has been opposed to the provisions sought by the PSA. Will the minister explain the comment made by the Hon. Stephanie Key (Minister for the Status of Women) on 28 April 2003 that she welcomes the federal commitment to maternity leave?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: The first question asked by the honourable member related to the decision which, apparently, has been handed down in the Industrial Commission today. I have not seen that particular decision. However, I note that, during her question, the honourable member referred to the fact that this government had made an increased offer in relation to paid maternity leave for government workers. Again, I make the point that, in eight years of Liberal government, I did not notice any similar measure to increase it. This government is concerned much more about families within South Australia.

Tuesday 8 November 2005

In reply to Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (5 May).

The Hon. T.G. ROBERTS: The Minister for Industrial Relations has provided the following information:

1. After significant enterprise bargaining negotiations, and following the break down in discussions in early 2004, the Chief Executive, Department for Administrative and Information Services and other named Government employer applicants filed for the making of an Award with the Industrial Relations Commission of South Australia on 27 April 2004. The Government employers sought to have the outstanding issues between the parties resolved by the independent umpire in the Commission, those issues being:

salary, paid maternity/adoption leave and the duration of the Agreement. The government had offered 8 weeks paid maternity leave, a doubling of the then current paid entitlement.

Both parties have had an opportunity to put their respective cases before the Full Bench of the Commission. The Government accepts the outcome of the Full Commission consistent with the approach taken by the Government employers in bringing this matter to an arbitrated conclusion. The Full Bench decision in relations to the other matters was consistent with the government's offer.

2. During proceedings in relation to the paid maternity/adoption leave aspect of the Award application, the Government employers put Department of Treasury and Finance evidence before the Full Commission including the costs of any increases to the existing paid maternity/adoption leave provision. Based on that evidence, the cost of each additional week is estimated at $0.561 million pa. Thus providing the 12 weeks as determined by the Full Commission (i.e. an additional eight weeks) has an estimated cost of $4.49 million pa.

3. The Minister is unable to respond to this question as there is no record in Hansard of such a statement being made by the Hon Stephanie Key (Minister for the Status of Women) on 28 April 2003.

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