Radical plan for six months’ parental leave at full pay
New parents could take six months off at full pay under Labor's long-term plan to revolutionise paid parental leave.
Anthony Albanese has told the Herald Sun the time is right to examine improvements to the "breakthrough" Labor reform, a decade after it was introduced.
Under existing rules, the primary carer of a newborn can receive up to 18 weeks of taxpayer-funded parental leave, which is paid at the national minimum wage of $150.78 per day.
But Labor wants to massively expand the scheme, providing easier access for fathers as well as mothers, and paying them 26 weeks of leave at their normal salary including superannuation.
The party's draft policy platform, to be locked in at this week's national conference, spells out the plan, which would be co-funded by government and employer contributions.
In an exclusive interview, the Opposition leader said the ambition outlined in the platform was where a Labor government would move to "over a period of time".
"We'd obviously consult on the timing of that," Mr Albanese said. "You constantly need to look at, when you introduce a reform, how it's working and whether any improvements can be made."
Labor is yet to lock in a costed policy to reform paid parental leave, as it waits for the May federal budget before unveiling further pre-election commitments.
The ambitious extension would be popular with young families, but requiring employers to contribute to the costs would likely be controversial as some businesses struggle in the post-COVID-19 economy.
Paid parental leave was introduced in 2011 under Labor prime minister Julia Gillard, and Mr Albanese said it had moved from a controversial policy to an accepted part of the workplace system.
"I see it as a structural reform, like I see what we want to do on childcare, moving towards universal childcare," he said.
"Paid parental leave changes the dynamic about women's employment, it changes the way that families operate, and importantly, it's paid parental leave, not paid maternity leave."
"It's been in place for some time now. That's probably worthy of an examination and to see whether any improvements can be made."
Under the party's draft platform, to be considered at its two-day conference starting on Tuesday, a Labor government would also pursue rights for new parents to access up to two years of unpaid parental leave.
The draft version said the party aimed to "expand access to paid parental leave to increase support for parents and promote equal parenting".
In 2010, then-opposition leader Tony Abbott promised that a Coalition government would provide six months of parental leave at full pay, funded by a 1.7 per cent levy on businesses turning over at least $5m a year that would have raised $2.7bn annually.
It was originally capped at $75,000 per person, and then reduced to $50,000. But in 2015, Mr Abbott axed his signature policy as prime minister amid concerns about the cost.
It was never legislated and Ms Gillard's scheme has since remained in place.
LABOR TO POUNCE IN VICTORIA
Labor is plotting a targeted campaign in Victoria at the next federal election, with Anthony Albanese indicating he is unlikely to copy Bill Shorten's ambitious effort to steal Liberal stronghold seats off Scott Morrison.
The Opposition made a concerted effort in Melbourne's inner east during the last election, with Mr Shorten even making a daring appearance in the seat of Higgins on polling day in 2019.
But while Labor recorded a strong 1.31 per cent swing across the state, it was unable to defeat government MPs in Liberal heartland electorates.
The Opposition did win Corangamite, in the state's southwest, and the southeastern seat of Dunkley, as well as the new electorate of Fraser in Melbourne's west.
Mr Albanese recently visited Corangamite and Dunkley to support MPs Libby Coker and Peta Murphy. He told the Herald Sun that while his starting point was trying to win every seat, Labor would have "a very targeted, strategic campaign" in Victoria.
The Opposition leader said he would particularly focus on winning back Chisholm, held by Liberal MP Gladys Liu in Melbourne's east, and the new outer-west seat of Hawke.
"Victoria already has a strong base," Mr Albanese said.
"It's a big country and you don't get uniform swings across the country."
But he said there were opportunities in Victoria to contrast Labor's "constructive" approach to opposition during the pandemic with the "chaos" of the state Liberal Party, and its aggressive criticisms of Daniel Andrews.
While leadership speculation mounted about Mr Albanese late last year, the polls have shifted in his favour.
"No one remembers who goes round the winning post in the Melbourne Cup the first time - it's a 3200m race," he said.
Originally published as Radical plan for six months' parental leave at full pay