Australian Coat of Arms

Member for Blaxland

Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness 

Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government

 

Paid Parental Leave Amendment (COVID-19 Work Test) Bill 2021

Mr CLARE (Blaxland) (18:30): [by video link] Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I support the Paid Parental Leave Amendment (COVID-19 Work Test) Bill 2021. It is a very important piece of legislation. It will help to ensure that women here in Western Sydney who are pregnant at the moment and have lost their job because of the current lockdown don't miss out on paid parental leave. I also support the amendment foreshadowed by my friend the member for Fenner in this debate. It asks the government to make a further amendment to the Paid Parental Leave Act to ensure that women who are victims of domestic or family violence don't miss out on paid parental leave.

Some members may know that I have been calling for a change like this for a number of years, spurred by the story of a constituent of mine. Her name is Amani Haydar. Six years ago her mother was murdered by her father. She was stabbed 30 times in front of Amani's younger sister. At the time, Amani was five months pregnant. With her father in prison and her mother in a grave, Amani had to stop working and go home and look after what was left of her family—her younger sisters. A few months later Amani gave birth to a beautiful, healthy young girl. But, when she applied for paid parental leave, she was rejected by Centrelink, and she was rejected because she didn't meet the work test in the Paid Parental Leave Act.

To get paid parental leave you have to work in 10 of the 13 months prior to the birth of your child, and there are only a couple of exemptions to that. One is if you have a pregnancy related illness; another is if you have a premature birth. But what happened to Amani, domestic or family violence, isn't an exemption to the work test. We should change that for Amani and for women like her. Amani eventually received paid parental leave, but only because she picked up a pen and wrote to me and then wrote to the then Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, and he agreed to pay her paid parental leave as an act of grace. People like Amani, after everything that they have been through, should not have to rely on the good grace of government. This should be written into the law. It's pretty simple. If you're the victim of domestic or family violence while you're pregnant, you shouldn't miss out on paid parental leave because of this arbitrary work test rule. It's not right.

I've now been calling on the government to make this change for three years. I raised this in the parliament for the first time in September 2018. I again wrote to the minister about this as recently as February this year. The minister wrote back to me in May, again refusing to make this change to the Paid Parental Leave Act. The amendment that the member for Fenner has foreshadowed, if passed, would require the minister to consider this again and table a report in this place within 90 days on what they have done or plan to do and the reasons for it. But this shouldn't take 90 days. It shouldn't have taken three years. If the government wanted to they could move a substantive amendment and make this change tonight. The rumour is that they might just do that. I hope they do. I hope that they do that at the end of this debate.

Next week, on Monday and Tuesday, we have the National Summit on Women's Safety 2021. Hopefully, this important event might just shame this government into acting tonight and finally agreeing to amend the Paid Parental Leave Act for Amani and for women like her, who are victims of this terrible crime. They shouldn't miss out on paid parental leave because of it.