Saturday, August 7, 2010

Parental Leave Schemes and Confusion

Once again, I'm struck by politics.
Out of confusion over who I should vote for - because once again, none of the parties are making me happy - I got on all the major and running parties' sites. In amongst all the policy (Liberal, why on earth do I have to download PDF files to find out what you want to make of my country?), I decided, for no other reason than Chris and I discussed this a few days earlier, to see what their policies regarding paid parental leave were.
From what I understand, Liberal is pushing women's leave and offers the father/husband two weeks off himself.
The Coalition's scheme will enhance child and maternal well-being by providing financial support to mothers while they are outside the paid workforce recovering from childbirth, establishing breastfeeding and bonding with their newborns... A fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme... The Coalition's Paid Parental Leave Scheme will:
  1.  Provide mothers with 26 weeks paid parental leave, at full replacement wage (up to a maximum of $150,000 per annum) or the Federal Minimum Wage, whichever is greater.
  2. Include super contributions at the mandatory rate of nine percent.
  3. Allow two out of the 26 weeks to be dedicated paternity leave to be used simultaneously or separately to the mother's leave, paid at the father's replacement wage.
(Emphasis has been added.)
1, I'm sort of okay with. Besides the emphasis on mothers specifically, it all seems pretty fair. 6 and a half months leave is quite good. 2, also good. 3... no. Just no. Why only two weeks for fathers? They don't get the opportunity to develop bonds with their children? Say, for instance, that the father wants to stay home from work, and his wife is more than happy to return to the workforce. The paid parental leave scheme of the Liberals really does not accomodate for that, and the gender bias is wholly irritating. "Mothers". "Maternal". "Establishing breastfeeding and bonding with their newborns".
Okay. So perhaps your thought is, "But the mother has to stay home to feed the child!" My thought - well, as much as I am not really for formula, there are parents out there who use it. Child = fed. Via a bottle. You don't need mammary glands actively producing milk for that.
My main concern is it just doesn't offer any room to the notion that men are often childcarers nowadays. I have a relative who has raised his children pretty much singlehandedly - and this is right from birth - because he and his wife have decided she would make the money. These kids have turned out like any other kids. My brother, too, in our discussion, told me that he wants to stay home with the kids when they're born, purely because he loves kids. I'm indifferent either way. If it's easier for me to stay home, I will. If we're better off with me working, I will. If I work one freelancing, for instance, and my husband has a 9-5 job, I'll be staying home unless he wants to.
And if there's policy that allows us to do so.
Labor's policy was a little more difficult to find; the Family Assistance Office cites the new laws as effective from January next year, and they are as follows:
Paid Parental Leave:  
  • is government funded  
  • is for eligible working parents of children born or adopted on or after 1 January 2011  
  • can be transferred to the other parent 
  • is paid at the National Minimum Wage - currently $570 a week before tax*  
  • is for up to 18 weeks  
  • can be taken any time within the first year after birth. 
 (Emphasis added.)
Well, although it is significantly shorter - two months shorter, actually - at least it's up for grabs by either parent. I'm a little more pleased with this, and that kind of calmed me down in the mad rampage I had when I was filling out my passport, decided to go for dual Chilean/Australian citizenship and maybe strike up an English one while I was at it, and realised that'd be three countries whose political stances I would have to be pretty knowledgeable... and at last night's stage, I wasn't really at one.
At the moment, though, I'm going with the lesser of two failings, and honestly, I've considered the Sex Party a couple of times, because they're going with fairly reasonable policies. And, they're on a par with Labor's parental leave scheme, are looking towards making sex something you actually discuss with children so they're aware (rather than cramming them into a room and having one awkward day where, afterwards, you try and block the memories) - to quote:
To bring about the development of a national sex education curriculum as a first step in preventing the sexualisation of children.
These here are their policies.
I'm not sure if I'll put theirs first or anything. Overall, I'm hideously confused. But there's my political rant to make up for radio/cleaning silence yesterday.
I owe you another post. Sorry.

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