I tend to forget about the Australian Democrats ever since they imploded but I can’t ignore the Dems with this call from Senator Natasha Stott Despoja for universal maternity leave.
She introduced a bill in September this year for consideration, seeking to give all working women in Australia 14 weeks (the International Labour Organisation standard) Government-funded leave at the minimum wage on the birth of a child (with the option of being topped up by workplaces to their normal earnings level). It’s primarily government-funded so a range of employer groups are on board with it. There is now a petition you can sign here urging the new Parliament when it re-forms post-election to finally provide a national system of maternity leave in this country. This petition is all about keeping the pressure up on the two major parties, and remember that the Liberal Party have stated their opposition to national paid maternity leave schemes.
I know maternity leave can divide some mothers because there are lots of expenses faced by parents in addition to maternity leave but remember this –
- we as a society have children, but it is women and only women who have to leave the workforce to give birth and provide the baby’s first nurturing and who consequently suffer that loss of income and workplace entitlements;
- Australia and the United States are the only two OECD countries left without a national maternity leave scheme (so you know, other countries are managing to provide this scheme without their economies falling apart or mass sackings of women by discriminatory employers);
- not all working mothers are well-paid mothers, some are working poor and they are most likely to be without paid maternity leave;
- birth and caring for a baby are extraordinarily exhausting (but also special) experiences and all working women, not just the ones in a good negotiation position deserve the right to recover from and enjoy these times.