POLITICS

Nick Xenophon Says 20 Weeks Of Paid Parental Leave Is A Good Start, But A Deal Is A Long Way Off

The Government wants to stop parents 'double dipping', but a compromise is far from close.

21/11/2016 10:28 AM AEDT | Updated 21/11/2016 11:24 AM AEDT
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Senator Xenophon says the government paid parental leave (PPL) scheme remains a "vexed issue."

CANBERRA -- Don't think there is any done deal to curb access to the government paid parental leave (PPL) scheme by extending it out to 20 weeks.

The Turnbull Government remains committed to ending so-called "double-dipping" parents who also claim PPL from their employer, and has put to crossbench Senators a plan to extend the government PPL scheme from 18 to 20 weeks.

But Senator Xenophon, whose Nick Xenophon Team votes are crucial to passing any PPL legislation -- told The Huffington Post Australia that there is "no agreement" and a long way to go.

"At this stage there is no agreement," he told HuffPost Australia. "To say there is any deal in the offing is really quite wrong."

"Twenty weeks will be an improvement on 18 weeks but there is still a long way to go on this."

At a glance: proposed paid parental leave changes
Current scheme: 18 weeks at minimum wage for carers earning $150,000 or less.
General government push: To limit PPL access if the parent at home gets paid leave from their employer. More than 80,000 parents could be affected.
Latest compromise: Expand PPL to 20 weeks, but remove some public servants and still limit access to parents with employer schemes.
Xenophon election promise: To protect the current system.

Under the compromise, payments would increase by up to $1300 and the changes would start in August 2017.

Labor remains steadfastly opposed, yet Senator Derryn Hinch has indicated to Channel 7's Sunrise a deal may be close.

"I think the government will agree to October," Hinch said. "I think they will go for this, so it will be 20 weeks and it won't come in until October so any family who is pregnant now won't be affected, I think is a fair compromise."

But Xenophon said the leave scheme is a "question of equity", and for that reason he won't be rushed into an agreement.

"It is something that has been an issue raised with the Government, but we need to see the costings, we need to see what the Parliamentary Budget Office says and it is too premature to speculate on anything at this stage," he told The Huffington Post Australia.

"If the Government is prepared to give the majority of working women more paid parental leave then that would be an unambiguously a good thing, but it would mean thousands of women would also get less, but it would be on the basis that they already have some paid parental leave.

"I think the rationale behind what the government is doing is to have a benchmark of 26 weeks so that if you already have 12 weeks of paid parental leave from your employer you would still get at least 14 weeks from the government to bring it up to 26 weeks."

Earlier, the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed the PPL would not be put to a vote during the final two weeks of federal parliament.

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