Minister Rishworth interview on ABC News Breakfast with Lisa Millar


Topics: Paid Parental Leave expansion, Chris Ketter appointment

LISA MILLAR, HOST: Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth joins us now. Good morning to you. Thanks for coming on the programme. Tell us how this is going to work?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: The legislation introduced today will outline an increase of two weeks to the existing 20 week scheme each year until we get to 26 weeks. Of course, part of the scheme has a reserved period for each parent and under our legislation we're having four weeks reserved for each parent as a minimum. But the rest of the weeks can be divided in any way the family wants to divide that caring responsibility. In addition, we're increasing the number of weeks that parents can take together. And so, there will be four weeks in which parents can take their leave at the same time to support one another. If a person is single, though, they'll get the full 26 weeks. So, this is a really big improvement. It's an investment of about $1.2 billion over five years and I think will be welcomed by many families.

LISA MILLAR: What do you reckon the impact is going to be?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think the impact will be, firstly, mums and dads being able to take more time off work at the birth of a baby, which is really important. I think with the reserve period as well, we're going to see an increase in shared care, both parents taking some time out which is really, really important if we want to get a more equal burden of that share of care. So that is really important. We think this will help a lot of families and obviously, with cost of living, having extra weeks off that are paid is really important as well.

LISA MILLAR: Minister, we talk so much about equality, and yet even though your own taskforce said pay the superannuation on parental leave, you've chosen not to. And we know that women end their working lives with less superannuation than men. So, why did you decide to not take the advice of your own people who'd been saying, pay it, pay the super?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: In terms of how we expanded the 26 weeks, that was advice from our Women's Economic Task Force. As I said, it's a $1.2 billion investment as a result of these changes. Super, of course, is really important and something we would very much like to look to in the future when the Budget can afford it. But, this is a very big step forward in the current arrangements, but we'll continue to look at superannuation into the future and consider it in each Budget context.

LISA MILLAR: Yeah, I know you talk about the Budget, but I want to keep coming back to the equality of things, because the Labor Government is still committed to the stage three tax cuts, which lots of people say are going to benefit men. So, this argument that, oh, well, superannuation on paid parental leave – which would benefit women – can't be afforded, but stage three tax cuts which would benefit men, can be afforded.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think these are very two different issues we have…

LISA MILLAR: [Interrupts] But it comes down to money and equality.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We have Paid Parental Leave. The scheme was introduced under Labor. Not much happened with it over a decade. And now, in our first Budget, we announced and now legislating an increase from 20 weeks to 26 weeks. That's a really significant increase, so, our first priority was extending the length of the scheme so parents could have more time off at the time of the birth of their child. Obviously, as we move forward, superannuation has been something that our Government said we would like to do when we can afford it. But there are a lot of pressures on the Budget – in my own portfolio, along many other portfolios – and we have to balance all those competing demands.

LISA MILLAR: All right, Minister. I want to touch on something else, given that we're discussing women and equality. A story in The Australian today reporting that Trade Minister Don Farrell gave a former Labor Senator, Chris Ketter, who I'm assuming you know, you're both in the same union, a job in a US trade role over a woman, a more experienced woman, who'd gone through the official process. Does that sound a bit smelly to you? She was the preferred candidate. Don Farrell says, no, we're going to give it to this former Labor Senator.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I'm not privy to the decision making for that Trade Commissioner, but what I would say is that Chris Ketter is a very experienced person…

LISA MILLAR: [Interrupts] In trade? He’s experienced in trade?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: He brings a lot of skills and knowledge. And I think in terms of the process of the appointment, I'm not able to make any further comments on that. But I have no doubt that Chris Ketter will do a great job representing Australia.

LISA MILLAR: Well, he is apparently being trained by the woman who was the preferred candidate, so he's probably getting the best possible training for it. Given that your own colleagues have said you want to move away from political appointments to more qualified senior officials, I ask you again, does this sound a bit smelly?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, I am sure that Chris Ketter will do an excellent job…

LISA MILLAR: [Interrupts] Does he deserve the job?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I would say across the board, if you look at what our Government's done in terms of merit based appointments, we're redesigning the AAT, which is a very, very important body. It's a body that reviews, for example, social security decisions to make sure that we've got the best people for the job.

LISA MILLAR: [Interrupts] But I'm talking about this position. I mean, when it happened in NSW, with John Barilaro in a trade position in the UK, Labor in NSW were up in arms about it, and it was found out that there was a lack of integrity and transparency with that role. So, now the same accusations are being put to your Government about a decision that the Trade Minister has made. Would you like to get more information about it? Given that we are sitting here talking about women and equality?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I would say that our Government has been very focused on women and equality, and systemic change through our whole Government…

LISA MILLAR: [Interrupts] Would you like more information about this particular story, though?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I have no doubt that the Chris Ketter appointment is a very good one and one where he will do a very good job. But I would say right across the board, our Government is looking at good processes for appointment on the AAT. I think you go back and have a look at many of our appointments, you will see that we are bringing a gender lens across the board, we are having merit based appointments. And I think across the board, you'll be able to see a significant change that our Government has made.

LISA MILLAR: All right, Amanda Rishworth. Minister, thank you very much for joining us this morning.