Topics: Israel and Palestine Conflict, Paid Parental Leave expansion, National Carers Week, National Carers Strategy, Carers Inclusive Workplace Initiative
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Joining me live in the studio is the Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth. Thanks very much for your time. I do want to ask you about the Middle East reaction here in a moment, but let's start with the big news in your area of responsibility today. The Paid Parental Leave extension, it's $1.2 billion out to the year 2026-27. The benefits to the broader economy are going to be much greater than that. Have you got a dollar figure as to just how much it'll be putting back in, in terms of improved worker participation?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Of course, it has multiplying effects. Improving Paid Parental Leave allows the connection of the workplace and the employee. It allows people to take time out. I don't have a figure on the total economic benefit, but it is a multiplier effect in terms of the economy, in terms of participation. Taking our Paid Parental Leave to 26 weeks really is very good for the economy. It's good for employers but of course – most importantly – it's good for families.
KIERAN GILBERT: Four weeks is reserved for both parents – what happens if, say, one of the parents is unable to take their four weeks? Can that go on top of the other parental leave that the family has (to the other parent)?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: One of the key objectives of this legislation is to promote shared care. What the expansion to 26-weeks does is reserve two periods of four weeks for each parent. The rest of the 18 weeks can be split up any way people choose, but it can also be used concurrently by both parents at the same time, up to four weeks. So, we've tried to make this as flexible as possible at the same time recognising that both parents may want to take time off. If it's a single parent, then they'll get the full 26-weeks. But one of the objectives of this is to encourage shared care. So, it is use it or lose it for that four weeks.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, so the Greens are backing this. They like the idea of what you're doing, but they want you to put superannuation on this as well, to include super for paid parental leave. And given that women end up with a much lower, on average, superannuation nest egg than men, is that something you're keen to do?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I'd say there hasn't been reform since Labor first introduced Paid Parental Leave. We've had a look at what our priorities are and our first priority was extending the scheme to 26-weeks. That was an important priority and we've now introduced the legislation to do that. Obviously, superannuation is something that we recognise as an important part of a women's working life and accumulating superannuation, it's something, of course, we would like to do. But there are many pressures on the budget.
KIERAN GILBERT: Are you worried the Greens will try and block?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: I hope they won't. I hope they won't. This is due to start on the 1st July next year. It needs to be passed through the Parliament by March next year, so there is time pressure to make sure it's all in place so people can benefit. I welcome constructive suggestions, but it's not something the Government's in a position to do at the moment (paying superannuation). So, we'll be encouraging the Greens and in fact all of the Senate to back our Paid Parental Leave Bill because this is good for the economy and good for families.
KIERAN GILBERT: One of the areas, again, of your responsibility is carers. It's National Carers Week this week. I know we've got a lot of carers who watch this program and I know they're not the sort of people that necessarily go and seek help or government support. They just get on with what they do, day in, day out. Are you going to try and make it easier for carers to get support?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Absolutely. Our unpaid carers actually do an amazing job. There's over two-and-a-half million unpaid carers in this country that care for perhaps a parent, or in fact perhaps a child that has a disability, a family member, an aunt, an uncle. They are really some of the most unsung heroes in our community. And what we're actually doing is today in National Carers Week, we're celebrating carers, but we also are looking and turning our mind to how we can give them more support. So, I've announced today that the Government will be looking at a National Carers Strategy to look at what more we can do. But today we also announced our Carers Workplace Initiative, which supports businesses to support their carers. So, we know a lot of carers need a little bit more flexibility or a little bit more predictability. And what we've launched today is tools, education for employers and also, if they meet the national standards, we'll get beyond to display the logo for being a carer inclusive workplace. This is a way that we can support employers better, meet the needs of carers. But our strategy, in addition to that, will also look at what more we can do.
KIERAN GILBERT: That's something that will be welcomed by many. It's a selfless group of people by definition. Now, just finally, on Israel and the Middle East, the debate here. Just a few moments ago, the Opposition Leader called on the Prime Minister to visit Tel Aviv. Next week he's going to Washington, but he said, Mr Dutton, that Mr Albanese's top priority should be to go to Israel. What's your thinking on that?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I would say that the Prime Minister has been obviously deeply engaged with, for example, our ambassador from Israel to Australia. He's been being regularly briefed and obviously we had the motion in the Parliament this week in terms of his trip to America. There's important work to be done in America. Our relationship is very important. And so the Prime Minister, is working, as is our Government, right across the board when it comes to what is an important visit to America. But obviously also a deeply difficult conflict in the Middle East. And I would say the other priority of our Government has been about getting Australians out of Israel and other areas within the Middle East. It's really, really important that we are responsive to that and we have been as a Government, and so that has also been a big focus of what we've been doing.
KIERAN GILBERT: Ed Husic and Anne Aly have said that the people in Gaza have been collectively punished for the barbarity and atrocities of Hamas. Susan Ley, the Opposition Deputy, said Ed Husic’s claims have exposed Labor's deep division on the question of Israel and raised serious questions about whether these comments reflect a new official position of the Government. What's your assessment of Susan Ley's response there?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: I don't accept what Susan Ley has said. I don't accept that. The Government has been very clear-eyed here. We have been very clear that Israel has a right to defend itself, but the importance of civilian life must be at the forefront and that any civilian life, innocent civilian life lost in this conflict is a tragedy. So, I reject what Susan Ley has to say. And I would say that the motion put before the Parliament that received support across the whole Parliament demonstrates that first, to reject the terrorist attacks of Hamas to recognise the loss of civilian life, call on all parties to respect international law, and importantly, recognise that our ultimate aim is a two-state solution.
KIERAN GILBERT: Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth appreciate your time.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Thank you.