Double Dipper



I started writing this post last week…such is my blogging backlog that what was a commentary on a current event is now history.
My feelings are still valid though so I have decided to hit post anyway!

I am generally not a very political person.
Perhaps it is because I can’t vote in Australia.
Perhaps it is because I have been living in a baby bubble for the past four years and so am out of touch when it comes to current events.
I am however fired up about the recent allegations that mothers who legally took advantage of federal maternity leave were “double dippers.”
I am even more outraged that the government thinks it is a good idea to cut maternity leave.

In case you are living in a baby bubble similar to the one I exist in, the current government proposed to deny the paid parental leave scheme to those parents who receive more generous paid leave from their employer.
I work for Queensland Health and they currently provide 14 weeks at full pay.
The federal government provides 18 weeks at minimum wage.
So I would be denied the federal maternity leave.

I worry about this decision for two reasons.

That first year of a child’s life is so fundamental…breastfeeding, bonding, forming secure attachments that stand babies in good stead to become caring, capable adults.
And of course there is the enormous identity shift that a new mother goes through!
Sending mothers back to work is not good for the baby, it is not good for the mother, it is not good for the workplace, and I don’t believe it is good for society.
Take me for an example.
If I was pregnant, left work at the advised 34 week mark (Queensland Health requires a medical certificate to work beyond that point), and delivered at 40 weeks, that would leave me with 8 weeks of paid leave after the baby was born.
New flash to those drafting policy…a two month old baby is still incredibly new and a woman who is eight weeks post partum is still recovering and is incredibly fragile.
Let’s think about it this way.  According to the national schedule, an 8 week old baby hasn’t had immunisations yet.  A woman who gave birth via a c-section is only just allowed to drive again.  And you want to put that baby in child care and ask that woman to return to work?
And what about breastfeeding?  The Australian Breastfeeding Association recommends exclusive breastfeeding until your baby is six months old.  That would mean pumping at work.  For me that would mean that I really couldn’t do my job properly…having a member of the theatre team leaving the operating room every few hours to go and pump isn’t ideal for their colleagues or for their patients.
It is next to impossible to get child care for young babies in Brisbane, but for argument’s sake, let’s say I manage to secure care for my two month old baby.  As it now stands, the government is paying me $11,500 (which is taxed) to stay at home and look after my baby and my boy.  But if I had to go back to work the government, through subsidising child care, would pay $15,000 ($7,5000 per child) for someone else to look after my children.
In fact, the government allows that through denying some parents the paid parental leave scheme, they will save 1 billion dollars.  And where are they putting those savings?  Their new child care scheme is said to cost 1.4 billion dollars.
Why don’t we just pay mothers to look after their own children?
Doesn’t that make the most sense?
A small stipend for those first few months doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.

My other concern is what message does this send to society?
That the work that parents do isn’t valued?
That birth and that special time immediately following it isn’t sacred?  Instead of using that time to recover and to get to know your baby, you should use it to work towards separating yourself from your baby?
If the government doesn’t think that paid parental leave is important, then why should private enterprise?  What if they cut their plans as well?
Then all of those mothers will qualify for the federal plan.
And there go your savings Mr. Hockey.

One of the aspects of life in Australia that I value the most is the lean towards socialism…everyone is looked after.
Yes it means high taxes but it also means education for our children, public health care, benefits for those improving themselves through further study, help for those looking for work, and a stipend for parents to stay at home and nurture their babies for those first few formative months.

If you feel strongly about this issue, I urge to you to make your sentiments known.
I think mothers are notoriously hard to mobilise (we are too busy looking after our children) but at the very least, The Parenthood has a quick, online petition you can sign.

What do you think about all this?
What would your ideal look like?