A letter to Joe Hockey

So today of all days, in Australia, the idiot politicians announced a raft of reforms to childcare and paid parental leave. Naturally, all of these will impact us. Negatively. In an area where waitlists for daycare places can be 2.5 YEARS long, where fees can be up to $160 a day, they are capping govt childcare subsidies to a % of $110 a day. That’s $110 a day in 2017…..
They also did a major backflip on paid parental leave. Their government was elected with a promise of a “rolls Royce” scheme, where the 18 weeks paid parental leave would be based on a woman’s ACTUAL salary….the existing scheme was freely available but at a basic wage. Which was fine…because it did the job, and it improved things a lot. And you got it whether or not your employer had maternity leave.
Today, they announced if your employer has GOOD maternity leave (ie better than the government one) , you get no government paid parental leave at all. There’s an incentive for employers to look after women, eh? It’s hard to explain it all here, so many of us are still sketchy on the details, government included, I suspect.
It just so happens the fool that announced this is my local member of parliament. ie we actually vote him into his seat (or not, in my case). Here is a copy of the letter I just sent him, in lieu of a punch in the face.
Dear Joe Hockey (this just autocorrected to Joke hockey. I think it could stick)
Happy Mother’s Day to you too.
You are our local member. In an electorate full of families. Hard working families.
And you undermine all of this hard work by an ill thought out, back flipping scheme, doing a 180 degree turn on electoral promises.
The most offensive aspect of all of the announcements this weekend, and there’s a few to choose from, is your blatant disregard for women and their careers. By taking an electoral promise and twisting it, until you rip women off.
The 18 weeks paid parental leave was the ONLY THING that kept this household afloat during maternity leave. I had been on 6 months bedrest, with no income. Funnily enough, that wasn’t planned. But it cleaned us out.
So by the time the baby came, we had less than nothing. We had a very generous maternity leave scheme, with 40 weeks half pay from my employer, but we were starting with debts, not savings. The paid parental leave scheme was the difference between paying all the bills, and not paying the bills, given I was formerly the main earner in our household. Stick that in your misogynistic pipe and smoke it.
In case you haven’t noticed in your precious nannied up world up there way about the common people, daycare fees around here are NOTHING like $110 a day. In case you hadn’t noticed, Australia is way behind the OECD on it’s childcare and maternity leave. Way behind. In ,any industries over 50% of university graduates are women, yet they comprise less than 10% of senior management.
Why? Because childcare and maternity leave are a woman’s issue. Because it is OUR career that is affected when these things are unavailable. Because people like me had to delay their return from mat leave because THEY COULDN’T GET A CHILDCARE PLACE.
So what do you do? You undermine us. You increase the division. You reinforce the existing barriers. Cue the slow clap, Joe.
Happy Mother’s Day.
I’ve posted this email on my blog, Facebook, and I’ll think about where else to send it.  Stop letting men write women’s policy. And wake up to the realities of your electorate.  And don’t ever knock on my door. Because I’ll slam it in your face.

6 thoughts on “A letter to Joe Hockey

  1. I have mixed feelings about this. As someone who gets absolutely nothing at all apart from the PPL I do find it somewhat galling that someone that gets a good benefit then gets the same as me. I had to save incredibly hard to a) afford IVF and b) afford to have time off when the baby was born. I sacrificed all my annual leave and worked extra days so that this could be taken when I was on mat leave. I had about 12 weeks of personal leave that could not be taken as it didn’t fall into that category. I also find it frustrating that those that argued against an improved benefit for parental leave were usually the recipients of really good ones already (typically government employees) and now these same people are annoyed that they can’t have both. Note this is not empirical based research and mainly from my FB feed 😉

    Ultimately, I want us to have a fair and equitable system.

    My day care is currently $98 per day (that is for kinder, the nursery was maxed at $110). I benefit from receiving the CCB and the CCR because my income is under the threshold.

    I was reading in the paper that the opposition was going to scrutinize the changes to child care that didn’t allow SAHP to benefit from the rebates and that they went towards working parents because they were concerned about early education being lost for these children. I find this astonishing. Isn’t child care because you can’t stay at home for your children and isn’t 3 / 4 year old kinder the early education? Since when did child care become early education? That is an added benefit but it is not a right.

    I am fortunate that waiting lists and the like didn’t affect my career. My career became hampered when we chose to move away from the city to have a better lifestyle for ourselves. It’s not awesome and at times I hate the fact I don’t have my old career per se.

    To be perfectly honest at the end of the day none of these reforms are really going to affect me. However, there is one statement you made that does affect me is that of men writing women’s policy. My concern with that is when we do get an opportunity to have women write policy that does affect us it is usually shouted down in a white male dominated political landscape. So, where to from here?

    1. I get what you’re saying,Chon. I guess where his statements really get my blood boiling is talking about double dipping.

      I took an academic job on a lower salary than I could earn commercially to get the mat leave benefits. So every pay, I get less in my pocket BECAUSE I got all those other benefits. How do I know this? Because when I was headhunted for a commercial job with no mat leave, I got a 60% pay rise without even trying.

      Now the stupid thing is, on my academic job, where the employer is doing the right thing by women by offering excellent benefits to keep us coming back, I would not get paid parental leave under the new rules. (I did, under the old rules).

      In my new job, with almost double the money when I needed help? I WOULD get paid parental leave.

      To me, the whole point of paid parental leave, is EVERYONE benefits. Everyone gets 18 weeks to hang out with their new kid, breastfeed, bond. Everyone. It is a basic human right we as a society should invest in. Paying it is a statement by government. We think this is important. We think this is a priority. And government is saying to employers, this is what you do when you look after people. You pay them benefits when they have a baby. It also builds time off INTO THE SYSTEM. Your employee doesn’t go ” cool, you’ve has the kid, can you start back Monday?” . They go ” oh, you’re on paid parental leave. That is a mandated space for you and your child. Enjoy.”

      When that goes. Well women are pressured to return earlier. From employers and financially. And if highly paid women like me get back to work with more support from government, you know what we do? We hire other women to help. We hire low income earners. We hire mums who need school hours jobs. We help pave the way for societal change.

      But I can tell you, the trauma I went through with my pregnancy, we were cleaned out. Two rounds of IVF and six months unable to work. That was ugly. We were flat broke. We were worse than flat broke. And I had nothing in the tank. Making it through that pregnancy, I was so drained, depleted. There was NO Way I could have gone back to work any earlier. The ppl allowed me to have that time. If it hadn’t, I can tell you right now, generous employer mat leave or not, I would have been a goner. I would have got major depression again, and probably never got back to full time work. For me, the ppl was the tipping point. It got us through, and it got me the time I needed to recover from the pregnancy from hell.

      And god, I think of women now, and my breath catches in my throat to think we’ve gone BACKWARDS on these entitlements. They are vital. And we can’t create little future taxpayers to support this country in it’s old age if no one supports us. It isn’t about a sense of entitlement. It’s about equality, about pulling women up through the snakes and ladders game that is kids and careers.

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