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About 80,000 Pregnant Women Still Don't Know What's Happening With Their Paid Parental Leave

Social services minister Christian Porter admits the government is still trying (but failing) to cut parental leave for working mothers.

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One of the most controversial measures in the 2015 Budget was the decision to stop parents "double dipping" on paid parental leave.

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Treasurer Joe Hockey wanted parents who collected paid parental leave from their employers to be cut off from accessing more cash through the government's "Parental Leave Pay" scheme.

The Productivity Commission estimated the changes would affect 50% of employed pregnant women (that's around 80,000 people) and was due to start on 1 July 2016. It was going to save about $1 billion over four years.

But there's a catch - the legislation never passed parliament! With July 1 fast approaching, women who are pregnant right now have no idea what paid parental leave they're entitled to.

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On Wednesday, Social Services Minister Christian Porter admitted to ABC Radio National Breakfast on the changes to PPL are off the table... for now.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

"The present arrangements are that a person is able to access 18 weeks at minimum wage. Which is a figure that works at about $11,826," said Porter.

"In terms of the certainty issue... which is a live issue for anyone who is thinking about having a child or who is pregnant and knows they're having a child, the reality is that the legislative change that we wish to make to that arrangement is not going to be successful in this term of Parliament."

"However, that does not mean that this government at the moment is not trying to change that. Or if it were re-elected wouldn't also be looking at ways in which to modify the existing system along the lines that we've suggested."

But the Centrelink website is still telling women the change is happening from 1 July 2016.

Via humanservices.gov.au

Minister Porter said he'd "look into" that... calling Centrelink's warning: "a profound practical unreality".

When BuzzFeed News asked the Minister what was going on, his office told us the government is in the process of negotiating a "new approach" to PPL with the senate cross bench.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

BuzzFeed News understands the government is attempting to soften the PPL changes, but if there's a double dissolution election and the Coalition win a majority in the senate they may re-introduce the bill in its current form.

The Opposition told BuzzFeed News that Porter is "out of touch" on this issue and under the changes some families will lose as much as $11,800.

Stefan Postles / Getty Images

"Because of these cuts, thousands of new mums will be forced to choose between returning to work early and missing out on time with their new babies, or staying at home and having their living standards drastically reduced," said Labor's Jenny Macklin.

"The Minister’s own Department has confirmed that many women who will be worse off under his cuts are on a median income of $43,000. Only a Liberal could think the minimum wage is 'inequitably generous'."

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at alice.workman@buzzfeed.com.

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