The Turnbull government has agreed to extend government-funded paid parental leave slightly to ensure its crackdown on "double-dipping parents" passes through the Senate.
Social services minister Christian Porter proposed the government's scheme be lengthened from 18 to 20 weeks on Wednesday when he announced sweeping changes to welfare, paid parental leave and family tax benefits, wrapping up all the measures into a single, so-called “(Omnibus) Bill”.
But tens of thousands of Australians who each year receive parental leave payments from both their employer and the federal government – a practice former treasurer Joe Hockey called “double-dipping” – will still be left out of pocket by an average of $5600.
"Australia doesn't have a generous scheme anyway, and now we are going backwards which is not what [other countries are] doing," professor of gender and employment relations at the University of Sydney, Marian Baird, told BuzzFeed News.
"It will leave us further behind a lot of developed countries."
Baird said "there was no guarantee" the changes would save the budget $490 million over four years, as the government claimed.
"It could actually increase government spending rather than decrease it, because there will be a real incentive for businesses not to provide their parental leave now, as the government will," she said.
"This current scheme is working very well and was designed for the payments to work consecutively."
Women earning less than $150,000 annually will be paid for 20 weeks at either their weekly wage or minimum wage, or a mix of both. For example, if a company offers employees 10 weeks of paid maternity leave, the government would pay the second 10 weeks at minimum wage.
An extra 3000 mothers would receive some government-funded paid parental leave in addition to their employer-funded scheme.
However the cuts will "hurt" some 72,000 families, claims Renee Carr, chief executive of campaigning organisation Fair Agenda.
"We are hearing from midwives who work to give other people's babies the best start in life who are now concerned about their ability to care for their own," Carr tells BuzzFeed News.
The cuts will not affect women whose employers do not offer paid parental leave.
Gina Rushton is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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