An Open Letter to Joe HockeyPosted: May 11, 2015
I am writing to you about your announcement on Mother’s Day that you’re going to deprive 80,000 working mothers from the government funded Paid Parental Leave scheme due to their existing employer scheme. I wasn’t sure whether to address this letter to you, the Treasurer who announced this latest horror, or to the Prime Minister, who went to the last election promising a more generous PPL scheme which he has now back-flipped on, or Scott Morrison who seems to be jockeying for his own bully-boy spotlight on budget night. Maybe you can share this letter with Peta Credlin and then I’ll have everyone covered.
So apparently after the shocker of your first ‘lifter – leaner’ budget, which thankfully is lying in ruins, dead, buried, cremated, after 12 months of failure by your government to negotiate with a Senate who rightly see you as the lying, cheating, nasty, ineffective bastards that you are, you wanted budget number two to improve your political popularity. But this Mother’s Day announcement to cut PPL from women who rely on this scheme to make the whole journey of work, have baby, pay bills, keep roof over head, look after baby and eventually go back to work, successful for their family, isn’t going to make you popular. Because it’s outrageously unfair to working mothers.
Let’s look at the words you’re using to explain why women who negotiated paid maternity leave as part of their salary package with their employer, have been told they will no longer be eligible for the Paid Parental Leave scheme Labor introduced. You have managed in the last two days to get the phrase ‘double-dipping’ all the way across a compliant media who pick up little slogans like this and throw them around with glee, never questioning what these words actually mean. I looked up the origins of the phrase ‘double-dipping’ on Urban Dictionary and found that it started as a joke on Seinfeld and has come to be known as ‘a favourite behaviour of crude diners’ who are over-indulging in dipping sauce by re-plunging their chip, biscuit or vegetable stick into the dip after they’ve already taken a bite. It describes a process of gluttony and greed – the act of putting one’s pleasure in eating dip ahead of the unhygienic process of placing saliva topped food into a shared meal. And this is how you describe women who are caring for a newborn baby? You are framing mothers of newborns as greedy, untrustworthy, germ-sharing parasites? What the fuck is wrong with you Joe? Do you honestly not see how incredibly offensive it is to lecture women who have taken time out of the workforce to bring up the next generation of Australians at great expense to their own careers, their sanity, their lifestyles, their financial stability and their personal relationships and to call them greedy? Sure, babies bring great joy. But they also bring great expense, particularly when a household has previously relied on the double income of both parents, often to pay mortgages in cities like Sydney that eat up more than 50% of the household budget. Let’s not forget that the PPL scheme is already means tested, so it is only available to women earning less than $150,000 a year. This is not the mega rich we’re talking about. This is middle and lower income earners who will have to re-evaluate their entire baby-making plans when they learn they’ll no longer receive the PPL, nor the Baby Bonus that was once available to all new mothers.
Now, I know how much you hate workers entitlements of any kind, and no doubt you wish we lived in an age where workers didn’t have to be paid at all. You know, it’s called slavery. But in fact Joe, my arrangements with my employer to provide me with maternity leave pay is absolutely none of your business. In fact, like most women who have paid maternity leave, I have sacrificed a higher salary because of these types of additional entitlements that are included in my salary package. Many women who you are calling ‘double-dippers’ have, like me, taken lower paid jobs than they would otherwise have in a workplace that has a paid maternity leave scheme, because they saw this scheme as making up for the lesser salary. But what you’re doing is penalising women who have negotiated in good faith with their employer, an entitlement that is part of their salary package. And you’re also dis-incentivising employers to do the right thing by working women by offering paid maternity leave. Because why would companies offer paid maternity leave if by doing so, they’re making it impossible for their female employees to receive the government funded PPL that is available to everyone else? But I think this is all part of your plan Joe. You’re transparently ugly like that. I’ll say it again. My private negotiations with my employer are absolutely none of your business and this is why your whole ‘double-dipping’ narrative is complete bullshit.
I hope you feel the full force of the political pain that this policy is going to cause you. As a woman who is currently 32 weeks pregnant and, no doubt like most expectant mothers, already anxious about the delicate balancing act I’m about to take on – a break from my career, from my salary and the journey after maternity leave back into the workforce, with child care to come and all the additional costs no one warns you about, I hope the political pain causes you the same sort of anxiety you’re causing to working mothers across the country.