Gillard's $1180 for new fathers

"We know that it's not just mum who needs the time to form these important bonds with the new baby" ... Minister for ...
"We know that it's not just mum who needs the time to form these important bonds with the new baby" ... Minister for Families and Social Inclusion, Jenny Macklin. Photo: Louise Kennerley

New fathers will get about $1180 to wet the baby's head when the Gillard government introduces paid paternity leave from January 2013.

The government will use Father's Day to announce the extension to the national paid parental leave scheme, hoping it will be a diversion from the leadership tensions surrounding Julia Gillard, who has told colleagues they would have to blast her out of the job.

Fathers or partners will get cheques paid over two weeks at the national minimum wage - now $590 a week before tax - to give them time off work to help mothers care for their newborns.

The government's original plans for a paid paternity leave scheme were forced off the agenda by the global financial crisis and then the big blow to the nation's coffers caused by natural disasters at the start of this year.

But the government will announce today the final details that will make up the legislation to be introduced this year.

The Minister for Families and Social Inclusion, Jenny Macklin, said fathers and partners would have to ''use or lose'' the money. They will not be able to take employer-funded paternity leave at the same time.

The $1180 bonus will be means-tested in the same way regular paid parental leave is assessed. It will cut out when the individual earns more than $150,000.

The payment will be available to fathers or partners - including adopting parents and parents in same-sex couples - who share the role of caring for a child born or adopted from January 1, 2013. A family may receive ''dad and partner pay'' either on its own or in addition to other payments such as paid parental leave, the baby bonus and family tax benefit.

The mother or other parent does not have to be accessing the paid parental leave scheme for her partner to be eligible for the payments. The paternity leave will cost about


$188.5 million over five years. Ms Macklin said the fathers' and partners' payments were ''good for dads, good for mums, and gives babies the best start in life''.

She said: ''Australia caught up with the rest of the developed world when the clock ticked over to 2011, with the introduction of Australia's first national paid parental leave scheme. We know that it's not just mum who needs the time to form these important bonds with the new baby, so we are extending the paid parental leave scheme to give fathers and other partners a payment of their own.''

Sweden sets the standard on paternity leave, which was introduced in the 1970s, although the cost is shared between business and the state. All working parents can take 16 months per child, of which at least two months must be taken by the ''minority'' parent - usually the father. Two months at full salary and then 80 per cent for the remainder is about average.

In 2000, Canada raised parental leave from 10 to 35 weeks, divided as desired between two parents and paid for by an employment insurance system.

with Tim Barlass