‘No-brainer’: Greens, independents call for major parties to pay super on parental leave

Politicians vying for seats on the crossbench at the May election want both major parties to pay superannuation on government-funded paid parental leave, believing it to be an important step towards gender equality.

Independent MP Zali Steggall said it was a positive approach to closing the super gap between men and women – as it was women who generally take more time out of the workforce for caring responsibilities, and retire with much less super.

Independents and the Greens say superannuation should be paid on taxpayer-funded parental leave.Credit:iStock

“Both the retirement income review and the Productivity Commission have recommended applying super to paid parental leave,” she said.

Applying super to paid parental leave was recommended by the retirement income review and, at a cost of about $200 million a year, chairman Mike Callaghan said it would make a small but worthwhile difference.

“Scrapping the much-criticised commuter carparks [worth $660 million] would cover over three years of this measure,” Steggall said. “We can afford to take this step toward retirement equality, it’s just a matter of political will.”

The Coalition considered but ultimately walked away from paying superannuation on government-funded paid parental leave before the March budget. Health Minister-designate Anne Ruston, who sits on the cabinet’s expenditure review committee, did not support the proposal.

In March, Labor denied it had dumped plans to pay super on parental leave following reports in the Australian Financial Review the party was wavering on the pledge. The party is yet to announce its stance on the policy with four weeks left in the campaign.

Greens spokesperson for women Larissa Waters said it was the government’s role to make sure that women were not falling further behind, and it was both surprising and disappointing that neither major party had committed to paying super on federally funded parental leave.

“It’s a very small change that would have a really big impact. And it made me feel like once again, women are not being valued and we’re just treated like political pawns,” she said, adding it had been a Greens policy for years.

“They’ve committed to paying parental leave, so they obviously understand there’s a role for them in that space. Don’t do half the job. Do the whole job.”

Independent candidate for Goldstein, Zoe Daniel, pointed out it was originally an Abbott government proposal, and it shouldn’t be a controversial move.

“Particularly when the recommendation of the [retirement income review] was to do it, then it’s a bit of a no-brainer,” she said. “These so-called small things add up to big things if you actually do them.”

Kylea Tink, who is running as an independent in North Sydney, said as a parent herself she has gaps in her super from taking maternity leave, and would support legislation to close the gaps.

“It’s always bemused me that there is no capacity for me to catch up,” she said. “With women over the age of 55, the fastest-growing homeless community in our country, we have to do more.“

Peter Lynch is the publisher of Big Splash Media, which earlier this year launched the Supawoman campaign to raise awareness around the state of women’s retirement savings. The campaign has gained non-financial support from companies including Telstra, and has been financially backed by MLC Super.

Lynch said both major parties have told him in recent weeks that paying superannuation on parental leave was not a big enough issue to take to the election.

“We polled 2000 of our readers, and 83 per cent of them said that if people moved on this issue, it would affect the way they voted. I think that’s an enormous number,” he said. “The heartening point is that business is seeing this, recognising that this is a big gap, but the government is not.”

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