Maternity Leave Will Root Australia


Having last week examined the issue of aged pensioners, today we continue our series on whiny people who want something for nothing, and take a look at paid maternity leave.

The issue gatecrashed the public consciousness in the past week with the release of a Productivity Commission report recommending the Federal Government institute a system of compulsory paid maternity leave. And once again, hard-working taxpayers like you and some other people I know will foot the bill for the indolent and fertile. If it’s not people wanting to get paid to get old, it’s people wanting to get paid to breed.

Now, let’s get one thing clear right away: I am not, by any means, opposed to reproduction. In fact I am, in a loose sense, a father myself. And this is what has led me to look askance at the Productivity Commission and its wacky schemes.

From experience, I happen to know that reproduction is not that difficult. And from experience, I happen to know that it often happens without you even noticing it. I personally know people who have been parents for several years and still haven’t cottoned on. Should they be rewarded for their careless slide into parenthood? Should a basic knack for embryogenesis be rewarded so handsomely that we grant someone the right to sit at home for 18 weeks eating hazelnut whirls and rotating Hi-5 DVDs, and pay them for the privilege? Minimum wage too, which means $544 a week. That’s twice what pensioners get, so you can just imagine what sort of gourmet dogfood new mothers will be able to afford with that kind of scratch.

The Commission’s proposal will cost the government a net $452 million a year. To put it into context, that’s enough to fund 26 gold medals at the next Olympics, or over 65 million Quarter Pounder value meals. So next time you find yourself lamenting the absence of patriotic inspiration or cheap convenient burgers in your life, you’ll know who to blame: Ol’ Dame Breedalot and her merry band of ovarian extortionists. Can we live with the knowledge that mothers are robbing us of our prosperity? If this scheme is put into practice, will we be able to pass a pregnant woman in the street without spitting in her face and kicking her ankles? I’d say almost certainly not. So we see how the Productivity Commission is facilitating a bloodbath.

What is the Productivity Commission anyway? Who chose them? Who are they accountable to? Are we supposed to let our lives be controlled by these shadowy puppetmasters? Is the future of our country in the hands of a democratically elected government, or in the hands of some sort of economic Opus Dei, meeting in dark basements to dream up new ways to cripple small business while flogging themselves with chains? Is this a satisfactory way to make policy? It seems as good as any other, to be honest, but I digress.

The point is, paid maternity leave discriminates in an unforgivable way against those of us who stick to our jobs and don’t down tools like a weak little sissy at the first piddling contraction. Those of us who keep this country going.

I refer you to a letter to The Age published on October 1, 2008, from Caz McCoy of Pascoe Vale. Caz asks quite reasonably, "Where are the benefits for the single, childless, heterosexual female, and male for that matter, in this economy?"

The obvious answer, of course, is that the benefits of being single and childless and heterosexual are that you get to be single and childless and heterosexual. Admittedly you don’t get the baby bonus, or the generous monthly gay allowance, but you do get an awful lot of free time and you can go whole weekends without underpants.

Nevertheless, Caz has a point. Why should people be punished simply because they are wise enough to practise safe sex, or are too ugly to land a partner? Shouldn’t we reward them for being self-sufficient and not putting further strain on the health and education systems?

Well, not really. It’s enough they get to go out clubbing and watch any movie they like without having to leave the theatre every five minutes to take a three-year-old to the toilet. So basically, Caz McCoy can shut the hell up as far as I’m concerned. But that doesn’t make paid maternity leave right. This is one of those happy and frequent circumstances where practically everyone is wrong except me.

It is, I will be frank, a subject close to my heart. The Commission’s proposal calls for 18 weeks paid maternity leave, but only two weeks paternity leave. This would suggest that a mother is equal to nine fathers, and I just don’t think this is true. Even with those really little skinny men with the gigantic wives that you see at the shops, the ones pushing around trolleys full of Pepsi Max and Barbecue Shapes and screaming at little kids called Rhys with rat’s tails and football boots — even with those little guys, I don’t think that they’d be less than a fifth or sixth of their wives, going purely on weight ratio. And some of us are several times heavier than our wives. Some of us are several times heavier than our cars. Shouldn’t we more extravagantly proportioned fathers actually be getting much more paid leave than the mothers?

What really burns is that the paid leave won’t come into effect until the next Budget, which seems to be a political strategy designed purely to create hardship for those people who may, for example, be expecting more children in, say, February, for argument’s sake. What about those hypothetical people? Who’s looking out for them? What are they supposed to do? Keep the babies in there for another four months? Believe me, they’ve looked into it, but apparently it would be "medically inadvisable." I ask you, how else we will progress in our knowledge if we don’t pursue the inadvisable, the risky, the life-threatening? We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t keep a tiny little baby inside the womb into the fifth trimester so that I can get a couple of weeks off work. And they call this a society?

No, it’s a slippery slope. Paid maternity leave is just another sign of the decay of humankind. Another sign of our selfishness, of our inability to master our baser natures. Nobody thinks ahead, nobody considers others, we all just follow our animal lusts, knock each other up, and shove our noses into the big fecundity nosebag to snork up some more public funds, happy to make our living not by producing anything useful, but simply by churning out more children who will grow up to be obese or drug addicts or Hillsong members and teach their children the same shocking lack of responsibility that the Productivity Commission taught their parents.

So go ahead, mothers. Get pregnant. Take time off work. Latch onto the public teat. Laze around in your elastic pants. But heed me well — maternity leave today, Armageddon tomorrow.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.