Treasurer Joe Hockey has defended the Abbott government’s paid parental leave scheme, saying it will give small businesses a “level playing field” to retain staff.
Speaking at the Joint Economic and Social Outlook Conference in Melbourne today, Hockey said hardly any small business in Australia could afford to pay parental leave.
“I want to say this emphatically about paid parental leave, I grew up in small business family, and my parents couldn’t afford to pay paid parental leave to a receptionist,” said Hockey.
“My father had to endure a turnover of staff that went off to the public service to get paid parental leave, or went to a big business to get paid parental leave when he couldn’t afford to do it.”
“For the first time, we are putting [small business] on the same level playing field as big business, for the first time we’re putting them on the same level playing field as the public service.”
The controversial policy has not been without its critics, with members of the Coalition signalling their unease over the policy and a recent poll by SmartCompany revealing 40% of SMEs were worried about the PPL before the budget.
Hockey said Australian families were financially ‘penalised’ by the birth of a child and the scheme will help women, especially those operating microbusinesses from home, avoid this penalisation.
The Treasurer was also asked about his stance on the Commonwealth Bank advice scandal, admitting the bank’s response had been “too slow” to apologise and compensate victims.
“You have to recognise the problem exists, and for a long period there was denial.”
“A lot of anxiety could have been averted if they’d moved more quickly.”
Hockey also used his speech to call for a “reduced role of government” and push for a “more deregulated and highly competitive world”.
“The primary role of modern government is to strengthen personal empowerment, by reducing the influence of centralised control… More regulation and higher taxes strengthens the state and weaken the individual.”
He also singled out large multinational companies that did not pay a fair level of tax and pointed to the rise of ‘micro multinationals’ – small companies that operate globally, a term coined by Google chief economist Hal Varian.
“Consumers can now shop for the best products at the best prices anywhere in the world,” said Hockey.
“While that means that the tailor in Bondi is now competing with the tailor in Nangal, it also means that the picture framer in St Kilda now has the option of purchasing materials direct from the manufacturer in Shanghai.”
He said businesses were now, in some ways, beyond the control of any single sovereign government.
“Consumers, not governments, have redefined commerce and markets. So it is obvious that we must respond appropriately with laws and policies that facilitate change rather than hamper or impede or try to control change.”