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By Sue Dunlevy

February 24, 2009 12:00am

WOMEN waiting for government-funded paid maternity leave to help fund the birth of their next child may have to wait until 2010.

Senior ministers have been privately warning interest groups the $40 billion hole in the Government’s budget will make it too difficult to fund the proposed $450 million scheme in this May’s Budget.

More than 100 prominent female leaders will gather in Canberra this morning to fight attempts to push the issue on to the backburner.

In a sign there are divisions within the Government over the timing of the introduction of the scheme, the Minister for the Status of Women Tanya Plibersek will be among speakers who will argue for the policy to be funded in the next Budget.

Far from hindering the economy, the women will argue a paid maternity leave scheme is a good way for the Government to stimulate the economy by giving new families money to spend on items for the baby.

“This would help thousands of families experiencing financial uncertainty at a time of greatest need,’ ACTU president Sharan Burrow said.

The Government will this weekend receive the final Productivity Commission report on the proposed paid maternity leave scheme.

The commission’s draft report, issuedin September last year, called for working women to be paid $540 a week for 18 weeks after their child was born. Fathers would be eligible for two weeks leave at the same rate.

The scheme would cost $450 million and businesses would be required to spend $74 million on superannuation contributions to women on maternity leave.

Ms Plibersek said the precise timing of the scheme’s introduction would be considered after the commission’s report was delivered. “The Government is paying attention and we remain committed to the introduction of a national paid parental leave scheme,” she said.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner last November said paid maternity leave had been “kicked off” the Government’s agenda by the global financial crisis.

He said the Government had made a promise to have a review into a scheme but had made no explicit promise to introduce it.

The Government will also this week receive a review it commissioned into the age pension.

The review is expected to recommend lifting the single age pension rate by $30 to $35 a week. The Government has committed to delivering this increase in the Budget.,22049,25097384-5006009,00.html


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