Leah Hughes (left) with her two-week-old daughter Carly and mother, Anne McRae, all of Lismore.
Leah Hughes (left) with her two-week-old daughter Carly and mother, Anne McRae, all of Lismore. The Northern Star

Bubs on borrowed time

IF Lismore mum Leah Hughes had access to more paid maternity leave, she would not be going back to work any time soon.

She would be staying at home to look after her new two-week-old daughter, Carly.

Under a new proposal put forward by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Mrs Hughes could secure a loan from the Federal Government, in addition to the 14 weeks paid maternity leave she is currently using.

The committee has recommended the Federal Government set up a HECS-style loan for new parents to supplement paid maternity leave, offering up to $14,000 per child over six months, to be paid to new parents fortnightly.

The loan would attract a 20 per cent surcharge, but would not have to paid back until the parents' income exceeded a certain level and then only at a fairly low rate.

Mrs Hughes, who is a payroll officer, said it would be of benefit to new parents to have an option for more financial support.

“The cost of raising a child is not cheap, and if it is a couple's first child they have to set up a nursery, which is costly,” the mother of two said.

“The baby bonus is about $4200, going up to $5000, but it disappears really quickly.

“I also have a HECS debt and I would not have been able to study if I'd had to pay for it upfront.

“And with interest rates increasing it is a struggle, even with paid maternity leave and the baby bonus.”

Mrs Hughes said she took a year off with her first child Jarrod, who is now three, and if the offer of a loan had been available to her now she would take the opportunity to stay home with Carly for the rest of the year.

“I wouldn't take the whole $14,000, but some of it would help,” she said.

“If this new idea had been running when I had Carly, I might have decided to take 12 months off.

“When I took 12 months off with Jarrod, towards the end of my leave money was getting a bit tight, but with the loan I could've taken 12 months off with Carly and not had to worry about it.”

Federal Families Minister Jenny Macklin said the Government was committed to supporting working families.

“The Productivity Commission will report to the Government in February with options that won't impact adversely on small business,” she said.



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