Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table. 3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.
The most interesting response to SBS TV’s ‘Struggle Street’ documentary series was the article by Mamamia founder, Mia Freedman, who declared “our priority as a society must be to remove children from parents who cannot take care of them.”
Endorsing child removal is a big statement, with potential to generate a politically correct backlash, given how debate about child protection is framed by the history of past practices, especially the Stolen Generation.
But if Freedman is serious about wanting to see children removed from dysfunctional parents, she needed to use and endorse an even more culturally contentious word – adoption.
Defenders of the current practice of ‘family preservation’ argue it is unaffordable to take more children into foster and other forms of ‘out of home’ care. This argument is self-justifying because child protection authorities simply refuse to countenance the use of adoption to give maltreated children new, stable and permanent homes.
Adoption is the affordable way to better protect children because it shifts most of the cost of caring for children off limited government budgets.
In Australia, few politicians are willing to endorse the use of adoption because they fear being accused of ‘stealing’ children.
In the UK, however, the reelected Cameron government undertook a series of reforms that significantly increased adoptions.
In a major speech on family policy last August, Mr Cameron declared his government had only just begun unleashing the “adoption revolution”. The Prime Minister also took pride in the “staggering” increases in the number and speed of adoptions, and in sweeping away “ridiculous” restrictions preventing “placing black children with white families”.
Imagine the Twitter reaction if Tony Abbott were to make a similar speech advocating increases in colour-blind adoptions. Fear of the social media pile-on that would ensue is one of the political factors preventing politicians from exercising leadership on adoption.
Those who want to better protect the most vulnerable children in Australia need to talk not only of removal but also of the need for adoptions. Thought leadership on this issue by influential media figures would help pave the cultural and political way here for the arrival of a Prime Minister willing and able to speak of their determination to unleash the adoption revolution.
The government’s handling of its Paid Parental Leave (PPL) budget measure shows a determination to alienate as wide a constituency as possible.
Just days after agreeing that parents who make use of taxpayer funded PPL payments in addition to PPL workplace entitlements were engaged in `fraud’ the Treasurer doubled down and accused employers who tighten up their own PPL schemes in response to a reduction in the taxpayer funded payment of trying to `scam’ taxpayers.
Employers who respond to a reduction in PPL payments by reducing PPL workplace conditions are doing nothing of the sort.
What the Treasurer does not appear to understand is that, for those parents who have parental leave workplace entitlements, the PPL payment is effectively a $11,500 subsidy for this workplace condition.
While paid to employees rather than employers, the effect is the same. Workers require less generous parental leave entitlements from their employers — who are then in a position to offer less parental leave and more financial remuneration or better conditions in lieu.
As the figure below indicates, more than half of women on collective agreements in the private sector who had PPL workplace conditions were entitled to more than 12 weeks of leave in 2010. Following the introduction of PPL payments in 2011 this fell to 14%.
In restricting PPL payments to those whose workplace entitlements are less generous than 18 weeks of the full-time minimum wage, the government is reducing the level of subsidy for the 45,000 parents who will receive top-ups, and abolishing the subsidy altogether for the 34,000 parents with more generous conditions.
Employees who value their parental leave conditions are free to bargain with employers for more generous parental leave and will pay for it through reduced wages or other conditions. Others may place less value on parental leave and negotiate for more pay or other conditions.
There are good reasons to restrict PPL payments to those who need them and the available evidence would suggest the taxpayer is getting little value for money when it comes to PPL expenditure.
But to accuse employers of trying to `scam the government and scam taxpayers’ for a rational response to a reduction of the PPL subsidy that benefits their employees suggests the Treasurer does not understand how labour markets work.
Leaders customarily exchange gifts when they meet formally. So it would have been odd had Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas not offered one another such gifts when they met in the Vatican last week.
However, many were surprised by reports of the words the pope used to hand over his gift – a bronze medallion depicting the Angel of Peace. “[He] destroys the evil spirit of war,” Pope Francis is reported to have said, adding, “You’re an angel of peace.”
Abbas was in Rome for the canonisation of the first ever Palestinian Arabs to be declared saints by the Catholic Church. He arrived just two days after the Vatican announced a bilateral accord with the “State of Palestine”.
The agreement, which was two years in the making, governed activities of the Catholic Church in the West Bank and Gaza.
Sadly, neither the United Nations decision in 2012 to recognise Palestine as a “non-member observer state”, nor the Vatican’s support of that decision, have done much to advance a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
That conflict is aggravated by the tense divisions amongst the Palestinians themselves – between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Fatah-controlled West Bank. Arrests, torture, and mutual accusations of collaboration with Israel are almost routine.
Hamas and Fatah are united only in their determination to defeat Israel. Each uses the charge that Israel is denying independence to the Palestinians as the principle weapon whereby they are actually denying the independence of Israel.
It would be ludicrous to describe President Abbas, a Holocaust-denier who thinks the Jews murdered during World War II were killed by Zionist Nazi-collaborators, an “angel of peace”.
Just as well then that the Pope’s words are likely to have been mis-reported. Now the Pope is thought to have told Abbas, “You could be an angel of peace“. If accurate, this puts the exchange in a slightly different light.
But it’s too bad that Vatican support for Palestinian independence has not issued in a sterner injunction to Abbas to lead his people to a peaceful co-existence with Israel. Urging Abbas to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, regardless of its borders, would be a start.