The Federal Member for Page, Janelle Saffin, says it is appalling that in 2008 Australia has no universal paid maternity leave.

At the launch of Unions NSW maternity leave campaign at Ballina’s Fox Street Pre-School today, Ms Saffin said she agreed that six months paid leave would be the ideal because it was consistent with breastfeeding.

“I support the Government in referring the matter to the Productivity Commission because that’s the best way to investigate the social and economic costs and benefits,” she said.

The Productivity Commission Inquiry is to identify the models for paid maternity, paternity and parental leave.

Ms Saffin said there needed to be public funding.

“In Page, we have about 10,000 small businesses and they can’t afford to be paying the costs of maternity leave,” she said.

“It’s also important that women in the casual workforce are covered by maternity leave.

“There are many models being proposed, from a minimum of 14 weeks to the ideal promoted today by Unions NSW of a contributory system with six months paid leave.

“The Productivity Commission will be conduct a thorough examination of submissions and will report to the Government by February 2009.”