QUESTION: Return to work after domestic violence leave

During Question Time Mark asked the Minister for Industrial Relations about flexibility for teachers when returning to work after domestic violence leave.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: According to an article in InDaily yesterday, the Australian Education Union, representing South Australia's school teachers, wants the state government to double the amount of domestic violence leave available for its members. The union is also calling for improved flexibility for teachers returning to work from domestic violence leave, which they see as helping to address gender inequality in the workforce. Teachers are currently entitled to 10 days domestic violence leave per year, but according to the unions some teachers struggle in their transition back to work. The union claim is for 20 days domestic violence leave per year, with provision made for teachers to be able to return to work on a part-time basis for a limited period.

My question to the minister is:

Does the minister agree in principle with the position put by the union that flexibility in relation to return to work after a period of domestic violence leave is a sensible proposition?

I note in asking the question that I appreciate negotiations under the Fair Work Act are underway in relation to a range of employment conditions, including this one, so I don't expect the minister to disclose the whole of the government's bargaining strategy; however, I would like to know whether, in principle, the minister thinks this is a reasonable proposition?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): Given the member's attempt to rationalise or explain the appropriateness of the question, or the inappropriateness of my answering the question when we are in the middle of an enterprise bargaining arrangement, indicates that the member does realise that, whilst we are only at the early stages of an enterprise bargaining arrangement for which—the member is right—as minister for industrial relations I am responsible on behalf of the government, for me as minister to opine publicly about various aspects of the enterprise bargaining negotiations at this particular stage would be counterproductive to trying to reach, one would hope, a productive, settled enterprise bargaining agreement with the union on behalf of its members and on behalf of the government.

So whilst I understand the member's kind invitation to give an opinion on only one aspect of the enterprise bargaining negotiations, it would be inappropriate for me to do so, in my judgement, and I will not give an opinion at this particular stage on either that or anything else whilst we are still at the very early stages of enterprise bargaining negotiations with the union.