This week the Abbott government realised there had been at least 8 seconds since it last reminded voters just how much it hates women. In order to rectify this, the liberals chose Mother’s Day to announce an end to the government paid parental leave scheme for those who could access a similar plan from their employers.
It was a baffling decision, not least because a gold plated PPL was one of three major policies the Libs took to the polls in 2013. Along with not being the Labor party and plans to treat refugees monstrously, Tony trumpeted the virtues of six months full pay for women taking time off to have a baby.
As opposition leader, Abbott wanted to ensure women of a certain “calibre” would be encouraged to fall pregnant (-so they could go on to have Liberal Party approved babies??). While policies founded in a desire to give small, wealthy sections of society more money tend to be whisked through parliament, this one wasn’t. With an estimated cost to taxpayers of 5 billion dollars, and objections from within their own party, the plan was ultimately shelved leaving Abbott and Hockey to backtrack frantically.
Still it seems absurd that in this year’s budget they would deliver a huge financial blow to around 80 thousand families who would have been the main beneficiaries of the original scheme. The move didn’t so much represent a backflip but rather a double layout full in, full out on the original plan.
Clearly worried about a ‘please explain’ moment from the electorate, the libs went on the offensive. They accused those who’d used the scheme of defrauding a ‘safety net’ for working mums, and rorting the system. Unfortunately they failed to check if any of the dirty double dippers were lurking among their own. After unsuccessfully ducking the issue, Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann both conceded their families had benefited from an employee and government PPL scheme.
It’s hard to comprehend what would possess any politician to target working mothers, from across the employment spectrum and recast them as low-grade welfare cheats. Particularly when the architects of the original scheme and the government’s own Fair Work website clearly state:
“Paid parental leave from the Australian Government doesn’t affect or replace paid parental leave from an employer – an employee can be paid both.”
But then it would appear there was little to no consultation over the amendment. To add to the government’s embarrassment, the Australian Chamber of Commerce immediately came out and said the move wouldn’t actually save any money – employers would simply repackage or scrap their in house schemes.
So what was the motivation for such a seemingly stupid move? Perhaps Tony Abbott just doesn’t like being Prime Minister and longs for future days of book tours and speaking engagements. Maybe Joe Hockey thought the working mums of Australia would be too distracted by Johnny Depp’s dogs to notice the angry rhetoric being thrown their way. Or did they just assume we would have forgotten the lavish promises made prior to the last election because we’d be too busy worrying about the ironing.