If a progressive politician proposed a “fair dinkum” paid parental leave plan “the usual suspects” would be cheering, Tony Abbott says.
But the Prime Minister’s generous scheme has thrown people off because it was proposed by a conservative.
Mr Abbott renewed his pitch to give mums six months of parental leave at their full pay – capped at $75,000 – at an International Women’s Day breakfast at Parliament House on Tuesday.
“Because a conservative has come up with this idea, so many people are saying there must be something wrong with it,” he said.
“Let’s drop this silly guilt by association and let’s get on with something which is unambiguously good for the women of our country, for the families of our country and for the economy of our country.”
Mr Abbott said he turned from being an “unreconstructed bloke into a feminist” by watching his three daughters grow up.
He was a strong supporter of the Howard government’s baby bonus.
But now he thinks “the baby bonus was what you did when you didn’t want to have a paid parental leave scheme”.
Mr Abbott paid tribute to the previous Labor government for starting the path to a paid parental leave program, adding Australian needed to go further.
The government’s commission of audit, which examining possible cuts ahead of the budget, has reportedly told the government the $5.5 billion annual price tag for Mr Abbott’s scheme is too expensive.
Labor opposes it, saying its own laws for 18 weeks leave at minimum pay are adequate.
But the government may have unlikely allies in the Australian Greens, who support the premise of the scheme but want the cap lowered to $50,000.