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Parental leave scheme has a pulse

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Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme will still begin next year despite reports it’s been thrown in the too-hard basket, coalition ministers say.

Legislation for the proposed $5.5 billion scheme has been quietly shelved amid internal disquiet and is unlikely to be introduced to parliament until next year, other media agencies report.

However, senior Liberal Scott Morrison says the government is simply making a priority of getting its budget passed.

“And all our other priorities then will be taken through the parliament in an orderly fashion,” he said.

Mr Morrison said cabinet fully supported the scheme, which has been criticised as too generous by some within the coalition, as well as by key crossbenchers such as Bob Day and Nick Xenophon.

The policy gives new mothers their full pay for six months capped at $50,000 and will be partly funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on big business.

Mr Abbott has already watered down the scheme following an internal backlash, dropping the annual salary threshold from $150,000 to $100,000.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce sidestepped questions about the delay on Sunday, saying the scheme was still on track for introduction in July next year.

“There’s a range of other things that we want to get out of the way,” Mr Joyce told Sky News.

While some in the Nationals had been vocal opponents of the scheme, Mr Joyce said he hoped they wouldn’t cross the floor and vote against it.

The policy was taken to two elections, imposing on the government a “commitment to deal with it”, he said.

“Ultimately, you have to say does this leave our people in a better position than they currently are in,” he said.

“And the quite clear answer to that is, yes.”

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the government still wanted the paid parental leave scheme introduced next year.

“As to the timing for the legislation, it’s not due to come into force until the first of July 2015,” he said.

Outspoken coalition senator Ian Macdonald welcomed the delay, saying the overwhelming majority of Australians wanted the scheme deferred until the country can afford it.