The Prime Minister’s office is refusing to say whether Tony Abbott’s signature paid parental leave (PPL) policy could soon be dumped, insisting changes to the controversial scheme are still being finalised.
The contentious $20 billion scheme that Mr Abbott has taken to two elections is unpopular among many MPs in the Coalition party room.
Government sources said the PPL policy was continuing to be fine-tuned, with the government looking to do more to improve child care access and affordability in a new families package.
Treasurer Joe Hockey told reporters on Friday the cost of the policy was being taken into account.
“We’ve got to be able to fund whatever families package we have and I’m working with the new Minister in that regard and obviously with the Prime Minister,” Mr Hockey said.
As internal pressure grows on the Prime Minister’s leadership, Mr Abbott is putting the final touches on his much-anticipated address next week to the National Press Club in Canberra.
Mr Abbott will use Monday’s speech to outline the Government’s priorities for the year ahead, which will focus on jobs and families.
Speaking in Geelong this morning, the Prime Minister side-stepped questions about the specifics of the PPL scheme, telling reporters he was continuing to fine-tune it.
“Look I said before Christmas, we’d be scaling it back … I’ll have a bit more to say on PPL in the next day or so,” Mr Abbott said.
The ABC has been told a final decision was yet to be made on whether to delay the planned start date for the PPL scheme, which Mr Abbott had promised would begin in his first term.
On Thursday, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said he was continuing discussions with the Prime Minister about the policy.
“Every measure I’m looking at has to pass one test: does it improve participation in the workforce, does it get people involved? I’m having a very close look at that,” Mr Morrison told Macquarie Radio.
“The Prime Minister and I have obviously had a lot of discussions about how we take our families package forward and we’ll continue to work on that.”
Parliamentary Secretary Steve Ciobo said the coalition was focussed on being financially responsible.
“We said we wanted to restore the nation’s finances, now that’s the biggest challenge that we’ve got. That’s what we’re trying to undertake,” Mr Ciobo said.
“Ultimately whatever the Prime Minister decides and collectively the Coalition decides in relation to each specific policy, it will be on the basis of what we believe to be in the national interest and what’s affordable.”