Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss has revealed there may be changes to the design of the Government’s paid parental leave scheme.
The scheme, which would replace a woman’s wage for six months up to a cap of $50,000, was first announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2010 and has been Coalition policy at the past two elections.
It has faced criticism from within Coalition ranks, with some Nationals MPs particularly concerned wives of farmers would not be able to access the payments.
But Mr Truss is trying to allay those fears.
“We’re talking with the National Farmers Federation and regional and rural women’s groups as to how to best design the scheme to ensure that farmers [wives] … are in fact eligible,” he told ABC Rural radio.
The Nationals leader says he wants to ensure the legislation reflects his commitment to farming families.
He said eligibility may not be determined by the income of women on farms, but on whether they can prove they have been “actively involved in farming operations”.
And he rejected suggestions that would leave the scheme open to rorting.
“I don’t think farmer’s wives will have children for fraudulent reasons – they’ll have them because they want to have a family and this scheme is designed to ensure that they’re able to have children if that’s their wish, to make it financially possible to fulfil their dream,” he said.
“We’re talking with the farm industry organisations and those with special skills in this area to ensure that the legislation gives full and proper effect to the intent that we’ve announced.”
Yesterday Treasurer Joe Hockey said the draft legislation was “not too far away” but would not outline exactly when it might be introduced to parliament.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says “nobody” wants the scheme and has described it as “nothing more than a multi-billion-dollar, taxpayer-funded, Tony Abbott ego trip”.
“The Prime Minister’s paid parental leave scheme is not in the design phase, it’s in the crazy inventor’s phase,” he said.
“It isn’t going to see the light of day.”