Stephanie Stefanovic investigates the many different reactions to the Prime Minister’s controversial end to the Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme.
In his much-anticipated National Press Club address last week, Tony Abbott announced his decision to abandon his “signature” paid parental leave policy.
The policy was dumped in favour of a new and improved childcare and families policy, which will see childcare become more affordable and ease the pressure on the family budget, according to Abbott. The Australian Labor Party however, sees the announcement merely as an attempt by Abbott to salvage his prime ministership.
Prime Minister Abbott has gone to great lengths to emphasise that the government’s second budget in May will not hit households, and that the focus will be on strengthening Australia’s economy. Abbott proposed that a good way to put the budget back on the path to surplus was to refrain from making “any unnecessary new spending commitments”, and to instead focus on increasing the nation’s workforce participation.
Tony Abbott’s $20 million paid parental leave scheme would have paid women their full salary for six months, up to a salary cap of $100,000. The scheme was heavily criticised by many as being overly generous amidst a tight budget, and Abbott has conceded that he “accept[s] that what’s desirable is not always doable”.
According to the Prime Minister: “We sought the advice of the Productivity Commission and I have listened to the feedback from my colleagues and from mums and dads around Australia – and they have said that, with our current budget constraints, the better focus now is on childcare if we want higher participation and a stronger economy. So a bigger, better PPL scheme is off the table”.
The Labor Party has criticised this move, with spokesperson for families Jenny Macklin arguing that “Australian families now know that Tony Abbott’s word means nothing”. Opposition leader Bill Shorten has also expressed the view that the Prime Minister cannot be trusted, with Shorten referring to Abbott’s announcement as a “last-ditch, desperate effort to try and save his job”.
Executive Director of Women on Boards, Claire Braund, took an unexpected approach to the dilemma, stating that the end of PPL is “good news for everybody”. Braund defended the Prime Minister, saying that “there were rumblings past Christmas that this policy was on the table”.
When asked what she expected Tony Abbott to do for women in 2015, Braund replied that she hoped for an increase in flexibility surrounding parental leave, as well as greater innovation around after-school care and renumeration for the many Australian grandparents who have taken on care-taking roles. Meanwhile, it is rumoured that Liberal MPs are discussing Abbott’s replacement, and Senate crossbencher Nick Xenophon has stated: “I just can’t see how the Prime Minister will be leading the Liberal Party at the next election”.