$150K women of calibre

The past 24 hours has seen many attacks on the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme.

Last night Mr Abbott was quoted as saying his scheme was “all about encouraging women of ‘calibre’ to have children”.

First announced in March last year, cynics might call the scheme an attempt to position the man the Prime Minister has described as a misogynist, as a caring new age leader with high feminist ‘cred’.

To date three Liberal MPs have publicly criticised the scheme as both unnecessary and unaffordable.

The big end of town has also expressed unease, as the private sector will be required to fund it, with a ‘great big new tax’ of 1.5 per cent (on the 3000 highest-earning organisations) to raise the $4.3 billion required.

Mothers (and presumably fathers?) looking after newborns, would be granted PPL at half their full salary for the first six months of the child’s life – as long as they earn no more than $150,000 per annum. This would result in a new mother being paid $75,000 to stay at home with her child. 

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Rolled-gold rubbish

I needed to read the detail of the proposed Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme a couple of times – and then once again – to decide if this was some finely calibrated joke the lycra-clad Tony Everywhere was playing on us.

But no! He is seriously proposing – and vigorously defending – a scheme where ‘women of calibre’, earning up to $150,000 per year, should receive their FULL salary for the first six months of their newborns’ lives – for staying at home. And private enterprise – at least the 3000 highest-earning companies – should fund this.

This scheme is wrong on so many levels I am almost at a loss to prioritise the reasons. But undeterred, I will try.

Firstly, as reported on 30 April in YOURLifeChoices article $12 billion budget hole, the Coalition will hit many social benefits as Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey believes that “the age of entitlement is over”. But for some, it seems, and those on high salaries in particular, it is just beginning. There is nothing socially equitable about this scheme – it not only makes the baby bonus, which Joe Hockey believes should be reduced, look like small change – it also highlights that the poor get a little and the rich get a lot.

Secondly, given that the Opposition has recently needed to be heavily encouraged to agree to a levy to fund the proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), what is there about this PPL which makes it such a no-brainer for the Liberal Coalition?

And lastly, why is it that ‘women of calibre’ should be encouraged (an indeed paid) to have children? Aren’t all children precious regardless of their parents’ education?

So don’t expect any Age Pension increase any time soon from an Abbott-Hockey partnership. That would smack of an entitlement. But a rolled-gold parental scheme for those who can afford to fund their own babies? Sure thing! Let’s just bring it on now.

There are many people with real needs; people who are lacking access to education, affordable housing, medical supplies and the opportunity to work. Somehow I find it difficult to add well educated, highly paid would-be mothers to this list.

What do you think? Is PPL actually a good idea? Or is it an unaffordable indulgence for the wrong sector of society?

Written by Kaye Fallick

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