Tony Abbott defended (letter)by Andrea HoyNews Weekly
, February 6, 2010
Colin Jory's attack on Tony Abbott's support for paid maternity leave as an "about-turn" ("You and the war against women", News Weekly
, December 26, 2009) suggests a failure to appreciate his position as leader of a democratic party, and also that Jory has not absorbed the explanation for his stance, as outlined in Abbott's book Battlelines
Abbott explains that in the national interest he will make a priority of raising the birth-rate, especially among women in the paid workforce, who without some form of financial support might delay childbirth indefinitely or restrict themselves to one child.
He tells us that the generous universal baby bonus was the Coalition's alternative to making stay-at-home mums second-class citizens, but that women's groups demanded the term "paid maternity leave", so the Rudd Government made policy on the run with its taxpayer-funded scheme.
Abbott rejects the scheme as too brief at 18 weeks, when six months is the very least required for breast-feeding and bonding. He also argues that it is only because it is taxpayer-funded that it discriminates against mothers not in the paid workforce. After all, 53 per cent of employers already offer some form of paid maternity leave. Abbott suggests that it should be funded by employers - perhaps through a small payroll levy, to avoid job discrimination against women of child-bearing age.Battlelines
also advocates less churn in tax and benefits, noting that a single-income family on 150 per cent average earnings is 20 per cent worse off than in 1960, while welfare and tax thresholds create poverty traps for those on the rungs below them.
Abbott defends the concept of universal family benefits - a subject of his maiden speech in 1994 - which readers would recognise as the Homemaker's Allowance, and he attacks the Rudd Government's "double standards" in means-testing "middle class welfare" benefits like the health insurance rebate, while increasing the childcare rebate.Battlelines
outlines many suggestions on how to improve family policy, and Tony Abbott's beliefs should be judged on this, rather than a press grab from a media conference.Andrea Hoy,