UPDATE: Tony Abbott’s ‘Nanny Plan’ is firming up as a solid Coalition policy. A press release outlining his push for more flexible childcare arrangements has been issued. He’s stated that a Coalition Government would ask the Productivity Commission to look at ways of helping families in regional and remote areas, parents who work irregular hours, and those living away from extended family.
“The Coalition believes that families deserve a flexible child care system that offers different care options depending on a family’s individual circumstance rather than a one size fits all model that fails to take into account non traditional working hours.
Existing child care services do not always meet the needs of parents, particularly shift workers. Australia is no longer a 9am-5pm economy and our child care system should reflect that.”
Tony Abbott should be a hit with the ladies. He should know exactly what a woman wants. He has women telling him what to do all day long. He’s outnumbered at home with his wife and three stunning daughters (you know they’d be harsh critics). At work, his right-hand-man is actually his right-hand-woman; Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin. He should be dishing out relationship advice and calling my shoes fierce.
Instead, he walks like he’s been riding a horse for days. His suits never sit right on his muscular frame. He’s constantly running, cycling, swimming… He’s awkwardly awkward around women’s issues. In the way a dad buying feminine products for his tween daughter might be. It’s foreign, it’s petrifying and I can’t look you in the eye while we discuss it.
He generally fails to woo the ladies. But he says he’s changed. He’s seen the light. As Tony Abbott readies himself for the Lodge, he’s launching himself at this last momentous hurdle: The Lady Vote.
Cue: The Nanny Plan.
As well as his very generous Paid Parental Leave plan, which would pay mothers their full salary for 6 months (up to $75,000), Tony Abbott says, as PM, he’d ask the Productivity Commission to see if he could expand the childcare rebate scheme to include in-home care, like nannies.
At the moment, parents can get rebates of up to $7,500 a year for childcare but that’s limited to registered centres. The Opposition leader says the traditional opening hours mean they’re not a good option for a lot of parents.
“This is not something that is just for rich lawyers and doctors by any means; there are a lot of people who work shifts, a lot of mums with several young kids for whom this would be, potentially at least, a very effective option,” he says.
Some of his own backbenchers have called his Paid Parental Leave (PPL) policy the “Rolls Royce” policy, but Tony Abbott says that generous PPL and the flexibility of in-home care for children makes good economic sense, because it encourages women back into the workforce. He says he wants to “harness the economic potential of women”.
Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care, Kate Ellis dismissed the plan as a “thought bubble” with no substance behind it.
“Nannies are quite often completely untrained and also spend a lot of their time doing things like housework, preparing meals for the family, acting as a chauffeur, picking kids up from school,” she says.
“What Tony Abbott now says he wants to do is make low income families subsidise nannies for the well off.”
But Tony “let me rub your feet” Abbott says it’s not a handout for the rich. By today’s calculations, a woman with three (or sometimes just two) children in day care, could pay a similar amount to have in-home care; which he says is the better option for shift workers who can’t make the drop off and pick up times, or for those who just can’t find childcare spots for their children.
It all sounds lovely, but Tony Abbott needs to find the money for his plan and cuts would most likely need to be made elsewhere in the childcare rebate scheme. And there’s a risk that, like the pink-batts saga, some people would take advantage of the subsidy, and set themselves up as untrained, unqualified nannies; which could put children at risk.
But it’s a challenge Mr Abbott 2.0 (the Lady Loving version) will accept. He told Fairfax newspapers that it’d taken him too long to understand why women needed some help.
”I feel a little regretful, even a little embarrassed, at how long it has taken me to appreciate just how demanding it is in the modern world for a mother who also has a career,” he said.
He said that fathers need to open their eyes and see what tough work mothering is.
”I have to put my hand up and say that I might have been too accepting of stereotypes in my earlier days, but the whole point of living is to grow through your experience,” he said.
“I suspect a lot of currently middle-aged Australian men will be better grandparents than they were parents.”
That’s a big change for one man. Is it enough?
Lauren Dubois is Mamamia’s Canberra-based political contributor. You can follow her on Twitter here.
What do you think of the plan? Should nannies be part of the childcare rebate? Would it influence your vote if that were the case?