In the space of a few short years, they’ve gone from promising wealthy women $75,000 to promising cuts of more than $11,000 to women on below average incomes.
It’s enough to give you whiplash.
As with all great sagas, it’s easier to start at the beginning.
In 2011, I introduced Australia’s first national paid parental leave scheme. For the first time, working women in Australia would get financial support from the government to take some time off work to care for their newborn baby.
Jenny Macklin MP.
Labor’s paid parental leave scheme provides women with 18 weeks of paid leave at the minimum wage – that’s about $11,800 in total.
It isn’t extravagant, but it isn’t meant to be. It targets assistance to parents on low and middle incomes, many of whom previously weren’t getting any paid parental leave from their employers.
It’s also designed so that paid parental leave can be topped up by employers who want to add to the government’s modest scheme. This means new mums can combine their leave entitlements and spend more time at home in those critical early months of a child’s life.
After previously saying a Coalition government would support paid parental leave over his “dead body”, Tony Abbott made one of his famous captain’s calls and promised a scheme that was completely over the top, offering $75,000 to very wealthy women.
Watch Labor Senator, Penny Wong, talk to our Holly Wainwright about having children and going back to work. (Post continues after video.)
I was really critical of this, and I wasn’t alone. It meant that the wealthiest women in Australia would get more than six times what low income earners would get from the government. It wasn’t fair and it was bad for the budget.
Nevertheless, Tony Abbott went to an election promising a rolled-gold paid parental leave scheme, and I’ve no doubt that many people voted for him on the basis of this policy.
Like pretty much everything else the Liberals promised before the election, it wasn’t long before this “signature policy” was revealed as a con to buy votes. Abbott’s scheme soon found its way to the scrap heap.
Then the war on working mums really began in earnest.
On Mother’s Day last year, Joe Hockey told women the Government would cut paid parental leave entitlements for 80,000 women.
For good measure, Liberal blokes like Hockey, Abbott and Scott Morrison took every chance they could get to label working women rorters, fraudsters and double-dippers.