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News News UnionsWA questions Abbott’s commitment to paid parental leave

UnionsWA has today questioned Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s motivation in announcing a paid parental leave scheme.

UnionsWA Secretary Simone McGurk described  Abbott’s about turn on paid parental leave as “breathtakingly cynical, particularly given Abbott’s comments whilst in power that the Liberal Government would support a paid maternity scheme “over this Government’s dead body”,  and his support for Workchoices under which women were much worse off.”

ACTU President Sharan Burrow agreed saying; “It is an attempt to distract people from his plan to bring back WorkChoices which would have disastrous effects on working women and lead to a widening of the gender pay gap.”

She said that when it came to women in the workforce, Mr Abbott was an unreconstructed traditionalist who was now attempting to court the female vote. [link to ACTU media release]

From the sketchy details so far released concerning Abbott’s scheme there is also a very real concern that it will actually  entrench existing inequalities in society. Whereas the Government’s proposed scheme will pay all eligible parents the adult federal minimum wage ($543.78) for 18 weeks, Abbott's scheme is based on current salary and is not means tested. It would therefore pay someone on $150 000 a year $75 000 for six months but a worker on less than the current minimum wage would presumably only receive what they earn.

Due to the ad hoc manner in which the Coalition’s scheme was announced by Abbott without prior party consultation it is unclear whether the scheme would even apply to women in casual or part-time employment. Given that women are vastly over represented in casual, part-time and lower paid employment this scheme is certainly not geared towards assisting working mothers.

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