Australia is a little bit behind the eight-ball with the whole parental leave thing. It wasn’t until the last Federal election that an idea of leave was introduced (due to start next year) which would see families who earn $150,000 or less be entitled to 18 weeks paid leave (at the minimum wage) for people who had worked an average of 10 hours a week for the preceeding 12 months. It’s not as giant a leap forward as you might imagine. Parents are already entitled to a baby bonus ($5,000) and family assistance (if you are on a low income). So this package really only offers parents on a single income about $2,000 extra. It was hotly debated at the time. And I seem to remember the Liberal party (American readers – the liberal party in Australia is the conservative party – yes it’s a little confusing), being vehemently against this attack on business.
But this year, Tony Abbott, the new leader of the Liberal Party is offering a bribe suggesting a plan where working families would receive 6 months parental leave at their normal rate of pay capped at $150,000 all paid for by big business. Funny, I seem to remember he was the one that was outraged at the last election that non-working families weren’t included in Rudd’s initial scheme. I smell an election year.
I’ll be the first to admit that even the sight of Tony Abbott makes me physically ill. And Mia Freedman has written a wonderful post on why Tony Abbott is anti-women and followed it up here. He’s also anti-gay. Doesn’t leave much of the population, does it?
And I’d be all for any extension of the current parental leave plan, because anything that gives parents more options is a good thing. But I won’t be voting for the Liberal Party because extended parental leave would be a trade off. I would be taking that bribe at the expense of the environment, marginalised groups, women’s rights and immigration. And I’d be supporting the essentially insular philosophy of the liberal party. That all that really matters is the economy, that rich people should get richer while poor people get poorer, and the ludicrous notion that privilege doesn’t exist.
The other thing that really bugs me about the Liberal Party? I used to work at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation service. The (then Liberal government’s) policy of zero tolerance is so obtuse, so short-sighted and so harmful. It ignores good research, good science and good outcomes. And really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Any government should be judged by how they treat the most disadvantaged group, not whether they give a tax break to people who buy luxury cars.