Business slams opposition plan

Posted on August 4, 2010


BUSINESS has slammed Tony Abbott’s parental leave scheme, with the Business Council criticising the plan as “policy on the run”.

Myer chief executive Bernie Brooks said the company already offered paid maternity leave to its staff, of which more than 80 per cent were female.

“While admiring anything that provides a greater degree of flexibility to the family, and greater flexibility particularly to the females we employ, the key issue is a 1.5 per cent levy on business that will have a significant impact on things such as dividends and also on capital investment,” Mr Brooks told The Australian.

“And it’s 1.5 per cent that can’t be spent creating employment.”

When the Opposition Leader unveiled his scheme yesterday, his policy document said it would cost $6.3 billion over two years in net terms. It has been delayed for nearly two years and will not now start until July 1, 2012.

The levy on big business has dropped from 1.7 per cent to 1.5 per cent.

But Mr Abbott urged women to vote for him rather than for Julia Gillard because he would ensure his daughters’ generation would not have to struggle the way their mothers did.

He said mothers would be backed by his more generous paid parental leave scheme, giving them their full pay for six months up to incomes of $150,000.

“I think it’s very important that my daughters’ generation doesn’t have to struggle the way their mothers did, trying to wrestle with the difficult choices of work and family,” Mr Abbott said.

“We need to make those choices much easier and that’s what this policy is all about.”

At Myer, which has 150 people on leave at any time, Mr Brooks said Mr Abbott was taking with one hand and giving with the other.

“If anything, in a laissez-faire society one would envisage that it’s up to individual businesses to make sure they are competitive with the remuneration packages that they offer and it’s popularist politics by suddenly taking money off business to pay for a government policy,” the Myer CEO said.

Judith Sloane, from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research and Westfield Group board member, said there were big costs associated with the Coalition’s policy.

“For all the extra money, is Tony Abbott’s scheme so much better than the government’s scheme that you will have much higher rates of participation that would justify this extra money?” Professor Sloane said.

The BCA said many big companies already had generous paid parental leave schemes in place to lift workforce participation.

The group said any nationwide paid maternity leave scheme should be funded through the budget instead of imposing levies on companies, and that it should work in conjunction with the schemes already provided by companies.

Coles supermarket group head Ian McLeod welcomed moves to modify policy proposals that would increase business costs in the current economic environment.

“Coles would welcome consultation by all political parties on policy proposals that have a material impact on business before any changes are implemented,” he said.

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