SEVERAL Coalition MPs say they will fight to water down Tony Abbott’s generous paid parental leave scheme if they win government.
The MPs, including one Liberal frontbencher, believe the scheme is excessive and discriminates against stay-at-home mothers.
Nationals MP Darren Chester told The Australian his support for the scheme would be contingent on it being altered to offer stay-at-home mothers extra assistance.
“I believe we need to be doing a lot more to recognise the important role that mothers who chose to stay at home do, and the debate around paid parental leave runs the risk of alienating them,” said the MP for the Victorian seat of Gippsland. “It’s critical that we recognise the shortage of childcare places in regional areas . . . My support for the Coalition scheme will be contingent upon specific programs for regional mums, including those who stay at home.”
Another Nationals MP said his entire party was “dead against it” and would use its muscle as the junior Coalition partner to alter the scheme through the cabinet process if Mr Abbott won government.
The frontbencher said there was still room to move on the scheme, and modest changes could be made while ensuring it remained more generous than Labor’s legislated paid parental leave plan. He said the Coalition scheme was unlikely to remain in its promised form.
A spokesman for Tony Abbott said last night the Opposition Leader would deliver the scheme.
“The Coalition is committed to a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme – that offers mothers real time and real money – and, if elected, will deliver one,” the spokesman said.
Even if Mr Abbott stands firm and uses his prime ministerial authority to force cabinet to endorse his new scheme, he faces dissent and anger that will be unleashed if the Coalition is successful in the election.
Under the Opposition Leader’s scheme, a stay-at-home parent would receive the mother’s full salary, capped at $150,000, for six months, meaning a maximum payment of $75,000.