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Prominent Liberal calls on Abbott to front party room on paid parental leave

The row over Tony Abbott’s controversial paid parental leave scheme has widened with prominent Liberal moderate Mal Washer calling on the opposition leader and shadow treasurer to explain to the party…

Liberal moderate Mal Washer has called on Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey to explain their commitment to the paid parental leave scheme. AAP/Alan Porritt

The row over Tony Abbott’s controversial paid parental leave scheme has widened with prominent Liberal moderate Mal Washer calling on the opposition leader and shadow treasurer to explain to the party room “why they are still welded onto this concept”.

NSW Liberal backbencher Alex Hawke has aired broad private concerns within the Coalition saying the plan, “at a potential cost of $4.3 billion”, would be “an unjustifiable impost on business” and was “ill-suited to an economically Liberal agenda”.

Washer, from Western Australia, told The Conversation that Abbott, Joe Hockey and finance spokesman Andrew Robb should tell colleagues why they believed the scheme was such a good idea and would assist productivity.

“The Labor party scheme is quite good,” Washer said. “I don’t see why it is necessary to go to this level and how it will assist productivity.” It would be a burden on business, he said.

The Hawke attack was made in an article for the journal of the free market think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs and was publicised as Hockey was preparing to address the IPA. Hockey strongly defended the plan.

The scheme would give women six months leave on full pay up to a maximum of $75,000. It is capped at an annual salary of $150,000. The plan would be financed by a levy on the nation’s top more than 3000 companies.

The opposition points out that women aged 18 to 49 who earn more than $100,000 represent only around 1.5% of all people with taxable incomes, and that the levy would apply to fewer than one in 200 businesses in Australia.

Abbott, who has made the generous scheme a signature policy despite the doubts in his own ranks, dismissed the Hawke criticisms. He said Hawke was one backbencher, who was entitled to his views.

Abbott said the policy was “a very important sign that we get it when it comes to the modern family”.

“The modern family invariably needs more than just one income. If we want to encourage families to have kids, if we want to make it easier for women to have careers and families, we need something like a proper paid parental leave scheme,” he said.

“I think this is a sign that we are prepared to move with the times and I’m totally committed to it and so is the party.”

Abbott said the scheme would be fully funded and was an economic reform. “We can’t really afford to lose so many highly capable women in the prime of life from the workforce,” he said.

“This is not just a family policy or a social policy. It’s not just something for women. This is something for everyone.”

But Hawke told the ABC this policy was “not as signature policy of the Coalition”. It had “crept into our policy”.

“I think it’s a very good time to be revisited in light of Labor announcing ongoing revenue write downs,” Hawke said.

“I have canvassed broadly amongst people in the community and I tend to find the feedback from business groups, from women in the community and from colleagues is that now would be a very good time to revisit this policy with a view to scrapping it before the next election so we can go to the election without this albatross around the neck of the party.”

Frontbencher Christopher Pyne said the paid parental leave scheme “will be one of the most important employment and wages policies of the beginning of this century, because we are treating paid parental leave as a workplace entitlement, not a welfare entitlement”.

Meanwhile, the latest Essential poll has found 55% of voters believe the government should cut spending to reduce the national debt, while only 13% think it should raise taxes to do so. It also found Hockey marginally more trusted to handle the economy than Treasurer Wayne Swan - 35% to 32%.

Labor trails the Coalition 44% to 56% on a two-party basis.

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47 Comments sorted by

  1. Paul Collins

    Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

    I am confused...
    Why would we value stay at home working mums as irrelevant compared to a working mum?

    Is it about raising our female participation that has been dropping for four years now?
    http://www.smh.com.au/national/australian-male-breadwinner-flourishing-20130420-2i6z6.html
    All that a PPS that is suggested by the Libs will create, is a 'glass floor' and it will actually reduce further female participation.

    Is it about increasing our fertility?
    It can not be as the only real thing that will increase our fertility is affordable housing. The Baby Bonus certainly did not.

    Really it is mad as batpoo!

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    1. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Paul Collins

      "We want to encourage people to have kids" said Tony the other day.

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  2. Lisa Denny

    Workforce Demographer and PhD student at University of Tasmania

    There are many considerations to paid parental leave and why it could be good for both business and society. I dot point a few in a blog I wrote recently. Critically, no one is devaluing those mums (or dads) who choose to stay at home. For a variety of reasons we should be thankful for mothers who work and thankful for mothers who choose to stay at home, both make an invaluable contribution the economy and society.

    http://www.lisataylor.com.au/1/post/2013/04/why-tony-abbotts-parental-leave-scheme-is-good-for-business.html

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    1. Paul Collins

      Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

      In reply to Lisa Denny

      Read your blog and it is well, just quite bad. Just a set of assumptions and no actual data at all. It 'may' do this or it 'may' do that, what the? Are you really an academic?

      Of course a paid parental scheme devalues the stay at home mums. They do not get any money compared to female lawyers who may get $75,000. Really, think about it as it is grossly unfair.

      Your own logic is flawed, as you state the stay at home mums make a contribution to society, yet you want to not support them financially?

      Low fertility rates and female participation has nothing at all to do with paid schemes. It is because women have to work to pay a mortgage because housing has become grossly unaffordable. Shite, am I the only one that sees the bleeding obvious?

      I would have thought that as a academic you would make more sociological sense.

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    2. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Paul Collins

      Yes Paul, strangely enough, women, in general, love children and want to be mothers, and as mothers who love their children, do not want those children to be brought up in the squalour and poverty of unsustainable housing debt.
      But don't expect the Housing/Banking Cartel to release their death grip on the Australian Polity anytime soon.
      But the inevitable Abbott Recession and the final arrival of the Global Financial Crisis might do the trick.
      Do those stupid Liberals realise just how Machiavellian The DLP's Tony Abbott really is.
      Will they get rid of him in time?
      Before or after the election?
      Go for it Malcolm!

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    3. Terry Mills

      lawyer retired

      In reply to Lisa Denny

      Lisa I read your blog and I have to say that I believe that this whole debate has to be about equity if we are talking about a government/taxpayer funded 'workplace entitlement'.

      Take a factual situation with people my wife and I know ( names changed for theatrical effect :

      Janet & Tom: she has two children and does part time school cleaning work to fit in with her obligations as a mum and wife. She earns around $28,000. Her partner is a tradie and probably grosses $80,000 in a good year…

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to James Hill

      The eugenics confirmed by Tony's "women of calibre" explanation of his policy.

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  3. Natasha turnbull

    Student

    Abbott's Paid Parental leave is a good policy if you look deep into it:

    - it actually acknowledges that looking after a baby is work, should be a paid work as a work entitlement.

    - concern that women on high salary such as $150,000/ year get too generous PPL is a myth.

    How many women of childbearing age, say 18 - 45 year old, are on annual salary more than $100,000? Apparently less than 1.5%. So only very small
    numbers of women will be getting "too generous" $ 50,000 - 75,000 PPL…

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    1. Paul Collins

      Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

      In reply to Natasha turnbull

      What? In one breath you say "- it actually acknowledges that looking after a baby is work, should be a paid work as a work entitlement." and then you do not want to give a stay at home mum anything? What a stupid line of argument. No one can say it is a fair system, as it clearly is not, as now several Liberal members are now saying.
      Whay would we want women to get back to work as soon as they could instead of being a mum for the first few years? Really, get a grip on what really is good for our future and sending mums back to work to early certainly is not in the long term interests of my nation.

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    2. Natasha turnbull

      Student

      In reply to Paul Collins

      You don't have to be so aggressive in you tone.

      Paying stay-at-home mums is a different debate or policy. I haven't thought about it.

      Here I am just simply comment on this article - is Abbott's PPL a good one.

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    3. Paul Collins

      Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

      In reply to Natasha turnbull

      I apologise for sounding strong or disrespectful.
      As you said, you ahve not thought about it and I sujest you do as the Abbott plan is grosssly unfair. Paying saty-at-home mums is not a different debate at all.

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    4. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Paul Collins

      Dont apologise for sounding strong, you have made some excellant comments here and the ignorant people you are replying to obviously have not thought their position through for the basic reason that - this only benefits women that get pregnent whilst in employment....a duh, it excludes women that might of been between jobs when they found out they were pregnent, it excludes the unemployed women that are pregnant, it gives greater privalages to the already privalaged by design

      Really, great comments, dont apologise to these shallow superficial commenters

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    5. Paul Collins

      Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael
      I take your point that it is important to argue your case, however I should not revert to an overly strong tone to achieve that. Ignorance is as ignorance is.

      I am interested in looking further at the 'glass floor' as it is very likely that the PPS will mean that employers shy away from women that are likely to get pregnant. A 'hot potato' will be created as employers feel trapped into a system not of their design.

      As I have pointed out, it really can not be about increasing our fertility…

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    6. Lisa Denny

      Workforce Demographer and PhD student at University of Tasmania

      In reply to Paul Collins

      Paul, what are you thoughts on mother's (who stay at home) ability to achieve financial independence, accumulate superannuation for their retirement years, maintain their education and skills in the workforce and be able to afford to provide for their children or do you condemn them to a life dependent on welfare? How is that good for theirs and our future?

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    7. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Paul Collins

      I disagree that what we are lacking is more babies more babies

      Our fertility rate is fine, the onyl reason anyone ever cares about it is to perpetuate this idea that our economy is only sustained by endless growth which is obviously a dead end

      Eventually endless growth fetish will run into the wall of finite resources and space and the longer we refuse to acknowledge this the bigger the bubble gets

      we have 1 person...we need 2 children

      We have 2 people....we need 4 children

      You can see even in this crude example that this cannot go on forever

      eventually you will have 100 million people and suprise suprise those addicted to growth will demand 200 million children - its a dead end

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    8. Paul Collins

      Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

      In reply to Lisa Denny

      Lisa
      1. If you are talking about single mums, then we have welfare to assit them.
      2. If you are talking about stay at home mariied mums, then they are providing for their children and that is what they choose to do. One assumes that the father has full time work or perhaps both parents have part time work.

      When a house cost 3 times a single wage instead of 7/8 a double wage, life was easy for mums to stay at home. This has been the case up until the early 1990's.

      Really your argument is flawed as it assumes only working mums, who do not look after their children on a daya to day basis are the best for our society.... so sad....

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    9. Lisa Denny

      Workforce Demographer and PhD student at University of Tasmania

      In reply to Paul Collins

      Paul, we will have to agree to disagree then as you have missed my points. It would be great if life and society and the economy was really that simple, but it isn't. Not only do I say this as a PhD candidate studying demography and the 3Ps, but as a mum who shares the care of our three year old with his dad and we both work part time.

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    10. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Paul Collins

      Such arrogance to reply to my point that the only reason that people insist on a high fertility rate is economic to then reply saying that I am unaware of the real issues by linking me to a website discussing the economic importance of fertility

      Thats exactly what I said, the only reason you care about what others do with their bodies is economic....no consideration for the environment at all, no consideration other than Money money money money money

      I get it man, we need women to start producing like they use to so that we can keep the economy going....its a great way to view women, they are like farm animals right, if you dont produce enough lambs you wont be able to keep the farm going - Awesome

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    11. Paul Collins

      Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

      In reply to Lisa Denny

      Your PhD candidacy does not mean that you are correct.
      The 3P's? So you are thinking that population growth is one of the 3 ways to grow the economy? Joe, no longer does....

      A stay at home mum, does not want to achieve financial independence, accumulate super or maintain their workforce status. They CHOOSE to be mums and that is just as important, if not more than a working mum who wants to impose her views on what other females should CHOOSE to do. A stay at home mum want to provide far more than any of the things you mention. Remember the most important things in life are not things at all......

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    12. Paul Collins

      Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael
      1. I do not want population growth. I want us to stabilise and then decline. I think that this will happen mid this century.
      2. I think our economy can grow while our population declines as we build a better quality pie, rather than a bigger pie.
      3. We are below replacement fertility, so as our death bust starts (deaths double over the next few decades as the baby boomers die) our natural growth may drop to zero or even negative. There is no way an ageing population will double or treble our NOM to compensate.
      4. I sent you the link for you to watch the video, which you could not have, as to gain a better understanding of the actual demographic data.

      So, you are wrong in your assumption of me.

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    13. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Paul Collins

      I agree with points 1 and 2, the rest is just women need to produce to keep the farm going idealogy

      So what if our population growth goes into the negative - apart from money money money money money - whats the problem here mate?

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    14. Paul Collins

      Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael
      My point was that in all likelyhood we will peak and decline and we do not need to overly worry about that and that understanding why is important.
      I actually do not see a problem as I understand overpopulation is a myth. That does not mean that I want population growth, I do not.

      Will the PPS increase fertility? No. It is my assertion that we will actually see a decline in fertility.
      Will the PPS increase female participation? No. It is my assertion that the scheme will create a 'glass floor' and a real disincentive to hire young women.

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    15. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Paul Collins

      Well I agree with all that - stating that overpopulation is a myth is a bit of a wierd thing to say.

      Do you mean overpopulation can never occur? - I cant imagine you would mean this

      or do you mean that population will stablise itself through neccisity - something that is as vague as "The climate will stabalise itself eventually" - its true but that doesnt mean that overpopulation isnt a problem

      ie. it becomes a problem....then it will correct through neccisity

      Spaceship earth is only so big, it is very possible to have more people than the ship can handle, no one can deny this

      Also, I notice that in this last comment you no longer express concern about what others are doing with their body where as previous comments you expressed concern over the economy if we didnt get the sheep to produce more lambs, concern over negative growth - which is totally fine by me

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    16. Lisa Denny

      Workforce Demographer and PhD student at University of Tasmania

      In reply to Paul Collins

      Paul, i interpret from your comments that you support the traditional breadwinner model of the male being the earner and the female being the carer? My stance is that I support a move towards a more dual earner/carer household model and I think a PPS assists this achievement (its aim is also to support fathers have a greater role in caring as well and not discriminated against). PPS is not about increasing fertility levels or even female labour force participation - however these are often indirect outcomes (see work by Heard, Castles and Gautier and others). It is about equity (and choice). You may find this report of interest http://www.adelaide.edu.au/wiser/pubs/WISeR_Parental_Leave_Policy_and_Gender_Equality_an_international_comparison_report.pdf

      You may be surprised that I don't support the 3Ps policy framework and my research finds each ineffective in achieving their relative objectives.

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    17. Paul Collins

      Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

      In reply to Lisa Denny

      Lisa
      Thanks for the link and I will read it.
      I actually do not have a preferred model. What I do support is actual equality and the CHOICE of females to be stay at home mums as the free CHOICE they make. If you preference is for dual income families, so be it, however there is no reason to assume that this is superior to a CHOICE that some females and males make to have stay at home mums/parents. They should not be disadvantaged by this CHOICE and that is exactly what the suggested PPL scheme would do.

      If you are were actually fighting for the right for females to make a free choice, then you would not support a PPL as proposed by the Libs. My point again is why would society assume that a stay at home mum does not deserve the same financial assistance as a working mum?

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    18. Lisa Denny

      Workforce Demographer and PhD student at University of Tasmania

      In reply to Paul Collins

      Paul, thanks for being less attacking ;-).

      I would suggest that women are already disadvantaged (financially and equality wise) by the choices they have to make - regardless of the PPS. This disadvantage affects them over their lifecourse, not just at the very special time of having children. Unfortunately, women are penalised for having children and it doesn't need to be that way. Mothers are torn by the need to work and the desire to stay at home and the guilt they feel in both scenarios. As I said in my blog (which you clearly didn't like) essentially, those who have children create the future workforce and tax base, largely through their own personal sacrifices from which others benefit. It is only when greater value is placed on childbearing and rearing by society, and the opportunity cost of having children is significantly reduced, that equity will be achieved (and choices supported).

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    19. Paul Collins

      Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

      In reply to Lisa Denny

      Lisa
      "Unfortunately, women are penalised for having children and it doesn't need to be that way" and a PPL would disadvantage stay at home mums even more, creating greater inequality.
      Then you go on to ague, which I agree with, that mums create future tax payers etc, so why have a PPL scheme that disadvantages some mums? Really hard to understand the exact reasons for a PPL when you argue so well against it...

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    20. Lisa Denny

      Workforce Demographer and PhD student at University of Tasmania

      In reply to Paul Collins

      Because it makes the first choice women have to make easier - whether or not to have children in the first place. It reduces the 'loss' associated with childbearing.

      Evidence confirms that childlessness is increasing, particularly for higher educated women (although the rate is slowing) (see Miranti et al) even though childbearing intentions indicate that the majority of women want to have children (many studies using HILDA data).

      Therefore the desire to have children is there, but not…

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    21. Paul Collins

      Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

      In reply to Lisa Denny

      Lisa
      On a second read I find that...
      1. No, not all women are disadvantaged by the choices they make. A stay at home mum, who has made that choice would only be disadvantaged by a very unfair PPS by the Libs.
      2. No, some women are not 'torn' by the need to work or have any sense of 'guilt' at all by staying at home with the kids.

      It sounds like you are transferring your guilt or hangups onto others.

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    22. Paul Collins

      Chief Thinker at demografix pty ltd

      In reply to Lisa Denny

      Lisa
      We already have a fair and equitable PPL. What you are suggesting is that some mothers should get more than others and that is plain mad as batpoo!

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  4. Zvyozdochka

    logged in via Twitter

    Shouldn't this be in The Australian?

    It is an example of the View-from-Nowhere complete with polling commentary.

    Where is the analysis of whether paid-parental leave is good or bad policy, or whether the Labor, LNP or Greens offerings stack up as good public policy?

    I do not see the point of articles like this on The Conversation.

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  5. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    "The modern family invariably needs more than just one income."

    That's a cause for concern.

    If things get any worse, the modern family may need more than two incomes.

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    1. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      "The modern family invariably needs more than just one income." is of great concern when you look at what the country recently did to single mothers. How can you justify a handout of up to 75K to a new mother and then deny the poor enough income to feed their children? Politicians in general need a reality check.

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    2. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      Precisely Janeen, although I'd add, and house, and supply electricity. The same can be said about school. Why are we paying for private school education. And underfunding state schooling. We are the only country to do this.

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    3. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      These days, Alice, the disabled are put on newstart, the single mothers are begrudged, people live in the streets, Aboriginal health and welfare is a disaster but when the rich cry poor the pollies all jump. The blind lead the blind.

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  6. Tony Thomas

    Project Manager

    I think Tony has another motivation for this policy - as a response to his problem of unpopularity with women - particularly in a demographic that as leader, he would need to gain their support.

    He may be trying to either connect at a personal level to "do the right thing" by them, or more cynically trying to "buy" their vote? He would not want to lose face on this issue.

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  7. Michael Shand
    Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Software Tester

    I love it, Abbot will pay the rich and privalaged in society to ensure they have more privalages and at the same time will prevent access to family planning, abortion, sex education.

    Perfect, cos what we need is more babies and more support for rich women

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  8. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    Remember this Totalitarian Tony's very own policy, which he foisted upon his "coalition" without any discussion, and has maintained as a test of his authority; an authority which is now, at last, on the eve of his triumph, being challenged by those who have belatedly remembered what a Liberal party actually is.
    On the payments for "home makers" front, in his book "Economics and the Public Purpose", Agricultural scientist turned Economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, a proud Scots Canadian,(who was there…

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  9. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    Tut tut, Michelle, 35 to 32 is not significant!

    WE already have a paid parental leave scheme available to those who don't already get paid maternity leave - brought in by PM Gillard, I believe. The present debate is about the realtive equity and affordability of the 2 schemes.

    Apart from that it's the first stirring of public dissent within the Coalition ranks apart from earlier statements by Judi Moylan and Russell Broadbent re asylum - seekers. They were dismissed as "those who always have opposed the off-shoring policies. etc" The present dissent and pressure for party room debate is more politically significant .

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  10. Norm Mazlin

    logged in via Facebook

    Does Mr Abbot really believe that 'higher paid' women make better babies? Why should a higher paid woman be paid more to have and look after her baby than a lower paid woman? - maybe these highly trained and skilful women make better babies?? If you believe that then join the Nazi party, or vote for Mr Abbot.

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  11. Tony Simons
    Tony Simons is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Dodgy Director

    This kerfuffle shows that Abbott and Hockey will go to any length to extend and preserve privilege for high income earners. And they will be utterly ruthless in hitting low income earners (punishers and straighteners). And the terrible judgementalism (the deserving and undeserving). Their daily deceitful slogans show their contempt for the electorate. Hopefully Abbott's colleagues will pull this adolescent lout into line.

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  12. Lee Emmett

    Guest House Manager

    Let Tony Abbott's words speak for themselves (quoted on 9 News online):
    "We do not educate women to higher degree level to deny them a career," he said.

    "If we want women of that calibre to have families, and we should, well, we have to give them a fair dinkum chance to do so. That is what this scheme of paid parental leave is all about."

    What's this supposed to mean? That high-income earners are more deserving of greater financial benefits when they have babies?

    The LNP needs to stop…

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