This morning the nation awoke to news leaked to the SMH that the Liberal Party in Government would offer 6 months paid parental leave. This was big news – and a pretty bold policy. I couldn’t wait to read about it. Unfortunately this was all we got:
It is understood he [Abbott] has charged the spokeswoman on early childhood education and childcare, Sharman Stone, with developing a policy that would be more generous and potentially more expensive than the government's.
The Coalition scheme would go further [than the ALP’s 14 week leave plan] , providing paid leave for six months, a period Mr Abbott and Dr Stone believe breastfeeding should last, if possible.
It is understood Dr Stone is also working on a proposal to formalise conditions for nannies paid by parents to care for children at home. They would be paid like childcare workers and receive employer superannuation contributions. Neither policy has been completed or costed.
That was it. No announcement of how much parents would get a week. No costings. No mention of if it is to be means tested. No detail at all other than Abbott has told Sharman Stone to develop something.
As Mr Braddock said to Benjamin, “This whole idea sounds pretty half baked.”
But kudos to you Tony, great work saying you’ll come up with something… soon.. ish.. and yeah it’ll be costed… probably. And nannies? Excuse me if I don’t think the greater population of Australia is worrying about the costs of of nannies. Methinks Tony Abbott has been watching reruns on Go! a bit too much lately. Oh Mister Abbott!!
Abbott actually gave a press conference in which the issue came up. You would think given he had leaked it to the SMH and it had been front page news, he would have something of substance to say:
Mr, Abbott, do you think there is any merit in the idea of extending paid parental leave to six months for Australian parents?
Look, I do think there’s merit and we will shortly be announcing a paid parental leave policy. It will be much better than Labor’s Mickey Mouse scheme. Labor’s Mickey Mouse scheme was bolted together in a couple of days before last year’s Budget so that they could say they had done it but it’s not a very good scheme. We’re going to have a much better one and it will be announced soon.
How will you pay for it?
Well, it’ll all be revealed when we announce it.
Is there any coincidence in there being a Coalition parental leave today following from your comments yesterday about not doing the ironing?
Well, if you read my book Battlelines you’d see that I’ve been very interested in this issue for quite some time. And look, as for the ironing, well, in the Abbott household I’m afraid to say I unload the dishwasher, I make the bed. Up ‘til now Margie has done the ironing but now that I am in the process of learning how, she reckons that there’s a big, big bag of it for me to do when I get home.
In Battlelines you wrote about the prospect of having business fund maternity leave. Do you now, has your thinking shifted on this because of the impact on small business?
I’m just not going to go into the detail of what we’re going to announce but it will be a very good policy, it will be much better than Labor’s Mickey Mouse scheme and it’ll be announced shortly.
But just on that matter of principle, though, surely you would concede that it would be a very difficult thing for many small businesses to carry the cost of paid parental leave?
You make a fair point but I’m not going to make any announcements until we announce the whole thing in a few weeks time.
If that’s the case, tell us what’s wrong with Labor’s version then?
Well, I don’t want to give anything away but some women will actually be worse off under Labor’s scheme than they are now. Now, that’s hardly an effective paid parental leave scheme.
You get that? He can’t say anything more about it, except that it’ll be good, and that Labor’s policy is Mickey Mouse. Even when asked to say what is wrong with Labor’s policy he can’t say anything.
And this counts as policy now does it? How pathetic. It had obviously been put out to distract from his woeful housewives doing the ironing comment; a gaffe he did nothing to correct when today he said: "But I think in many households it is still much more common to see the woman of the house with an iron in her hand".
The woman of the house?? Really? You’re still using that term?? But, yes I guess the she does have the iron in her hand because “the man of the house” is too busy earning a living. (Still we mustn’t quibble – the housewife should be doing the ironing I guess, how else is she going to earn her housekeeping?)… God it’s hard to write that sentence even in jest.
This morning in the news as well there were two nice little stories for the Liberals to pounce on in Question Time. The first come out of yesterday’s Senate Estimate hearings, where it was revealed the Minister for Broadband et al Senator Conroy had recommended well known Labor Party figure, Mike Kaiser, to the post of head of government relations and external affairs for NBN Co. The position pays $450k a year. There was no tender process, no short list, just a couple interviews with Kaiser and the CEO of NBN Co and the head of Human Resources.
Now I have no comment on Kaiser – I’m sure he’ll do a bang up job. But geez, that is not how such senior positions should be awarded – especially when you realise even a position for a lowly APS2 level member of the Public Service would require advertising and a full interview selection process. It is a bad way to do things, and Conroy should have known better.
Rudd came out and in a press conference announcing increased airport security measures and said that it was ok because the ALP had appointed Brendan Nelson as Ambassador to the EU, and Tim Fischer as Ambassador to the Holy See. First off – those are appointments that are never advertised and thus Rudd was comparing apples with mangoes (Kaiser is from Queensland). And second, so what? Appointing an ex-Liberal Party member doesn’t give you a free pass to hand out a job to a Labor mate.
The other bit of news related to the home insulation plan and the green loans scheme. The Minister, Peter Garrett announced that he was banning the use of foil insulation because it had caused the deaths of four people due to electrical fire, and he also said the Government would be reviewing the Green Loans scheme.
So there you go Liberal Party – two great issues to hammer away at in Question Time – worth at least three questions each – time to go for Conroy’s and Garrett’s throats.
So what did they do? They left the question on Mike Kaiser till question number 11, and they didn’t get round to asking a question of Garrett till number 19 (the second last question of the day!). One question each – which allowed Rudd and Garrett to merely read out their talking points, and feel absolutely no heat on the issues.
So what were the more important issues according to the Liberal Party tactics committee? Try two questions to the Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis, on the impact of the ETS on local tennis clubs due to increases in the costs of lighting.
No, I’m not making a joke.
These supposed hard political heads, decided the big issue of the day was the lighting costs for mid-week social tennis comps.
Perhaps the Liberals were scared of Question Time, because prior to the start, Barnaby Joyce opened his mouth yet again. This time, in the Senate Estimates hearing on Finance and Deregulation, he suggested Australia was close to defaulting on its loans:
“We're going into hock to our eyeballs to people overseas," he said.
"You've got to ask the question: how far into debt do you want to go? We are getting to a point where we can't repay it.
"Let's look at exactly what they're doing now and ask this very simple question: are you paying back your money, are you even meeting your interest component, and can you keep the debt stable?
"Or is the debt racing ahead by more than even the interest expense? And if it is, any household budget will tell you that's a very dangerous place to be."
Has there been a dumber statement ever made by an MP, let alone a shadow Finance Minister? Just consider the statement – here is a guy who is seriously suggesting the Australian Government (with a debt of around 15.9% of GDP) is in danger of not being able to repay its loans. This is a little bit like arguing that someone whose mortgage repayments are 15% of their weekly income is in danger of going bankrupt. It is completely stupid. And dangerously stupid at that.
Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner and Kevin Rudd had great fun with it – but they kicked it up a notch and demanded Joyce be sacked. Now obviously the ALP don’t want to this to happen (remember Joyce is the gift that keeps on giving); but they are right to turn up the pressure. The worse Joyce gets (and he will get worse) the worse Abbott’s decision to appoint him will look – and the longer it goes the more attached to Joyce Abbott will be. As Niki Sava wrote on The Drum today, Abbott has to either back Joyce or sack him. And he has to decide now what to do – if he sticks with him now, he has to stick with him all the way to the election.
The Joyce troubles did allow Tanner to mention that he has now faced four Shadow Finance Ministers (Peter Dutton, Joe Hockey, Helen Coonan, Barnaby Joyce); three of which are back in the pavilion with ducks alongside their names. He also was able to reference Liberal MP Jamie Briggs, who apparently at the APH doors this morning got a figure wrong and said “whoops I’ve done a Barnaby”. It will be a phrase that will quickly enter the Parliamentary vocabulary.
Question Time ended on a return to the past, with Julia Gillard rising to give the House her semi-regular update on the fate of all the WorkChoices merchandise. She reported that there are still 34,650 WorkChoices mouse pads in storage (at a cost of $17,098). Unfortunately they can’t be shredded because that won’t biodegrade for around 100,000 years, and thus they are toxic, rather like the policy itself.
It brought a lot of laughs from the Government benchers. From the Opposition side, there was only silence (they didn’t even shout any abuse when Garrett responded to questions on the insulation).
Perhaps they were all thinking about the 90 minutes they had just squandered – it’s not often an opposition gets two chances in one day to beat up a Government, rarer still is an opposition that decides to give a Government a free pass on both.