Abbott’s paid parental leave policy ‘the best for rural women’

Joe HockeyCOALITION Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey insists the Coalition’s paid parental leave policy is “absolutely the best leg-up for rural women ever”.

But opponents of Indi Liberal MP, Sophie Mirabella believe the $5.5billion a year policy — which guarantees 26 weeks leave at a replacement wage capped at $150,000, including superannuation — is unfair and discriminatory.

Mr Hockey called the policy the “biggest helping hand to small business and low-income women in my lifetime”.

“A lot of women work on the farm with their husbands and they don’t get anything when they take parental leave,” he said. “Some might qualify for the minimum wage under Labor.

“Under us, they get replacement wages for six months, which is hugely important on a farm where there are volatile income streams.”

The Coalition policy will be funded by abolishing Labor’s $1.8billion scheme — 18 weeks leave at minimum wage — and a 1.5per cent levy on about 3000 of the nation’s big companies.

A company tax cut of the same amount would offset this, balancing out the cost to big business.

Mr Hockey, who was in Wodonga on Friday for Mrs Mirabella’s campaign launch, denied a taxpayer component would be needed, or that rural women could fund payments for metropolitan women.

“They’re not topping up anyone else’s payments. The money is coming from the 3000 biggest companies in Australia,” he said.

Coalition leader Tony Abbott last week confirmed some shareholders would lose tax credits on dividends, due to the tax cut introduced to compensate for the levy.

Labor’s Indi candidate Robyn Walsh said the Coalition’s scheme was “discriminatory” because most of the highest paid jobs were in big cities”.

“There are also a lot more women in part-time employment in regional or rural areas, so their salary is a lot less than someone working full-time,” she said.

Greens candidate Jenny O’Connor said that with pay rates lower in regional areas, the scheme “clearly advantages women in metropolitan areas”.

The Greens’ policy offered 26 weeks leave at full pay, capped at $100,000. It would also be funded by a 1.5per cent company levy with no offset in company tax.

“Mr Hockey’s basically saying ‘trust us’, and it’s unacceptable to do that before an election,” she said.

Independent candidate Cathy McGowan did not comment on the plan’s fairness to regional women but called the Coalition’s scheme “generous”.

“I think, in theory, it would be great for a lot of women,” she said.

“Like a lot of people, I’ve got some questions about how the Coalition is going to fund it and the impact that might have on business and investors.

“I’d want to consider the details of the Coalition’s legislation.”

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