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Was the Paid Parental Leave Scheme ever going to happen or was it just a con to get women voting for Tony Abbott?

People are wondering: was Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme a con?

By FIONA SUGDEN

“If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

Remember that old phrase? It is an annoying statement, filled with pessimism, usually administered by a responsible person at the most inopportune moment.

And when it comes to the Abbott Government “signature” paid parental leave scheme it is the statement the women of Australia are now left to contemplate.

We are left asking ourselves was it all just a big con?

It was revealed on Sunday the scheme has been quietly shelved in the legislative calendar until next year.

As a mum I strongly support paid parental leave but this new scheme has always been over the top and beyond deliverable.

The policy had already been downgraded from its initial announcement which meant it would pay up to $50,000, instead of $75,000, over six months for women having a baby.

So will it ever happen or was it just a clever ploy to woo the women of Australia prior to an election?

Here is what we know.

We know the independent Productivity Commission into Early Learning recommended last month the money for this scheme would be better spent on our childcare system because the policy “would have few incremental labour supply benefits.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

We know the powerful National Commission of Audit recommended in March severely downgrading the scheme and capping it at the average weekly wage, because it was “too expensive” and the “money would better spent on our childcare system”.

We know influential organisations such as the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry have called for it to be scrapped or pared right back.

We know the outgoing CEO of National Australia Bank Cameron Clyne said last week the measure wouldn’t increase workplace productivity of women and the biggest barrier to women re-entering the workforce was childcare.

We know many members of the Prime Minister’s own coalition hate the policy.  Yes hate is a strong word. But they really do.

Like Nationals Senator Ron Boswell who said the PPL proposal was “unfair to rural Australians.” Or Liberal MP Alex Hawke who said, “levying the top 3300 Australian companies will have a number of consequences” like “higher prices for customers.”  Or Barnaby Joyce who said “if those prices filter through, there’s no doubt there will be ramifications” for the consumer.

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Or for example like former Treasurer Peter Costello who said “my view is that it is a very generous scheme.” Or perhaps even like Mr Abbott’s own Treasurer who said right back in 2013, “I am not getting into speculation…our policy stands as of today.”

You see there have been some pretty strong warning signals FOR YEARS that this policy would not pass the parliament and that the people voting against it would not necessarily be sitting on the opposite side of the House.

Writer and mother of three, Fiona Sugden.

We also know the Government said many times before the election the policy would be “revenue neutral” because it was “fully-funded” by a levy on business – but it is not.  The levy will only partially cover the cost of the $5.5 billion scheme with the remaining billions to come from taxpayer dollars.

We know 165,000 parents with children under the age of 13 would like to work, or work more hours, but are not able to because they are experiencing difficultly with affordability and accessibility of childcare services.

We know that the cost of the paid parental leave scheme per year is $5.5 billion, which is only $1 billion less than the entire budget for childcare.

We know many parents are opposed to the scheme with a recent national survey by The Parenthood finding 97% of parents preferred the PPL money be spent on investment in kindergarten and pre-school – which is currently being cut.

Paid parental leave is important however it benefits a family for 6 months. A strong childcare system benefits a family for up to five years per child.

The facts mean it will be very difficult for this policy to pass the parliament because it faces great opposition politically, financially, logically and statistically.

So was it all a great big con?

We do not know the absolute answer yet.  There’s still a chance the government could introduce the legislation next year in time for the scheduled July 1, 2015 start date.

But personally I won’t be holding my breath…

If you support investing in quality childcare you can join The Parenthood’s campaign here.

Fiona Sugden is Executive Director of The Parenthood – a national advocacy movement for Australian parents that is 20,000 strong and growing. Fiona previously worked as a Press Secretary to Kevin Rudd when he was Prime Minister. She is a mum of three kids and lives in Brisbane.  @FiSugden @The_Parenthood

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