The federal government has attacked the Coalition's paid parental leave scheme as a benefit to already well-off women that will have to be paid for by ''savage cuts'' to the budget.
Mothers who give birth after July 1, 2015, will get six months' leave on full pay under Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's plan, which will cost $5.5 billion a year and include superannuation payments for mothers.
The policy, which the Coalition said would make the average working mother better off by $21,000, was released on Sunday as Mr Abbott, who used to be strongly averse to paid parental leave, met Melbourne mothers for coffee in a Malvern cafe. ''I am a convert. That's why I have a convert's zeal on this,'' he said.
The Coalition policy grants working mothers six months' leave on their actual wage, capped at the $150,000 salary level. If the father is the primary carer, he will receive the parental leave payment at the mother's salary. The scheme also applies to same-sex couples.
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said it was not fair to give more support to women on higher salaries.
''It's incredibly unfair,'' she told Sky News. ''We don't give more to the people who already have more. We give more help to the people who need more help.''
Finance Minister Penny Wong said the Coalition would make ''savage cuts'' to the budget to fund the scheme. She said the ''associated reductions in other outlays'' referred to was ''code for cuts to services like education, health and infrastructure spending''.
But a Coalition spokesman said there were ''no savings or cuts from any other portfolio programs to pay for this policy''.
The net cost will be $6.1 billion over the forward estimates, with about half coming from the 1.5 per cent levy on the taxable incomes over $5 million of the 3000 largest Australian companies.
This in turn will be offset by a cut in company tax promised by the Coalition, from 30¢ in the dollar to 28.5¢ in the dollar.
The rest of the money will come from ''associated reductions in other outlays'', according to the Coalition's policy document. This is understood to include income tax receipts on the leave payments, savings on family tax benefit payments and not having public servants ''double-dip'' with state-based parental leave schemes.
Unlike the government's more modest scheme - which offers 18 weeks' pay at the minimum wage - superannuation will be paid under the Coalition's plan. According to figures Mr Abbott said had been fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, this will amount to $50,000 extra in superannuation earnings by age 65 for any woman on the average wage.
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