Illawarra mums have welcomed a pledge by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to introduce a generous paid parental leave scheme for working mothers, but question who will pick up the $5.5billion bill.
The scheme will benefit the working mothers of babies born from July 2015, who will be paid their full wage – including super – during six months of leave.
For Unanderra’s Michael and Susan Connolly, first-time parents to five-week-old baby Ryan, the policy would leave the family at least $10,000 better off.
Mrs Connolly, a mental health nurse, is hoping to stay at home with Ryan for 12 months while her husband studies medicine and works part-time as a physiotherapist.
The pair are relying on savings, employer-provided parental leave and the existing paid parental leave scheme – 18 weeks at minimum wage – to finance the year, living off about $600 a week. ‘‘I might have to go back to work a bit earlier, because Mick’s at uni,’’ Mrs Connolly said.
‘‘In my case the [Coalition’s scheme] would be good. But I’m afraid maybe some people who already have enough money might misuse it.
‘‘If you earn over $100,000 a year you can at least be able to afford time off.’’
Paid leave would be capped at $75,000 for women earning more than $150,000.
Katrina McDonald, a human resources worker at the University of Wollongong on leave with her second baby, said the Coalition was correct in not limiting the scheme to lower income-earners.
‘‘It’s often those middle income earners who miss out. They pay their taxes and don’t get much help,’’ she said.
Mrs McDonald said the scheme wouldn’t influence her vote, ‘‘but I can definitely see why Tony Abbott is doing it, because his comments in the past have got women offside’’.
Mr Abbott this week announced the wage replacement scheme was ‘‘fully costed and fully funded’’ at about $5.5 billion, with half the money to come from a 1.5 per cent levy on Australia’s 3000 largest businesses.
But the opposition has not released full costings advice from the Parliamentary Budget Office, instead pointing at reductions in some family payments, and increased income tax as sources for the other half of the money.
Gerringong hospitality manager Sally Bursell, who is expecting her second baby with husband Kristian in September, said the scheme provided an incentive for working mothers in higher positions to start a family.
‘‘I think work-life balance is becoming more and more important to people,’’ she said.
‘‘I would question the amount that [the scheme] is going to be costing business though.’’
Women already on the minimum wage would have paid parental leave extended from 18 weeks to 26 – making them about $5000 better off, according to Mr Abbott.