The government's proposed cuts to paid parental leave face an uncertain future in the Senate with the crossbench concerned for low-income families and frustrated by the Turnbull government's attitude to negotiations.
Independent senators have criticised the Turnbull government for not taking on board their advice when creating a compromise on the original Abbott cuts, with one calling it another "mean and stupid" policy.
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As reported in January 2016, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's policies leave '79,000 new parents... missing out on some of their paid parental leave,' says Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Vision ABC News 24.
Senator John Madigan said the government was shown to be "short-sighted and heartless" thanks to new modelling, which suggests parents in low-paid jobs stand to lose between $3900 and $10,500 as a result of the latest proposals.
"This study highlights the practical implications of the government's repeated attempts to achieve savings at the expense of those who can least afford it."
Senator Madigan says his patience has been tested by the government's focus on proposals that hit low and middle income Australians and "never their mates at the top of end of town".
"Not only is the government mean, it's stupid. It repeatedly comes out with policies that may initially save a few dollars but will have the opposite effect over the long-term," he said.
"Fortunately, to date, the Senate has blocked many of the government's harshest and most-ill conceived measures.
"I will be doing everything I can to ensure this continues."
The government has rejected the analysis, saying no finalised policy has been announced apart from a measure to extend paid parental leave (PPL) to women in dangerous occupations.
In the 2015 budget, the Abbott government unveiled changes restricting 80,000 new mothers from "double dipping" by accessing both employer and government parental leave schemes.
The unpopular proposals were modified by the Turnbull government's Social Services Minister Christian Porter in December after they were rejected by the Senate crossbench.
Under the modified version, the weeks of paid leave from a person's employer would be deducted from the government's 18-week scheme. The dumped policy's cut was based on income, capping the payments at the equivalent of 18 weeks at the national minimum wage.
Senator Jacqui Lambie expressed concern that low-paid workers could be hit hard by changes but said she could not come to a final position until she had properly looked at the proposals.
"That's the problem with PPL. They keep chopping and changing it but they're not taking any advice from the crossbench and putting it in the equation," she told Fairfax Media.
"It would be nice to get a briefing though from the minister's office so we could know what their intentions are and knew what is going on."
Senator Lambie said that initial improvements under the Turnbull government were "futile" and that the Coalition "seems to be going back to its old ways".
"The government is still discussing revisions to PPL policy with the crossbench," a spokesman for Social Services Minister Christian Porter said.
"The 'analysis' of the changes is speculative and hypothetical because the changes are still under discussion."
Senator Nick Xenophon indicated in December that he remained opposed to any cuts to the PPL scheme.
Senator David Leyonhjelm will support any overall cut to paid parental leave and Family First senator Bob Day says he has never liked the payments because they discriminate against single-income households.
With Labor and the Greens opposed, the government will need six of eight crossbenchers to pass any changes. This frustration with the government throws into doubt how effective their recent efforts to woo the senators have been.
Soon after taking over from Tony Abbott, whose government had a difficult relationship with the independents and minor parties, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reached out to them offering more face-to-face discussion and even giving them a plush new meeting room.