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Out of touch: Liberal MP Sharman Stone hits back at Coalition colleagues over paid parental leave criticism


Dan Harrison, Judith Ireland, James Massola

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Rural MP disputes country-city gap in paid leave scheme

Some women will be paid more than others under the government's parental leave policy but that's the way the free market works, says Liberal MP Angus Taylor.

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Liberal MP Sharman Stone has hit back at male Coalition colleagues who have criticised Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme, accusing them of being out of touch with the challenges women face in juggling work and child-rearing.

Dr Stone, who represents the regional seat of Murray in north-east Victoria, told ABC radio on Thursday that she found the criticism of the scheme by National Party colleagues ''mystifying''.

Liberal MP Sharman Stone has hit out at her Coalition colleagues over their criticism of the government's paid parental ...

Liberal MP Sharman Stone has hit out at her Coalition colleagues over their criticism of the government's paid parental leave scheme saying they are out of touch. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

''I think a lot of my colleagues are perhaps traditionalists when it comes to gender roles,'' she said.

Asked about the comments of Queensland LNP member George Christensen, who described Mr Abbott's proposal as '''money for jam'', Dr Stone said: ''I know George well, he’s a good bloke, but money for jam? What – for having a baby? For the nine-month pregnancy?

''For perhaps managing that newborn with your previous children and your other household support tasks? I'm sure George didn’t mean it that way, I would hope so because it would mean he wasn't really attuned to what goes on in women’s lives.''

Other Liberal and Nationals senators including John Williams, Barry O'Sullivan and Ron Boswell have also publicly voiced concern about the scheme and threatened to cross the floor to oppose it.

One of the major concerns flagged by rural MPs over the scheme is that it may advantage working women in cities over farmers' wives who may be performing unpaid work on family farms.

But Dr Stone rejected this criticism, saying that a woman who signed a statutory declaration that she had worked at least 330 hours over a 10-month period in the 13 months before having a baby would be eligible to receive the minimum wage plus superannuation for 26 weeks.

''I'm just over this idea that somehow rural and regional women are going to miss out,'' she said. ''No they're not – they have been missing out and they do under Labor’s scheme but they won’t under our Coalition scheme.''

''Perhaps my National Party colleagues are not aware of those details but they need to get over them because it’s very important to understand.''

Nationals leader Warren Truss said on Wednesday that the government was still talking to rural groups about how to ensure women who worked on farms could receive the payment.

''We are talking with the National Farmers Federation and rural women's groups as to how to best design the scheme to ensure that farmers in this sort of circumstances are in fact eligible,'' he told ABC Rural.

''The test is not so much about income as about the fact that they have been actively involved in farming operations and therefore they are breaking in their employment.''

On Monday, Fairfax Media revealed a compromise proposal put forward by Senator Williams that would extend the current Labor scheme – which pays the minimum wage for 18 weeks – to 26 weeks. The scheme proposed by Senator Williams would also include superannuation payments, which are not included in Labor’s scheme.

Mr Abbott's proposal pays women their full replacement wage for 26 weeks, capped at a maximum payment of $50,000 and includes superannuation.

Labor's scheme was introduced in January 2011 and provides 18 weeks pay at the minimum wage to the primary carer of a new baby.

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  • Finally, some sensible comments from a Politician.

    The Real Slim Shady
    Date and time
    June 12, 2014, 10:06AM
    • Yes, it's all grand if you're in a permanent, highly paid job. Then your baby and your precious time is worth $50K. If you're one of the many contract workers? Zilch. Run your own business? It had better be a company with you on the payroll, otherwise? Zilch. Unemployed? Ha ha ha! Unemployed women shouldn't HAVE babies, obviously. What's that you say? You lost your job because you were pregnant? Well, you'll be pleased to know the PPL is there to ensure all women can continue to work after having a child if they wish. Except you, since you're unemployed. If you're lucky you are over the age of 30, because if you're not you will not have any money until you actually have the baby.
      It is, of course, not possible for well paid women to live on the minimum wage. Only poor working women should be forced to do that, but they are obviously used to slumming it and don't require a BMW SUV to move their new baby around in, or a nanny.

      Mrs Kensington
      Date and time
      June 12, 2014, 10:27AM
    • Your sense of sensibility is probably not in the dicitonary. If you call this logic, at least it is fatally flawed. It doesn’t matter what variables you throw in ie rural, regional, etc the seminal issue is that PPL is not economically viable that will cost our economy around about $6billion who by the way the children will grow up with massive university debt. One would argue how inclusive the PPL to gain legislation approval but although some of the funding is source from companies, it is offset by company tax cut. Of course, the devil is in the details as one asks where the rest of the funding is to be sourced from. Perhaps at the heart of the ‘inclusive’ vs ‘income’ test argument for PPL, the devil may care attitude is rather a convenient logic to take.

      PPL Myth
      Date and time
      June 12, 2014, 10:35AM
    • $50,000 per person from the government, that seems fair. Equivalent to around 7,500 GP co-payments.

      Date and time
      June 12, 2014, 10:36AM
    • Mrs Kensington, please read the article again.

      As stated, if a stat dec is signed saying that you have worked some 330 hours in the 13 months prior to having a baby (thats around 6 hours per week) you are entiitled to no less than the minimum wage, which in many cases will be more than what they would have been earning anyway and without having to prove income.

      So women that work on the family farm (often owned by a family or unit trust), self employed, contract, casual, working in the family business (again, often owned by trusts) - will all be covered.

      Arn Brown
      Date and time
      June 12, 2014, 10:47AM
    • OK ... please explain! I'm single and have no children. Why should I pay women (and families) to have more babies? It's madness! Don't we have more important thinks to spend our countries money on? OK ... now blast away!

      Glen Huon
      Date and time
      June 12, 2014, 10:52AM
    • @JohnInHobart Location Glen Huon Date and time June 12, 2014, 10:52AM
      A little diversion from the article but reply to your post that : being single means you are often singled-out. It is the kind of stigma that becomes almost a culture. Have you tried going to restaurant on your own? Or booking a holiday on your own, even paying for housing, insurance, etc.? This PPL is a little bit like that including the argument about the ‘inclusiveness’ of PPL. Even a JP can witnessed a stat dec to qualify for this PPL, that easy, while single people labour for a dollar it deservedly need to earn. One wonders what penalty will be for making false declaration once the baby is out. Strangely, I advocate for equality and fairness but have to fight daily for it on a personal level.

      Single Lady
      Date and time
      June 12, 2014, 11:06AM
    • I'm eligible for the full payment from my corporate role and I hate this scheme.

      It is sexist, overly focusing on the womens role and ignoring men as primary carers, which happens plenty of times in the modern world. Its class discriminatory rewarding those who have more with .... well ... more.

      It wouldn't be viable if the budget emergency actually existed (which it doesn't).

      And it values/rewards wealthy mothers (should be parent regardless of gender) over and above less wealthy mothers (16k vs 50k). Apparently a wealthy mothers raising of children is over 300% more valuable than a less wealthy mothers.

      And i haven't even gone into stay at home mum disadvantage.

      At least the compromised proposal treats all fairly. I'd vote for it.

      Date and time
      June 12, 2014, 11:31AM
    • Why should disabled and elderly pensioners have their pensions cut, pay a GP tax, just so wealthy breeding mums can have more brats. ? Whats it for a new downpayment on the new BMW ??

      Date and time
      June 12, 2014, 11:34AM
    • I can't see much sense in Sharman Stone's comments if the focus is to be on the best use of public funds is to secure the well being of the child.

      What a strange argument it is to say that parents are to be paid according to the monetary sacrifice they make in the usually discretionary act of having a child. Since when did this become a greater concern than the welfare of the child, so much so that the wealthier the parent, the more money they are entitled to from this otherwise stern nanny-state? Surely the money should be spent in securing the long-term well being of children from poorer families who really need the health care and pre-schooling to give them a good start in life.

      Abbott's PPL does not have much to do about the well being of children or ensuring good parenting. The current PPL is the correct model for income support for parents.

      Date and time
      June 12, 2014, 11:37AM

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