Federal Politics

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Plibersek to Abbott: Come babysit

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek says she is not sure what Opposition Leader Tony Abbott meant when he said the Gillard government needed "a bit more experience" with children, but has invited him over to her house to use his experience with her own young child.

This comes as Mr Abbott said he would never apologise for having a family, arguing the government had "forgotten" Australian families.

Yesterday, the Opposition Leader made headlines both in Australia and around the world, when he criticised the government's plans to cut the baby bonus for second and subsequent children.

Saying that often one child was still in the cot and the pram when a second came along, Mr Abbott told morning TV: "You actually need to get an extra cot or a double-sized pram. I think if the government was a bit more experienced in this area, they wouldn't come out with glib lines like that."

The comments were interpreted by some as a dig at the fact that Prime Minister Julia Gillard does not have children.

Mr Abbott later insisted that he was only talking about his personal experience and said that if Ms Gillard "wants to take offence, of course I'm sorry about that, and if she would like me to say sorry, I'm sorry."


Ms Plibersek today would not be drawn on what Mr Abbott meant by his experience remark, noting that she could not "answer for what he meant, truly, I'll leave that one to him".

But she did suggest that Mr Abbott, who is a father of three grown up daughters, could use his parenting experience in her Sydney home with her toddler son.

"He can come over to my place at 5 o'clock when the youngest one wakes up and use all his experience to get him up, I reckon," Ms Plibersek told ABC Radio with a laugh.

The Health Minister also defended the government's decision to reduce the payment from $5000 to $3000 for second and subsequent children.

"It's really a very generous payment, part of a range of very generous payments to families," she said, noting that there are some baby things that parents can reuse.

Speaking from Adelaide today, Mr Abbott said that through cuts to health and education in the mid-year budget update and the carbon tax, the government had demonstrated it had "forgotten the families of Australia".

"I'm never going to apologise for being a dad and having a family. Everyone is different. I respect that. The fact of the matter is this is a government which demonstrates by its actions that it has forgotten the families of Australia," he said.

Shadow assistant treasurer Mathias Cormann also defended his leader, saying Mr Abbott was just criticising the government for some out of touch comments about the true costs of raising children.

"I think the Labor Party is just getting completely ridiculous with this," Senator Cormann told ABC Radio.

"Julia Gillard has got to realise, it's not actually all about her."

Senator Cormann said that former prime minister John Howard had received his fair share of scrutiny "and it wasn't all polite".

The Coalition have not decided whether or not they will support the baby bonus cut, saying they will wait until the legislation comes before parliament.

With Dan Harrison