The Politics    Friday, May 15, 2015

Lady problems

By Nick Feik

The government’s cuts to parental leave and aggressive rhetoric risk alienating half the population

The budget battle lines have been drawn, and the government again finds itself on shaky ground.

Annabel Crabb encapsulated its problem in three words – its budget rhetoric seemed to pit “Tradies versus Ladies”.

Not to put too fine a point on it: small businesses – portrayed by Abbott and Hockey as dinkum Aussie tradesmen – will get tax cuts and deductions if they go out and buy up to $20,000 worth of tools and other man-toys; new mothers will be stripped of paid parental leave entitlements.

The truth is a lot more complicated, obviously, but the government has acted as if Abbott’s election-promised, “gold-plated” PPL scheme never existed in the first place; and, to make a bad impression worse, the “mums” – only women take parental leave, apparently – who had already been short-changed once didn’t just lose their existing entitlements, but were described as rorters and frauds by Hockey and Morrison, simply for collecting them (until it was revealed in parliament that some senior ministers’ families had been the beneficiaries of such malfeasance too).

It was left to Senator Sinodinos to explain to his government colleagues that “it’s not a good look to be having a go at the young mothers or new mothers of Australia.” 

On a related note, the budget’s childcare spending boost is still up in the air. At this stage, the government says the extra $3.5 billion won’t be spent unless the senate passes its Family Tax Benefit proposals from last year’s budget (worth $9.4 billion). Convincing families that they’re better off with $3.5 billion than $9.4 billion will take unusual political abilities, which few in the government seem to possess.

Bill Shorten delivered his budget reply speech yesterday, and mapped out the ALP’s response. It’s a no-brainer for the ALP to focus on science, innovation, research and higher education – because the government’s performance in each of these areas has been nothing short of disgraceful ­– and Shorten finally put out some related policy ideas.

He also announced his aspiration to cut the small business tax rate even further, but didn’t go so far as to explain how that might be funded.


Tony Abbott himself doesn’t seem to understand his government’s new PPL policy.

It’s not just “mums” who want to scam hardworking taxpayers. It’s employers too, according to an increasingly neurotic-sounding treasurer.

Barrie Cassidy wonders if voters will see through the general budget spin.

Apparently a Washington official “misspoke” when he said that "we will be placing additional Air Force assets in Australia as well, including B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft”. One wonders what he actually meant to say.

The New York Times is tracking a humanitarian disaster in the making, boat-related and in our region. 

Nick Feik

Nick Feik is the editor of The Monthly.

@nickfeik

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