THE well-heeled Melbourne suburb of Malvern seemed an odd choice for Tony Abbott to launch his “fair dinkum” paid parental leave (PPL) scheme.
The local Sissi and Co cafe had all the makings of a perfect campaign stop – a small business, packed to the rafters with young mums, wailing bubs and waitresses zipping to and fro.
But it didn’t look like battler territory – the cafe is a stone’s throw from a Jaguar dealership and the sweets cabinet stocks $14.50 boutique gingerbread men.
Mr Abbott was flanked by shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, Senator Michaelia Cash and local MP for Higgins Kelly O’Dwyer, who holds the seat with a 5.4 per cent margin.
The opposition leader chatted with the young staff, mingled with families and cooed over the many babies and young children as media cameras caught the moment.
Mr Abbott’s message was simple: if he’s elected prime minister, all working women will get six months parental leave at their full pay, plus super, to allow them to look after their newborn.
Labor, which has a scheme offering 18 weeks leave paid at the minimum national wage, says it’s unfair because it gives low-paid mums less money for having children than high income earners.
Mr Abbott defended the policy – which cuts off at $75,000 for women earning $150,000 a year – as a “fair dinkum” plan that will deliver “workplace justice” for working mums.
Why should his federal government staff get parental leave paid at their wages and not the female staff pouring the coffees at the cafe, he asked.
Mr Hockey lauded the scheme as an historic push to help the most vulnerable working women.
“This is the biggest shot in the arm for job security for lower-income women that has even been undertaken,” he said, to applause from a large crowd of onlookers.
The pitch worked for Charlotte Taylor, a small business owner enjoying her Sunday morning with four-month-old Sybil and husband George.
The couple described the scheme as fantastic, saying it would allow her to spend more time with their next child – although they agreed they’d probably make that decision regardless.
The plan will cost $5.5 billion a year, offset by a business levy and budget savings from mid-2015.
The 1.5 per cent levy will be applied to about 3000 companies earning more than $5 million in taxable income a year – many of which will receive an offsetting corporate tax cut.
The coalition estimates the net cost at $6 billion over the forward estimates, after savings and the scrapping of Labor’s scheme.
The seat of Higgins was held by former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello for nearly 20 years.
It was he who was credited with an Australian baby boom after famously urging families to have “one for mum, one for dad and one for the country”.
Mr Abbott said his policy was also “unashamedly, unambiguously, pro child”.
Later on Sunday, Mr Abbott returned to his Sydney electorate of Warringah and tossed a football around Brookvale Oval.
Mr Abbott matched Labor’s commitment of $10 million in funding to help renovate the venue.
Joined by wife Margie and daughter Frances, Mr Abbott posed for pictures with an excited team of junior players before calling it a day. – AAP