Abbott pledges parental leave scheme


Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he will introduce a six month paidparental leave scheme if the Coalition wins this year's election.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he will introduce a six month paid parental leave scheme if the Coalition wins this year's election.

Speaking in Sydney on International Women's Day, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he would pay new parents the equivalent of their salaries up to $150,000.

He estimates his plan to charge a 1.7 per cent levy on businesses earning more than $5 million a year would raise $2.7 billion a year.

Opposition deputy leader Julie Bishop, the most senior woman on the coalition frontbench, said the scheme was generous.

"But it's appropriate because we want to see more women in the workforce," Ms Bishop told Sky News.

The coalition scheme is more generous than the government's 18-week paid parental leave scheme, which will come into effect in January 2011.

Minister for the Status of Women Tanya Plibersek criticised the plan for not being properly costed.

"How will business respond to that, particularly as they're just recovering from the global financial crisis?" she asked on Sky News.

Commerce groups have recently criticised Mr Abbott's plans, flagged in his 2009 book Battlelines, to charge a levy on business to fund a paid parental leave scheme.

Ms Plibersek said Mr Abbott was opposed to a paid parental leave scheme when he was a cabinet minister in the Howard government.

Labor's program is costed at $260 million a year, and is paid for without a levy on business.

Earlier, Mr Abbott said he was encouraged by new polls, showing his popularity was rising.

"I'm encouraged, obviously, but there's a long way to go," Mr Abbott told reporters in Sydney when asked about the latest poll.

"People will be subjecting the coalition as well as the government to very intense scrutiny in the run-up to the election," he added.

The result comes at a cost to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whose approval rating has slumped three points to 57 per cent, its lowest level since the election.

Mr Rudd's rating as preferred prime minister was essentially unchanged at 57 per cent in the poll of 14-hundred voters, while Mr Abbott climbed four points to 35 per cent.

More than two-thirds of the population believe Labor will win the next election, 68 per cent compared to 22 per cent who back the coalition.

Meanwhile, a whopping 79 per cent of those polled support the government's proposed hospitals overhaul.

Source: AAP