Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Policy bombshell has backfired

By Graham Young - posted Friday, 20 August 2010

When Tony Abbott announced his parental leave policy it took his colleagues by surprise. It shouldn't have.

While he bypassed shadow cabinet to make the decision, he had canvassed it in Battlelines, the biography-cum-leader's job application he had written after the fall of the Howard government.

When Abbott took on the Liberal leadership he knew he was too much of a "known known" and that many Australians had taken a preconceived set against him as a chauvinistic, Catholic troglodyte.


If he was going to be prime minister of Australia he needed an issue to shatter that preconception by positioning himself as both modern and appealing to Australian women.

And a small-target policy wouldn't work: it had to be large-target.

Parental leave was the issue that was going to show he had moved with the times and was going to appeal to as broad a cross-section of women as possible, right up into the professional ranks, where much of the soft-Left and Greens vote hides.

Our polling says that not only has this strategy failed, it has rebounded on Abbott.

He's taken Labor on in welfare, a field in which it is seen as being strong, left it unscathed, and in the process damaged himself on the economy, an area in which the Liberals have credibility.

When we asked our 2,151 respondents earlier this week to choose between the government's parental leave scheme and the opposition's, most went for the government's.


Women were more likely to choose the government's scheme than men, particularly women with children, although this tendency was less marked with younger women who were the primary target of Abbott's plan.

The government's scheme starts in January next year and supports a family for 18 weeks at $544 a week. The opposition's starts in July 2012 and will pay at the mother's salary capped to $75,000.

It seems counterintuitive that voters would spurn a more generous scheme, but there are good reasons for it.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

First published in The Australian on August 19, 2010.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

14 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Graham Young

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Graham Young
Article Tools
Comment 14 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy