Parental leave: the moment Abbott jumped the shark
Tony Abbott’s foray into progressive social policy has backfired, with his conservative base rejecting has plan to tax big business to pay for improved parental leave.
In the first serious signs that the Mad Monk’s honeymoon as leader is over, this week’s Essential Report finds the Liberal leader has cashed in his credentials as an economic conservative for no real gain, with little support for this family plan.
After watching the polls narrow to within striking distance over the summer, the Coalition heartland must now be wondering whether Mark Latham has returned to politics in a different set of Speedos.
It had all been going so well for Abbott. After punching smart on climate change and almost scalping Peter Garrett on home insulation, the Opposition had narrowed the polls to within striking distance.
But with Labor dominating on health and WorkChoices looming as a negative, Abbott chose International Woman’s Day to regain the political momentum by announcing the sort of policy usually the preserve of Scandanavian progressives.
The Abbott policy was remarkable – a conservative party taxing large companies to fund the most generous leave entitlements in the developed world.
It was clearly a brave move – Abbott drew the immediate ire of the business community that traditionally underwrites the Liberal Party – as well as universal derision from the commentariat inside the Canberra bubble.
I think what has caused the political pain for Abbott is not so much the ambition of the scheme, but the sense it cuts across everything the Liberal Party stands for.
For months Abbott has been punching hard at the Emissions Trading Scheme as a big new tax on everything. He has convinced Australia that the world is not worth saving for fistfuls of dollar.
Now he is seen to be throwing the tax around in pursuit of a right that most of the Coalition’s aging base have already missed out on.
It is the sort of reckless policy grab that proved Mark Latham’s undoing – going in too hard on private schools, to feverishly on Medicare Gold, signing one too many giant interest rate guarantees.
As Labor discovered, it is one thing for a leader to take risks. It is another thing for those risks to fall flat. That’s when it becomes a question of judgement and character.
As the political temperature begins to rise this is the sort of game-changing play that can have implications all the way to an election.
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