THE Coalition's expensive Paid Parental Leave plan does not pass the "fair go test" and should be dumped, a Liberal Party backbencher says.
In a scathing assessment of the policy written for the Institute of Public Affairs, second-term MP Alex Hawke argued his party's plan was "unreasonable" and would come at a time when businesses could least afford it.
"With the electorate and the media paying heightened attention to poor policy, those ideas that fail important tests must be thrown overboard before they become core policy," Mr Hawke wrote in a rare sign of dissent with Coalition ranks.
"At a potential cost of $4.3 billion, a parental leave scheme at full pay would be an unjustifiable impost on businesses at a crucial time in the economic cycle."
The Member for Mitchell wrote that the policy failed to meet a number of criteria in that it was not needed, was unaffordable and would hurt businesses and consumers.
But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott dismissed Mr Hawke's criticism, vowing to take the flagship policy to the federal election.
"One backbench member of Parliament has written an article saying that he doesn't like the scheme. Fair enough, he's a backbench member of Parliament," Mr Abbott told BayFM in Geelong.
"But this has been our policy now for more than three years. It's a very important sign that we get it when it comes to the modern families. I think this is a sign that we are prepared to move with the times and I'm totally committed to it and so is the party."
Fellow senior Liberal MPs Joe Hockey, Christopher Pyne and Mitch Fifield also defended the policy.
Mr Pyne described it as "one of the most important employment and wages policies of the beginning of this century".
He described Mr Hawke as a "good fellow" and welcomed the debate.
"He's a sound thinker, and he's entitled to his opinion and it's refreshing, and it's also healthy, for the Coalition to be full of people who have an intellectual capacity to mount public policy arguments, but on this occasion the paid parental leave scheme is a policy that is revenue neutral because we are collecting it from the 3200 biggest businesses in Australia," Mr Pyne told Sky News.
Mr Hawke's policy intervention drew praise from the Australian Taxpayers' Alliance, a group dedicated to fighting tax and regulation.
The group's executive director Tim Andrews said Australia could not afford the Coalition's scheme, which he described as a "dog of a policy".
"Australia's corporate tax rate is already one of the highest in the world - driving businesses offshore and killing jobs in Australia.
"As the rest of the world is slashing their corporate tax rate, Tony Abbott's proposal to increase it is sheer policy madness," Mr Andrews said.
Families Minister Jenny Macklin said Mr Hawke's IPA piece was more proof the opposition was "hopelessly divided" on its "rolled gold" paid parental leave scheme.
THE COALITION PLAN
- The Coalition Paid Parental Leave scheme would provide new mothers with 26 weeks of paid leave at either full replacement wage for those earning up to $150,000pa, or at the federal minimum wage of $606.40pw - whichever amount is greater.
- The Coalition's Paid Parental Leave scheme would be funded by a 1.5% levy on companies with taxable incomes of more than $5 million. The Coalition predicts the levy would affect about 3370 companies, most of which are listed on the stock market.
- The Coalition has also committed to reducing the company tax rate to offset the cost to business.
ESTIMATED COST: $4.3b
- Eligible working parents receive taxable parental leave pay at the national minimum wage for up to 18 weeks.
- In order to receive the payment parents have to forgo the baby bonus and Family Tax Benefit B payments.
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