Abbott to scale back Australia's signature parental paid leave plan

A child cooling off next to a fan at the 2015 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 19, 2015. PM Tony Abbott will unveil a new package of measures intended to improve childcare and support families in a speech on Feb 2, 2015, reported
A child cooling off next to a fan at the 2015 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 19, 2015. PM Tony Abbott will unveil a new package of measures intended to improve childcare and support families in a speech on Feb 2, 2015, reported the Australian newspaper. -- PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE (BLOOMBERG) - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott plans to further scale back his signature policy to provide paid parental leave amid dissent from some governing Liberal-National coalition's lawmakers.

The policy, championed by Mr Abbott since before he won office in September 2013, had been intended to provide new mothers who earn as much as A$100,000 (S$104,828) a year full pay for six months.

The proposal wasn't passed in Parliament after criticism that it wouldn't address families' high childcare costs.

"We would be scaling it back, we would be better targeting it,"Mr  Abbott told reporters on Saturday, as he confirmed revisions were being discussed ahead of a planned announcement.

Mr Abbott will scrap the proposal and unveil a new package of measures intended to improve childcare and support families in a speech on Feb 2, the Australian newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information. Mr Mark Simkin, a spokesman for Mr Abbott, declined to comment on the report.

Australia's government has seen its popularity decline as it has backtracked on pre-election pledges not to reduce spending on schools, hospitals and the public broadcaster.

Mr Abbott's decision this month to grant a knighthood to Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II's husband, has drawn widespread criticism, including from members of his own party and News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch.

"I respect the right of people to disagree with me. I understand," Mr Abbott told reporters on Jan 30, when asked about dissent over recent decisions, including the honour awarded to Prince Philip.

"Others might be distracted by this, I'm not. I'm getting on with delivering good government."

Mr Abbott has twice previously flagged changes to his parental leave proposal. A planned salary threshold was lowered from A$150,000 to A$100,000 last April, while in December he said the policy would be revised to address childcare needs.

The Liberal-National coalition is trailing in opinion polls, while an election on Saturday in Queensland state was forecast to see Premier Campbell Newman's Liberal National Party, allied with Mr Abbott's federal government, lose about a quarter of the seats it holds in the regional legislature.