Australian opposition leader fights sexist image
CANBERRA (AP) - Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott is fighting perceptions that he is sexist and old-fashioned in his attitudes toward women with a taxpayer-funded parental leave policy for working mothers that even his political allies have criticised as too generous.
Mr Abbott's conservative coalition is tipped to win power in September 7 elections after six years in opposition, even though he remains unpopular among women voters. But despite Australia's dwindling tax revenue in the aftermath of a China-led mining boom, Mr Abbott on Wednesday defended his plan to spend AU$5.5 billion (S$6.3 billion) a year to pay mothers to stay home with their newborn babies.
"Every social advance attracts its critics," Mr Abbott told reporters. "This is a serious social advance. It will be a watershed for the women of our country."
"For the first time in our history, women will be given a real choice to have a family and a career at the same time," he added.