JULIA GILLARD privately argued against the generosity of two of the Rudd government’s major increases in welfare payments.
In public, Ms Gillard has been happy to share credit for the decisions to give more cash for age pensions and parental leave.
But in the inner sanctum of the government, she tried to cut the size of the pension rise and wanted to kill the idea of paid parental leave altogether, telling cabinet colleagues it was being pursued because it was politically correct, according to figures familiar with the debates.
As deputy prime minister, Ms Gillard argued that a big rise in the age pension was excessive because ”old people never vote for us”, the sources said.She was overruled and 3 million aged pensioners received the rise in last year’s budget.
And she was happy to boast about the decision in the televised leaders’ debate on Sunday. ”We did a major increase in the pension, to help older Australians particularly, with the pressures that are on them,” she said.
In that decision, the formula for calculating the pension was raised from 25 per cent of the average wage to 27.7. That means an extra $1100 a year for single pensioners and $1900 for couples.
Ms Gillard also opposed the proposal for a paid parental leave scheme. She told colleagues in cabinet it was being pursued because it was ”politically correct”, according to informed members of the government. She did not argue that the support was unneeded, only that it would not be politically helpful to Labor, government sources said.
Again, she was overruled. The scheme, championed by the Minister for Families, Jenny Macklin, is to take effect from January 1. It will give all primary carers 18 weeks’ leave at the minimum weekly wage of $544.
Yet as Prime Minister, Ms Gillard has said she was ”delighted” that the scheme was legislated.The revelations, the third internal Labor leak in as many weeks, will be a campaign embarrassment for the government.
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, who had to crash through Coalition resistance to propose a more generous parental leave scheme, can now argue he is the only leader who truly believes in giving parents paid time to be with their newborns.
News that Ms Gillard opposed the pension increase, as delivered, will not please the National Seniors Australia organisation due to launch its election campaign claims today.The Prime Minister’s office declined to give the Herald any response to these revelations on the record.
But in response to a similar report on Channel Nine last night, Ms Gillard’s office issued a statement in her name: ”I was very proud to be a member of the Labor team that delivered these two historic achievements – delivering a better deal for pensioners and supporting parents to spend more time with their babies.
”Pensioners and families deserve more support, and this government has acted to give them that support.”Cabinet discussions are confidential. If the Liberal Party have allegations to make, they should put their names to them.
”But the sources of the information on Ms Gillard’s positions are not Liberal members. The Channel Nine reporter Laurie Oakes told viewers his sources were ”closer to home”. The Herald’s sources are government members.