This article originally appeared in The Australian.
MUCH media coverage has been afforded Tony Abbott’s proposed paid parental leave scheme. It has been the most mentioned media issue in the country during the past week, with 9349 radio mentions, 6375 on television, 5642 online and 572 print articles, garnering an enormous 21,938 mentions overall.
Not surprisingly, the second biggest issue of the past week, the People’s Forum leaders’ debate for which television was the biggest medium, centred on the Opposition Leader’s “shut up” outburst, a gotcha moment that was prompted by the parental leave issue. The debate gathered 16,569 total media mentions.
Labor insiders have suggested Abboll’s lapse of control is likely to be worked into its broader attack on his character during the rest of the election campaign.
However, they may have to be careful of character attacks after another incident before the same debate in which Kevin Rudd offended the make-up artist, who quickly posted her dismay on Facebook.
The public response last week to Abbott’s scheme was mixed depending on the medium.
Social media sentiment towards the issue was, by and large, against the plan, with 29.2 per cent of Twitter users favouring the Prime Minister’s scheme, 16.9 per cent preferring Abboll’s, while 53.8 per cent remained neutral.
Some of the more colourful tweets attacking the scheme included @childfreezone with: “Paid maternity leave is a stupid idea. Tony Abbott’s revamp of it may well just be the dumbest incarnation.” And @suzlette333: “New blow for Abbott over paid parental leave scheme: trouble with the sums again!” However, in his defence, @IVoteLiberal opined: “How stupid are some people repaid maternity leave? Why will she get 75k?’ they bleat.
Er, because she has a successful career?” Linking the issue back to the leaders’ debate via social media was @otiose94 who suggested “Shut up’ was a parental leave diversionary dog-whistle.” By contrast, a sample of talkback radio on the issue found that 36 per cent of callers preferred Abboll’s scheme to only 23 per cent preferring Rudd’s or a scheme that was means-tested. Yet a majority of responses, a sizeable 41 per cent, preferred not having a paid parental leave scheme at all.
These callers expressed dismay that Abboll is promising not only a tax hike to pay for the scheme, but a policy discordant with his overall theme of a “budget crisis”.
That correlates with the fact that, unlike Twitter, talkback radio is a moderated medium in which some shockjocks are against any parental leave.
While caller Paul supported the scheme saying the resulting baby boom and the benefits to business will be huge, another caller said when she had her children she did not get any of the help, and suggested parents should find work that works around children.