Familism meets feminism

Like big business and the some (most?) in the Coalition party room, I’m not keen on Tony Abbott’s ‘big new tax’ plan to fund an exceptionally generous income-maintaining parental leave policy.

On the other hand, I do think it is a natural evolution of recent Australian conservative thinking. As it put it in my ‘big government conservatism’ article a few years ago:

Modern conservatism.. does not actively discourage or prevent departures from the norm in social and family relationships. So no-fault divorce stays, [and] single parent benefits are retained … . Rather, modern conservatism uses the state’s financial resources to ‘support families in the choices they wish to make’, to ‘help families struggling with the challenges of modern life’.

What this means is the ‘familist’ state increasingly contributes to activities which were once the family’s responsibility. The massive expansion in the FTB scheme and the baby bonus under Howard, and the rapid expansion in childcare subsidies, are all part of this. Parental leave is a logical extension of this trend. Indeed, the social science case for full-time parenting in the first six months of a baby’s life is far stronger than the case for the FTB handouts.

Abbott defends his scheme in these evolutionary terms: Continue reading “Familism meets feminism”