For The First Time In My Life I Agree With Something Tony Abbott Said
Speaking at a book launch at the Centre for Independent Studies, ex-Prime Minister, Minister for Women, and self-professed feminist Tony Abbott urged governments to encourage more middle class women to have children.
“A properly conservative government, acknowledging that having a family is one of the most wonderful things that anyone can do, would make it easier for women in the workforce to have more kids,” he said. “That is a real problem in every western country: middle class women do not have enough kids. Women in the welfare system have lots of kids… If you’re very wealthy you can afford to have as many kids as you want."
There are so many things wrong with this that I’ll try to be concise. Because we’re all busy mums (you know, what with work, lots of babies, and the ironing).
First of all, and I don’t know how many times we have to go over this, please stop telling women what to do with our bodies. Please stop telling us whether we should have children, when we should have them, how many we should have, how we should conceive, gestate and birth them. Put a big label on that box that says “Not my business”.
Secondly, even if Abbott doesn't intend to suggest that middle class women make better mothers than those on welfare, the way he makes his point is at the very least eyebrow-raising. Putting aside the idea that the health of our environment and our species relies on all of us actually having fewer children, encouraging certain classes of women to have a certain number of kids just sounds wrong.
But, perhaps the thing that has me the most infuriated about Mr Abbott’s comments is that, setting aside his ludicrous reasoning, I actually agree with this policy position.
Massive feminist Tony Abbott is advocating for government policy that makes it easier to work and have children. And, of course, he is right.
Childcare shouldn’t cost almost as much (and in some cases more) than the rent or mortgage. Australia has some of the highest childcare costs in the world, accounting for over 30 percent of an average couple’s salary. And costs have increased 34 percent since the Coalition formed government in 2013, with the current education minister telling us to “shop around” to keep our costs down, as if there aren’t areas of Sydney and Melbourne in particular where fees are up to $200 per child per day with long waiting lists. You know, those areas where all those middle class mothers live.
According to a report from KPMG, professional, university-educated women often suffer under a workplace disincentive rate above 100 percent, which means that the family actually has less money in their pocket when the mother works more hours. Upping working days above three days per week leaves many of us effectively paying to work instead of the other way around.
Obviously, families shouldn’t be worse off financially when mum takes on more hours at work. But this report has been out for at least 18 months and our current government has done exactly diddly squat to address it.
Of course women shouldn’t be copping the motherhood penalty, where our careers and salaries take a nose dive after having children. We shouldn’t be desperately trying to cobble together childcare and after-school care for our kids just so we can have the privilege of a job that barely pays the exorbitant fees. Of course conservative governments, and progressive governments, and in-between governments should be making it easier for families to work and have children.
It is positively exasperating that the guy advocating for more family friendly government policies is Tony Abbott. What kind of topsy turvy universe are we living in when the guy who was the subject of Julia Gillard’s famous misogyny speech is the guy presenting decent policies on women and work?! His reasoning is downright insulting, but right now, I’ll take policies aimed at getting kids great education and care while both parents build their careers and superannuation balances from anyone.
But, and let me be very clear about this part, I am not having any more kids. Ever.