The West

Tony Abbott has publicly slapped down colleagues who remain critical of his expensive paid parental leave scheme, saying they have been "slow to adjust" to his proposed reform.

The Opposition Leader said his $5.5 billion-a-year scheme, which would give mothers up to $75,000 for six months leave, was aimed at making women "first-class citizens".

Many Liberals are privately fretting about the cost and sustainability of the scheme which is only part-funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on big business, and some Nationals MPs are warning they will cross the floor unless stay-at-home mums are recognised.

"I am proud to be the leader of a political party which gets it when it comes to the reality of the modern family and the reality of the modern workplace," Mr Abbott said yesterday.

"Now, I accept that some of my colleagues have been slow to adjust on this. As all of you know 10 years ago I would not have been in this place advocating this policy.

"But I have grown, I have changed and I am confident that my colleagues will come with me because . . . if we really want the women of Australia to be first-class citizens and first-class contributors to our economy as well as to our society, they need to have a proper choice to combine families with careers."

Premier Colin Barnett has said the parental leave scheme was too generous, although he said yesterday WA would co-operate with it. Former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett has warned its "extraordinary extravagance" could not be defended in such difficult economic times.

Kevin Rudd yesterday likened Mr Abbott's "signature" policy to a train wreck.

"Mr Abbott has been on about this policy for years," the Prime Minister said. "His party is divided on it. The coalition is divided on it. The National Party folks are saying they'll cross the floor on it. Business hate it.

"State government conservative premiers hate it and ordinary Australians think it's wrong because it's so unfair ."

Under the coalition policy, States would be asked to direct $560 million they already contribute towards paid parental schemes for their public servants into the Commonwealth scheme.

WA Treasurer Troy Buswell said the State would not contribute above what it already offered its 100,000 employees.

"I think the policy outcomes that Mr Abbot is trying to achieve are very, very positive," he said.

The West Australian

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