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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

In the upcoming elections for Prime Minister in Australia, the two major candidates are vying to see who can toss fathers the smaller bone. And, from what I can gather, they're quite proud of the fact. Read about it here (The Age, 8/18/10). It all revolves around "parental" leave policies that have become an important campaign issue. Liberal candidate Tony Abbott proposes to give new mothers six months of paid leave that would see a mum reimbursed 100% of her salary up to $75,000. Dads would get two weeks at 100% of salary. Here's the Liberal platform on the matter. Caught napping, incumbent Labor PM Julia Gillard has belatedly come up with a plan of her own. Under it, mothers would receive $570 per week for 18 weeks and dads would receive the same for two weeks. Labor's plan for mothers is scheduled to take effect on January 1st of next year, but dads will have to wait until July of 2012 to get tossed their bone. As things stand, Labor's policy would allow parents to split the 18 weeks any way they choose, but would not be able to spend the paid time together. Abbott's plan has met with considerable push-back both from businesses that would be taxed to pay for it and from within the National part of the opposition coalition. Oddly enough, within the recent past, both Gillard and Abbott have opposed any form of parental leave, but have lately reversed course. It seems transparent that the entire concept of paid parental leave was a non-issue until Abbott decided to try to tip the down-to-the-wire race in his favor by making it one. That necessitated Gillard's chiming in with a plan of her own. As Abbott said,
''I think that the Labor Party are kicking themselves for not thinking of this first. And I've got to say that I am really proud that a conservative political movement is doing what is so necessary to look after families in the modern world because, let's face it, very few families in modern Australia can survive on just one income.''
I'm all for some form of parental leave. I think people - at least those in the United States - work too much. I think spending time with your newborn is both wise and necessary. People with enough money can do that anyway, but those who are just making ends meet go back to the job as soon as they're able. That deprives their children of them and them of their children. So above all, parental leave tends to help those on the lower end of the economic scale. So why give dads the short end of the stick? Why continue to pretend that fathers are mostly good for earning money, that they don't care about spending time with their newborns, that their children aren't better off with active fathers involved in their lives? Why? I guess because we're still reading from the same cue cards as before. There's every reason to write new ones, but we don't. But the real explanation is even clearer. Politics. Politics is about power. When fathers' rights advocates start exercising ours, we'll see lawmakers sit up and take notice. Until we do, we won't. For a long time now we've behaved as if being right was all it took to win. And as someone once asked, "how's that working out for you?" At some point, we'll identify issues that are important enough to us, and inform office seekers and office holders that we're watching their votes and reading their position papers. And then we'll bring the full weight of our movement to bear against the ones who are against us and in favor of those who are for us. At that point we'll start to see action; until then, we won't.

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