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Battle lines drawn over parental leave

The Coalition will attempt to win over family and female voters by offering six-months paid parental leave and giving nannies similar pay and conditions as childcare workers.

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Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is said to have approved development of the policy in an attempt to outdo Labor’s taxpayer funded 18-week parental leave plan, Fairfax reported on Tuesday.

The move suggests Mr Abbott has changed his mind since advocating in his book Battlelines last year that parental leave be funded with a business levy.

Opposition spokeswoman on early childhood education and childcare, Sharman Stone, has been tasked with drafting the new proposals.

But the paper says they could potentially be more expensive than the government’s 18-week national parental leave scheme, announced last week.

Abbott under fire over ironing

Meanwhile, Mr Abbott has been branded “incredibly old-fashioned” for implying that housewives still do all the ironing.

Mr Abbott made the comment in a dry cleaners in the NSW town of Queanbeyan, as he warned of higher electricity prices under the government’s emissions trading scheme.

“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price, and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up,” Mr Abbott said.

Government minister Greg Combet took issue with Mr Abbott for landing women everywhere with the job of ironing.

“Carrying on about housewives doing the ironing at home I think only demonstrates that he really is stuck in the past,” Mr Combet told reporters in Parliament House.

“He’s been pining for the good old days… incredibly old-fashioned.”