Tony Abbott wants middle-class women to have more children

Tony Abbott wants middle-class women to have more children

Tony Abbott
On Sunday morning I woke up feeling rather rough. A week earlier I’d been struck down with a solid virus (not of the corona-variety) and the effects still lingered. In a bid to distract myself from my physical malaise I reached for my phone.

Reader, I very rarely swear but upon scanning various news items a series of expletives flew from my mouth. FFS, is the polite version. I wasn’t polite.

Between the inexplicable, opportunistic pledge shamelessly proffered by Tanya Plibersek, to Ken Wyatt’s insistence that January 26 is the appropriate date to ‘celebrate‘ Australia Day, to the never-ending revelations about Bridget McKenzie’s various allegiances with sporting clubs, to Scott Morrison’s comments about hazard-reduction being climate action, to Bettina Arndt being recognised for services to gender equity, I could’t help but hope it was all a sick joke. Has the world actually gone mad, I wondered?

I quickly tapped out a tweet asking as much before storming off to the bathroom for a shower.

Thirty minutes later when I next looked at my phone, it seemed my sentiments were shared.

Folks, three days later I’m astonished to report things were just getting started.

Since Sunday morning it’s been revealed that Bettina Arndt is not even a psychologist as has been portrayed.

The Financial Review‘s Phillip Coorey broke the news that the Prime Minister (aka as Scotty from marketing) paid top dollar to bring Russel from marketing to his office before Christmas for some training on how to sell policies. True story.

The ABC’s Andrew Probyn revealed that the coalition had a colour-coded map for which sporting associations and clubs would receive grants before the election (hint: only those in marginal seats) which Sport Australia warned the minister’s office was compromising its independence.

Here’s a list of clubs that missed out.

And, then, the former prime minister and one-time minister for women, Tony Abbott  weighed in calling for middle class women to have more children.

“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,” Abbott said. “If you’re very wealthy you can afford to have as many kids as you want.”

IS THIS EVEN REAL? I fear 2020 is set to become the year swearing becomes my new normal. And i suspect that is going to the be least of all problems.

Tony Abbott prefaced his call for the “wealthy”  women of the world to procreate in greater numbers with this.

“While I’m all in favour of stay-at-home-mums if that’s their choice, I do think that 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.”

That, making it easier for women to combine work and family responsibilities is an ambition I share. Passionately. But, Tony and I depart ways there. His remarks are so many shades of ill-informed it’s hard to know where to begin.

Making it easier for parents to combine work and family is precisely how more women can create financial independence and security that would mean they are less likely to need government support.

Making it easier for parents to combine paid work and family is more important for women on lower incomes than wealthier women because, surprise!, paid work is how individuals have any chance of creating economic security, let alone ‘wealth’.

Perhaps the reason middle-class women have fewer children (if that is indeed the case) is because they recognise that having fewer children might be the easiest way to ensure and maintain their financial security?

Raising children is expensive and Australia lacks the critical social infrastructure like affordable, universal childcare and adequate paid parental leave policies that make it easier for families.

Also, too many workplaces in Australia remain poorly equipped at supporting employees to balance their caring responsibilities, in part because of entrenched archaic social views from the 1950s about gender roles. (The ironing Tony, remember the ironing?)

The fact the bulk of the day to day responsibility for raising children and running homes still sits overwhelmingly with women is another very legitimate obstacle that women may consider when making decisions about how many children, if any, they would like.

Because children are incredibly expensive, Australia lacks the critical social infrastructure like affordable, universal childcare and adequate paid parental leave politics that makes it easier, and too many workplaces in Australia remain poorly equipped at supporting employees to balance their caring responsibilities.

The fact the bulk of the day to day responsibility for raising children and running homes still sits overwhelmingly with women is another very legitimate obstacle that women consider when making decisions about how many children, if any, they wold like.

Yet, no where did Tony Abbott make the point that if employers, governments and even fathers were more intentional and committed to encouraging an equal distribution of parenting and unpaid care work, then perhaps the idea of more children might be considered by more women.

Of the myriad reasons making it easier for all Australians to combine their family responsibilities with paid work is a critical objective, helping richer women to have more children is the least compelling.

Can this week please end already? I’m not sure I can take much more of this.

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