Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to radically water down, or dump entirely, his paid parental leave scheme in a bid to shore up support among frustrated backbench MPs.
Mr Abbott, who was heavily criticised for awarding a knighthood to Prince Phillip this week, will use a major speech to the National Press Club on Monday to try to reset the government’s message for the year ahead.
He is expected to flag a focus on improved access to childcare in his speech.
According to reports in News Corporation newspapers on Saturday, the paid parental leave scheme will be “dumped”; another report says the scheme will be shelved until the budget is back in surplus.
The PPL scheme was Mr Abbott’s original “captain’s pick”: he announced the policy in 2010 without taking it to cabinet. The Coalition has since taken it to two elections despite strong opposition from a majority of Mr Abbott’s colleagues.
The policy, to have been funded in part by a 1.5 per cent levy on big business, would have paid mothers a replacement wage for 26 weeks. The scheme was due to begin in July this year but has not been introduced to Parliament.
The current government-funded scheme pays mothers the minimum wage for 18 weeks.
Following months of poor polling results and struggles to get controversial health and education changes through the Senate, Mr Abbott’s knighthood decision ignited fierce criticism from backbench MPs.
Fairfax Media revealed on Saturday that government members have approached Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull about running for the leadership. Both resisted the push to challenge .