The way Tony Abbott was recently elected prime minister of Australia could have implications for center-right parties elsewhere. His coalition softened its image and won votes with a proposed parental leave program much more generous than that of its competition; in doing so, writes Reihan Salam, it proved that family-friendly conservatism can work:
[T]he proposal, which aims to provide subsidized maternity-leave to women for up to six months, is expensive, and Abbott has called for financing it through a 1.5 percentage-point increase in the corporate tax rate on top-earners…Abbott believes that rather than imposing a mandate on firms, it’s best to provide direct subsidies….American supporters of family-friendly tax cuts will find Abbott’s call for removing the means test on Australia’s Family Tax Benefit Part A heartening. “If this were done,” Abbott writes, “people bringing up children would receive a benefit based not on their need but on the contribution that they are making to Australia’s future,” a line that might easily have been penned by National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru…Let’s keep Abbott’s support for family-friendly tax reform in mind when U.S. conservatives start championing it….Abbott has managed to combine classic pro-market politics with a call for revamping the welfare state along pro-family lines, and my guess is that this combination could prove just as successful in the United States.
The center-right shouldn’t stop at expanding parental leave policies. Telecommuting and other flex-work proposals can play a significant part in a market-friendly approach to easing burdens on middle class families. Championing these kinds of policies isn’t just politically expedient; it’s good for business as well.[Tony Abbott of the Australian Coalition is won last Saturday’s election.]