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Can the GOP Learn From Australia's Liberals?


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.]

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  • bpuharic

    He proposed a medical leave act?

    I’m old enough to remember the debate over our own FMLA. The GOP…claiming itself to be pro family…is profamily until a program comes along that benefits the middle class. THEN it bares its fangs and shows how deeply it despises working Americans.

    The GOP opposed the FMLA, calling it ‘socialist’ like they do Obamacare today. The ONLY way it got through congress was that it’s unpaid.

    And in today’s extremist environment, it’s a mark of how out of touch WRM is that he thinks such a program would stand a snowball’s chance of even being DISCUSSED, let alone passed.

  • Bob_from_Ohio

    Raise taxes to give free stuff to people. Very conservative.

    Abbott seems like a great guy for Australia but on economic issues, he’d be a typical Obama/Clinton/Boxer liberal here. Abortion and gay marriage seems the only exceptions.

    His party grabbed Australian guns too.

  • Corlyss

    I doubt it. The GOP can’t even learn from its own mistakes, never mind someone else’s successes.

  • crocodilechuck

    Bob from Ohio nailed it. The author of this post betrays his/her ignorance of Australia. The legacy parties are both centre leaning, and enervated-they stand for nothing. Last, the Libs didn’t win this election. The Labour Party lost it.

    • Kevin

      Right. The main lesson is that the opposition can win the election when the governing party start staging palace coups against each other. The moral of this story is that the GOP should get the Clintons to tear into Obama. I hope they have a better plan than this for 2016.
      I fear the Liberals have won a poisoned chalice – if China’s slowdown means a serious drop in raw materials imports Australia’s economy is likely to suffer grievously and in three years the voters will blame the government. Plus the revenues for all this new spending simply aren’t going to be there if this happens.

      • crocodilechuck

        Astute observations. Who WOULD want to lead Australia for the next three years?

        • f1b0nacc1

          But he does have a cute puppy….

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