Friday, September 6, 2013

Australia's Upside-Down Election

Australians are headed to the polls today, and from an American perspective, the expected results are completely bizarre. For one, the Labor government has delivered growth 8% real GDP per capita and yet appears headed for a clear defeat. For two, this is the centerpiece of the center-right party's campaign:
His [center-right PM candidate Tony Abbott's] biggest election promise is a more generous paid parental leave scheme, offering mothers up to $75,000 for six months' leave at an annual cost of $5.5bn – a policy deeply unpopular with his party and the business community but which Abbott cites as evidence that he and his party "get" the lives and needs of modern women, despite Gillard's now-famous speech labelling him a misogynist.
Australia has about 1/15th the population, and the Australian dollar is slightly weaker than the US dollar, so this would equate to a $70-76 billion expansion in the US economy. By comparison, Medicare part D cost the government $62 billion. Obviously conservative American politicians can be convinced to enact large expansions of the welfare state, but paid family leave doesn't seem to be on the political agenda at all in this country. This leaves us on a short list with Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland of countries that don't offer family leave.
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