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Australian opposition leader fights sexist perceptions with generous parental leave policy

Australia's opposition leader Tony Abbott is fighting perceptions that he is sexist and has old-fashioned attitudes by proposing a parental leave policy that even his allies say is too generous.

Abbott's conservative coalition is tipped to win elections on Sept. 7 even though he remains unpopular among women voters. But despite Australia's dwindling tax revenue, Abbott on Wednesday defended his plan to spend 5.5 billion Australian dollars ($5 billion) a year on paying mothers to stay home from work.

Mothers with babies would be paid the equivalent of their usual salary of up to AU$150,000 a year to take six months off work.

Australian mothers are currently entitled to AU$622 a week for 18 weeks for maternity leave.