Women could get pregnant to avail paid maternity leave and then abort, an Australian said Wednesday, prompting a huge outcry.
Mr. Steve Fielding, from the conservative Family First Party, said women could attempt to cheat the centre-left Labor government's plans for paid leave by deliberately conceiving a child they never intended to have.
The government hopes to introduce the country's first paid parental leave scheme from January 1. Under the scheme, parents will be entitled to 18 weeks paid leave at 543 dollars (470 US) per week to care for their newborn.
The new benefits could also apply to women who have stillborn babies, and Fielding said this made it unclear what entitlements were allowed to those who terminated their pregnancies.
"Drug addicts and welfare cheats can go out there and get themselves pregnant and then after 20 weeks have an abortion and still pocket the government's cash," he said.
"We don't need assurances, we need to make sure this is in the law," he told parliament. "There may be mums out there who want to cheat the system in an horrific way."
The paid parental leave legislation, which is being debated in the Senate, allows for women who have stillbirths to claim the payment.
The government dismissed the claim, saying the benefit would not apply to women who chose to end a pregnancy.
Labor Senator Ursula Stevens says the laws are clear.
She says a medical practitioner must certify that a stillborn child was delivered before the Government payment is made.
"The notion that someone would for the purposes of receiving the baby bonus or paid parental leave would proceed to a post 20-week pregnancy and then procure an abortion for that purposes is really the most incongruous thing that anyone might consider could happen," she said.
Nationals Senate Leader Barnaby Joyce was angered by Senator Fielding's comments, accusing him of a "base form of politics" by bringing abortion into the debate.
"It is contemptuous to believe that you are working what I would suggest is a wedge, what I would suggest is a political chess manoeuvring by the most minor pawn in the most base way for a certain outcome what I don't believe its genuinely held," he said.