No offence meant, according to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, when he remarked today that the Gillard Government was sorely lacking in raising up kids, exactly the reason it can easily cutback baby bonus payments.
In an interview with Fairfax, Mr Abbott clarified that he was directly alluding to his own experience as a family man and not insinuating anything about Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
What were said on early Monday pointed to the Coalition's vehement opposition to the government's planned reductions to family assistance payments, which would be pushed down to $3,000 from the current level of $5,000 for second and subsequent kids, the Liberal leader explained.
On Monday, Treasurer Wayne Swan said in his economic review that necessary budget cuts would lead to "changes to the baby bonus . . . (bringing) it more into line with actual costs of having children."
"After the first child you've already bought the cot, the pram and other items you can use again," Mr Swan reasoned.
But the treasurer's argument did not sit well with Mr Abbott, quipping in an interview with Seven Network today: "I think if the government was a bit more experienced in this area, they wouldn't come out with glib lines like that."
Critics and Labor figures immediately seized on the comments, suggesting that the Coalition leader appeared to be side-swiping on Ms Gillard, who is childless by choice.
The statement, according to Trade Minister Craig Emerson, sparked some curiously, adding in an interview with Sky News that it is incumbent on Mr Abbott to orient the public on what he really meant.
He did not mean to rekindle the spirited word-war between Labor and the Coalition two weeks ago, highlighted by the fiery speech let out at the Parliament by Ms Gillard, the opposition leader said today.
Mr Abbott stressed that his words were innocent enough "and this was as innocent as a comment can be."
"If she wants to take offence, of course I'm sorry about that. And if she would like me to say sorry, I'm sorry," Mr Abbott told Fairfax while insisting too that bringing up the topic of Ms Gillard being childless was far from his mind.
Yet it was obvious that the opposition leader was deliberate, according to Labor backbencher Stephen Jones.
"He says his views on women have changed, yet finds every opportunity to play with prejudice," the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported Mr Jones as saying on Tuesday.
For his part, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey viewed Labor's stand on the matter as nothing short of pathetic.
When reached for comments on the matter, Ms Gillard merely said: "I think Mr Abbott can explain what he meant by that line."
The main issue, the prime minister told ABC, is the government is hard-at-work to realise a healthy budget for the nation with some form of sacrifices and one of them is "a structural save on the baby bonus."
She also denied accusations by the Coalition that her government was resorting to 'vicious and savage cuts' just so to deliver the promised budget surplus on 2012, noting that amid the saving measures federal authorities are committed in helping Australian households.
Ms Gillard pointed to the Schoolkids Bonus, which takes the heat off from the host of living pressures that Aussies encounter every day, she added.
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