SYDNEY - An Australian senator prompted outcry Wednesday after suggesting that proposed new parental benefits could see women get pregnant and then have abortions simply to claim paid maternity leave.
The outspoken Steve Fielding, from the conservative Family First Party, said women could attempt to cheat the centre-left Labour 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 (S$653.60) 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 government dismissed the claim, saying the benefit would not apply to women who chose to end a pregnancy.
"The notion that someone would, for the purposes of receiving ... paid parental leave, proceed to a post 20-week pregnancy and then procure an abortion for that purpose is really the most incongruous thing that anyone might consider could happen," government Senator Ursula Stevens said.