Parental leave, Green Army unwanted says Nationals candidate

THE NATIONALS candidate for Barker says the Coalition's paid parental leave scheme is unwanted and unaffordable.

First time candidate Miles Hannemann made the comments after a fiery clash over his Coalition credentials with his Liberal opponent Tony Pasin on Friday.

Mr Hannemann and Mr Pasin traded blows at a candidate's forum in the south eastern town of Keith after Mr Pasin suggested a vote for Mr Hannemann may not mean a vote for the Coalition.

Mr Hannemann rejected the claim yesterday but said it was true he opposed some of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's signature policies because they were too expensive and inefficient.

"I've been talking to people and getting opinions (on paid parental leave) and country people are coming out and saying we all raised our children without it," Mr Hannemann said.

"The people in the country don't want it and at the moment we can't afford it.

"They don't want to burden their children with the cost."

The Coalition has promised to pay parents up to $75,000 for six months under its parental leave scheme, a policy that has formed the centrepiece of Mr Abbott's campaign and has been a key battle front in the campaign to date.

Mr Hannemann also hit out at the Coalition's Green Army policy, which would see thousands of young people mobilised around the country to tackle environmental projects.

He said Opposition Environment spokesman Greg Hunt's office had been in touch over his opposition to that plan.

"I agree with planting trees but we've already got organisations in place to deal with it and we don't need to re-invent the wheel," Mr Hannemann.

"Greg Hunt's chief of staff rang me to ask why I'm derailing this - I say I'm not derailing I'm trying to run it better.

"It will cost $19 per tree, she said, and we're currently doing it for three cents - they didn't even think where the tube stock would come from."

Mr Hannemann said he planned to sit with the Coalition if elected despite the lack of a formal Coalition agreement in South Australia.

He acknowledged he was not toeing the party line but said that was why he decided to join the Nationals.

"My job is to take the people of Barker to Canberra, not to bring Canberra to Barker," he said.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott's office did not respond to questions from The Standard but Federal Finance Minister Penny Wong said Mr Hannemann was correct.

"Mr Abbott's paid parental leave scheme is unaffordable and unfair," she said.

"Economists are against it, many Australians don't want it and even Tony Abbott's colleagues in the National Party think it's just bad policy."

"Mr Abbott's scheme will give $75,000 to wealthy Australians, which he'll pay for by cutting education and health and support for families."

"All Australians will pay for Mr Abbott's very expensive signature policy."

Both the Liberals and Nationals are contesting the seat of Barker, which is currently held by outgoing Liberal MP Patrick Secker on a 13 per cent margin.

It is the second time in the past six years the Nationals have challenged for the Liberal stronghold.

The last time was in 2007 when the Nationals' Deb Thiele was soundly beaten by Mr Secker.

Clash: Liberal Barker candidate Tony Pasin jousts with his Nationals opponent Miles Hannemann at Keith. Photo: Benn Gransden

Clash: Liberal Barker candidate Tony Pasin jousts with his Nationals opponent Miles Hannemann at Keith. Photo: Benn Gransden