Prime Minister Julia Gillard thinks otherwise, saying she did not know how the scheme could start on time if Labor was defeated on Saturday.
“He’s taken the implementation money as a save,” she told the Nine Network of Mr Abbott’s published budget savings.
The government’s scheme, offering 18 weeks leave paid at the federal minimum wage, operates from January 1.
The coalition’s more generous scheme – 26 weeks leave paid at the mother’s salary capped to $75,000 – would begin on July 1, 2012.
Until then a coalition government would retain Labor’s scheme, Mr Abbott said.
“From the first of January next year the government’s paid parental scheme will operate for 18 months,” he told ABC Television.
“From July 2012 our much better scheme will operate.”
PM: Coalition scheme a cost to consumers
Ms Gillard said the coalition scheme came at a cost to consumers, describing the way it was funded – a 1.5 per cent temporary levy on big business – as a tax on groceries.
“You will pay for it every time you go to the shops,” she said, adding that people would have “whole families” before the coalition scheme was introduced.
Mr Abbott defended the generous nature of the coalition scheme, saying it was not a welfare measure.
“If it’s going to be a proper leave scheme as opposed to a welfare measure people should get paid at their salary.
“We should not think of taking time off work to have a baby as something extraneous to people’s real life.”
Another debate called
Meanwhile the Opposition Leader has called for another town hall style meeting before the weekend election.
Last week Mr Abbott and Ms Gillard faced undecided voters separately at the Rooty Hill RSL in Sydney, with Mr Abbott emerging the victor from a show of hands.
The opposition leader has told ABC TV the format’s better than a second leaders’ debate proposed by the PM on economic management only.
He says the election shouldn’t be determined by politicians shouting at each other but by politicians answering questions from fair-dinkum Australians.