Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Inga Williams

Gillard claims Abbott still 'doesn't get' working women

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard says the Coalition's initial rejection of a Labor MP's request to leave Canberra early so she could care for her sick child is proof Opposition Leader Tony Abbott "doesn't get it" when it comes to "working women".

Greenway MP Michelle Rowland wrote to Chief Government Whip Chris Hayes on Tuesday asking to be excused from 6pm on Thursday because her "baby has been unwell".

Mr Hayes wrote to Chief Opposition Whip Warren Entsch seeking a "pair" - a convention whereby an MP excuses themselves from a vote to even the ledger when an opponent cannot be in the chamber for a good reason - clearly citing it was on the grounds Ms Rowland's child was sick.

It was a request Mr Entsch denied in writing on Wednesday, before later reversing his decision on Thursday morning.

That was after Manager of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne made a clumsy attempt to defend the decision, telling reporters in Canberra no reason had been given for the request.

But despite the Coalition's eventual change of heart in granting the pair, Ms Gillard did not miss the opportunity to attack her opponent.

"What has happened with this matter makes an absolute mockery of everything the Leader of the Opposition has ever said about working women," Ms Gillard said.

"It just shows so clearly that he doesn't get it."

Given the tight numbers in the current hung Parliament, the issue of granting pairs has been particularly contentious since 2010.

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