The government has been accused of overstating the depth of its consultation with farmers and rural women over its controversial paid parental leave scheme.
Under mounting pressure from his own backbench over perceived inequities in Prime Minister Tony Abbott's pet policy, acting prime minister Warren Truss insisted last week that the final shape of the scheme had not been determined because the government was ''talking with the National Farmers' Federation and rural women's groups''.
But Fairfax Media has confirmed the leadership of the NFF has never been consulted on the paid parental leave scheme, nor has Australia's largest women's group, the Country Women's Association.
The NFF doesn't even have a current policy position on paid parental leave.
Asked to clarify his comments, Mr Truss's office said the National Party leader was referring to a recent meeting between the NFF and the prime minister's office.
But that meeting was held more than four months ago, on February 11 - well before Nationals such as NSW senator John Williams and Queensland MP George Christensen started agitating publicly against the leave scheme.
They fear women working on farms will be left empty-handed, while thousands of mothers in the city access up to $50,000 over six months.
The only one at the February meeting with a prime ministerial staff member was the NFF's mid-ranking workplace relations and legal affairs manager, Brian Duggan, who has since left the NFF.
An NFF spokeswoman said president Brent Finlay and outgoing chief executive Matt Linnegar had not been aware of any discussion with the government about paid parental leave when Mr Truss made his comments, and the issue had not been considered by the NFF's workplace relations committee.
CWA president Noela MacLeod said: ''Warren Truss certainly didn't speak to us. When I saw that, I was quite amazed because we're the biggest women's group in Australia, with 45,000 members.''
A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said the CWA had now been contacted and the government had held phone meetings with the National Rural Women's Coalition and Australian Women in Agriculture.
A formal meeting with the NFF has been scheduled for this week.
''Consultation will continue to be undertaken with stakeholders to ensure … concerns for regional Australia are addressed,'' the spokeswoman said.
But Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said:
''It is apparent that Warren Truss completely misled when he said he had been consulting rural groups, including women's groups, on paid parental leave. It's clear now that this is nothing more than policy on the run.
''This is about political management rather than good policy,'' Mr Fitzgibbon said.
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