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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1752

Mr MILES —I refer the Prime Minister to the fact that during the last five years of the Fraser Government the dependent spouse rebate for families with dependent children almost doubled, from $555 to $1,030, a real increase of 16 per cent. Is it a fact that this Government has not increased this specific tax relief to families at all, resulting in a 23 per cent real decrease in the value of the family tax assistance? Is it also a fact that the Government has not increased the level of family allowances at all, resulting in a real decrease of over 20 per cent, and has restricted the eligibility for this family assistance?

Mr HAWKE —Madam Speaker, this question from the honourable member for-where is he from?

Madam SPEAKER —Braddon.

Mr HAWKE —The honourable member for Braddon.

Mr Howard —Aren't you clever!

Mr HAWKE —One cannot say that he is a very prominent member of the House. He is an honourable member, but not a prominent one. The question from the honourable member relating to aspects of family policy is consistent with the sort of nonsense that has come from this Opposition for several years now. Opposition members bleat that they are the party that is concerned with the family. They operate upon the assumption that the Australian family lives in some vacuum, or lives on Mars. Let us consider the realities of the treatment of Australian families by the mob opposite and by the Australian Labor Party in government. Let us consider the factors which determine the welfare of Australian families. I suggest that predominantly what will affect the welfare of Australian families is whether they have a better chance of getting a job. What was the performance of the Opposition in government in terms of providing employment opportunities for members of Australian families? I will tell honourable members what it was. In their last 12 months in government they threw another quarter of a million Australians-honourable members must remember that they were members of families-on to the unemployment scrapheap. Let us contrast that contribution--

Mr Spender —Madam Speaker, I take a point of order. Allowing for the latitude that is given to the Prime Minister, the question is about tax. It is about families. It is not about employment. It is about the effect on families of the Government's tax policies or absence of them.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister is answering the question.

Mr HAWKE —So that was the contribution of the former Government in the first major area affecting families-employment opportunities. Another quarter of a million people were thrown on the unemployment scrapheap. What have we done? We promised in February-March 1983 that we would provide another half a million jobs in three years. What did the Opposition do? It went around this country and it went overseas saying that was nonsense, that the Government could not do it. Opposition members know what the truth is. We provided more than half a million new jobs in well under three years. After four years in office, we have created three quarters of a million new jobs, which is more than double what the former Government provided in seven years.

In terms of the welfare of Australian families let us look next at education, which is also significant. What did the former Government do? When it left office what was the retention rate for kids-the members of Australian families? It was one of the worst in the Western world. Only 36 per cent of Australian kids stayed on in school beyond the compulsory age. By the end of this year, under this Government, which has a real concern for the real issues which determine the welfare of families, that retention rate will be over 50 per cent. What has been the level of real increase in funding in the primary and secondary education areas? This is where Australian families have the fundamental welfare of their kids determined. What has happened in education? The record of this Government is a 4.5 per cent real increase per annum in funds for education in our four years in office, way in excess of what the former Government did. It talked about families but in the fundamental area which affected their welfare it did nothing.

In the area of tertiary education what was the former Government's performance in its last four years in office? How many additional places did it provide in tertiary institutions for the kids of Australia?

Mr MacKellar —Madam Speaker, I take a point of order. As well as the point of relevance which has already been raised about the question being about family allowances and the dependent spouse rebate, I draw your attention to the fact that the Prime Minister has now been speaking for five minutes. I ask you to ask him to bring his answer to a close.

Madam SPEAKER —The question was a fairly broad one taking in the family. I call the Prime Minister.

Mr HAWKE —Either the Opposition takes the question of families seriously or it does not. What was its performance in the area of places in tertiary education? In its last four years in government it provided the grand additional total of another 8,000 places. That was the former Government's performance in its last four years. In our four years-against the former Government's 8,000-we have provided 37,000 additional places. We have talked about employment and education. What did the Opposition do in the other areas? In every area of fundamental importance for the families of this country our record is something of which we can be proud and against which we stand in stark contrast to the Opposition's neglect of Australian families.

When this Government targets the limited resources of the Commonwealth Government into the areas of education and job creation, it cannot just keep dipping into a limitless exchequer-having created a job creation scheme and having had a 4.5 per cent per annum increase in real terms for education-and saying: `Oh, yes, we have another great stack of money here. We will pour all that in, in an undifferentiated way, into the family allowance and the dependent spouse rebate'. This Government has tackled the essentials which go to the welfare of Australian families. We have exercised responsible budgetary constraint. We have brought the Budget deficit down from 5 per cent of gross domestic product to 1 1/2 per cent. In doing that, we have created the circumstances where we have been able to do these things. If the Opposition wants to have an argument in this country about the relative performance of its parties on the real things that determine the welfare of Australia's families, against our performance, we will have that debate any time and we will wipe the floor with the Opposition.