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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 1931

Senator Button —On 23 February 1987 (Hansard, page 412) Senator Chaney asked me, in my capacity as Leader of the Government in the Senate, a supplementary question without notice concerning the change in the relative position of poor families with dependent children as a result of the Government's policies. I undertook to provide Senator Chaney with a reply on this matter. I now supply the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

In the context of economic circumstances which require significant adjustment to the living standards of all Australians, Government policies have sought to ensure the maximum possible protection of the position of low income families.

The Government has focused significant increases in assistance on social security recipients with dependent children. For example, the Government has increased the additional pension/benefit for children by 33% in real terms from $10 to $17 per week per child.

Between March 1983 and December 1986 the real disposable income of a sole parent pensioner with two children (renting privately) increased by 10%. For a married pensioner couple with two children (renting privately), the Government has increased their real disposable income by 7%.

As well as increasing the level of benefits available to pensioner families with dependent children, the Government has taken action to address poverty traps for families making the transition to the workforce. In July this year the income-test free threshold for married couples will be raised from $50 to $70 per week, and the additional income-test free area for a dependent child will be doubled from $6 to $12 per child per week. As well the separate income test for rent assistance will be abolished, giving about 300 000 people up to $15 extra a week.

The Government has also taken measures to increase assistance to low income families in the workforce. Like the additional pension/benefit for children, the Family Income Supplement has been increased from $10 to $17 per child per week.

The scope for further Government action to protect and improve the position of low income families will be determined in the context of the framing of the 1987-88 Budget. However, as part of the Social Security Review a major issues paper concerning options for improving family assistance (with increased emphasis on low income families) has been released for community discussion. A Cabinet Sub-Committee has been established to develop proposals for reform which draw on the work of the Social Security Review.


Senator Button —On 23 March 1987 (Hansard, page 1117) Senator Michael Baume asked me, as Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Youth Affairs, a question without notice concerning newspaper reports that $67m out of $103m allocated in Federal funding for job creation programs in New South Wales had not yet been spent. I undertook to provide him with an answer to the question as soon as possible. The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Youth Affairs has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

No, the report is not correct. Of the $103.6 million mentioned in the report $63 million has been provided by the Commonwealth under the Community Employment Program (CEP). Despite the late start to CEP in 1986-87 in N.S.W., I understand that this allocation will be fully spent.

The remaining $40.6 million has been provided by the N.S.W. State Government and is not Commonwealth funds. Responsibility for its allocation and spending falls within the portfolio of Mr Pat Hills (N.S.W. Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment) and, as such, it would not be appropriate for me to comment.