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Thursday, 20 June 1996
Page: 1939

Senator MACKAY —My question is to the Minister for Social Security.

Senator Patterson —Now they will stop talking. They are not talking any more.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I wish you would stop talking, Senator.

Senator Michael Baume —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Is it even-handed to criticise a government senator who has pointed out to you that there has been nonstop and deliberate conversation on the other side all through question time so far whenever one of our side is on his feet? You have done absolutely nothing about it. Are you going to do anything about it or are you only going to criticise a government senator who points out what Labor is doing?

The PRESIDENT —Order! I have pulled people up several times. I have pulled the whole chamber up. If you would lift—

Senator Michael Baume —You said on both sides.

The PRESIDENT —Order! If you would lift the veil of prejudice from your eyes, you would realise that it was occurring on both sides right through that period.

Senator Michael Baume —Rubbish! Absolute nonsense!

The PRESIDENT —Order! Withdraw that remark. It is a reflection on the chair.

Senator Michael Baume —I withdraw. May I say, Mr President, I am disgusted by your behaviour.

The PRESIDENT —Are you withdrawing? Do you withdraw unconditionally?

Senator Michael Baume —I withdraw unconditionally.

Senator MACKAY —My question is to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the coalition's family tax initiative announced during the election campaign and described as a `core commitment' by the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago. I ask the minister: will the income limit on the $1,000 per child increase in the tax free threshold be $70,000 for a family with one child? Will the income limit on the $2,500 increase in the tax free threshold for single income families with a child under five be $65,000 for a family with one child. Will these limits increase by $3,000 for each additional child?

Senator NEWMAN —I am very glad to find that the opposition has finally registered that the government has some exciting proposals for Australia's families.

Senator Carr —Like sacking them! Like taking away their industrial rights!


Senator NEWMAN —Mr President, it is pretty clear that they just are not yet settled into what they are, and that is the opposition. They are finding it a bit hard to cope with, and they certainly do not like to hear good news stories from the government. While I am not prepared, as the senator would realise, to give her the details of our family tax package, which will be revealed in the budget, I can assure the senator that we are intent on keeping our commitments to Australian families.

The reason is that you let them down and they voted for us. They were looking for a new way. They have encouragement from this side of politics, which they did not get for 13 years under you. Which government was it that oversaw the descent of so many families into poverty? That such a disgraceful situation exists for many of Australia's children, that we are condemned by international organisations, that we are condemned by overseas studies as being—

Senator West —What are you going to do? Answer the question.

Senator NEWMAN —You do not like to hear the truth, do you? Our family tax initiative is going to mean help for the majority of Australian families. But we were praised, in particular, during the election for the initiative for the fact that it has particular relevance and importance for low to middle income families, including sole parent families. Many of those parents who are struggling to raise their children on their own are subject to a life of extreme poverty. This government is concerned for them. Our family tax initiative will be very meaningful to them in addition to other families.

Senator MACKAY —Has the minister, in the conduct of her ministerial responsibilities, cited or annotated any document which supports changing the parameters of the coalition's family tax initiative?

Senator Vanstone —Why would anybody tell you?

Senator NEWMAN —I think you have your answer. The straight answer to the senator is that I do not intend to discuss with her the inner workings of the government.