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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2336

Mr WEBSTER(8.20) —I want to make a few brief comments and to plead with the Minister to accept the amendment that has been proposed by the honourable member for Moncrieff (Mrs Sullivan). I was quite dumbfounded when my colleague told me about this legislative move by the Government. I can assure the Minister that there will be great disbelief in the community if this proposal goes through tonight. I am sure that that belief will quickly turn to revulsion and anger as people begin to understand at least what the legislation appears to be about.

Does the Government really think that the community wants or will accept that under this legislation financial support will be given to 15-year-old boys and girls who naively move out of their parents' homes into some kind of de facto relationship? Is the Government so dismissive of community norms, which are most strongly held by blue collar workers I might add, that it will seek to hammer another nail in the coffin of the institution of marriage? Is it so out of touch with the problems of vulnerability and exploitation of young girls in their mid-teens, who are in their earliest stages of sexual development, that it can so blithely-if that's what it is doing-draw up a law which will mean open season on young girls? Has the Minister been so hardened-I hope he has not-by the time he has been the Minister for Social Security that he has lost his capacity to discern the disastrous potential of this proposal, that the prospect of additional cases of unmarried and deserted mothers and more disadvantaged toddlers does not move him? This proposal should go no further. I say to the Minister, with great respect: If after all the discussion today this proposal, which legitimises government financial, and therefore moral, support for under-age de facto relationships is pushed through, I will begin campaigning tomorrow on this issue.