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Wednesday, 5 September 1984
Page: 477

Senator WALTERS —My question, which is addressed to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women, is in three parts. While I support the assistance given in the Budget to disadvantaged women, I ask: Why has the Government again belittled women who choose a full time homemaker's role to one in the paid work force by refusing to increase the dependent spouse rebate? Is the Government aware that the tax disadvantage to a single income family on $26, 000 a year, with a dependent spouse and children, compared to a two income family on the same total income, has grown from $26.70 a week more for the single income family as compared to the two income family to $34.30 more? Since the Government has refused to increase the rebate in its two Budgets, I ask whether it is conditioning the public to a phasing out of the rebate after the election, in accordance with the wishes of the radical feminists, including those on the Government benches.

Senator RYAN —Senator Walters's first two questions really seem to come down to why was the Budget in the form it was in and not in some other form. I suggest that Senator Walters direct her attention to the special document that I tabled in the Senate on Budget night called 'Women's Budget Program', which contains a very detailed account of all of the budgetary measures which will have direct benefit to women. That includes women who are full time housewives, women who are mothers, aged women and women who are recipients of a wide variety of government services. The women's Budget document is a most impressive document and contains a great deal of detail which it was not possible to put into the main speech but which has been met with universal acclaim from women's organisations. If Senator Walters were to read that document she would have a much clearer idea of what a constructive and positive Budget the 1984 Budget was for women, whatever their circumstances.

As to the question of the rebate and other taxation matters affecting women, it is the intention of the Government, as has been announced, to investigate the taxation system with a view to making it more equitable and of course increased equity in the taxation system will have direct benefit to women who, in many circumstances, are disadvantaged by the present taxation system. What particular reforms our Government will make to the taxation system is a matter on which Senator Walters will have to await a Government decision.

Senator WALTERS —I ask a supplementary question. Senator Ryan did not answer any of the questions that I asked her. She said that-

The PRESIDENT —Order! Will the honourable senator ask the supplementary question .

Senator WALTERS —Mr President, as you are well aware, I am attempting to ask it.

The PRESIDENT —Will you ask the question and not make a statement.

Senator WALTERS —I ask the Minister: Is the Government aware of that particular disadvantage? Is the Government intending to phase out the dependent spouse rebate? Why is it that in the interim of redoing the whole of the taxation system it has not increased the dependent spouse rebate? Those three questions have not been answered.

Senator RYAN —I refer Senator Walters to the answer I gave to her previous question.