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Wednesday, 5 September 1984
Page: 499


Senator HARRADINE(4.56) —Because of time constraints and because at a later date I desire to present to the Senate in greater detail some facts and figures in relation to this whole area of the family, I will be brief. I do not enter this debate in any partisan sense and I do not wish my contribution to be entirely on the side of the Opposition. What I do wish to do is state a few facts which I hope both parties will take into account particularly at this time when we are considering options for the platforms of the next election.

Last Sunday happened to be Fathers Day but I consider that the mothers of this country have not had a fair deal from the Budgets over at least the last five years. Obviously mothers, and I speak here about the various roles of the mother , are the physical preservers of life and the moral providers of truth but in addition to that the mother's skills are very many. I ask honourable senators to consider for a moment how one would devise a newspaper advertisement for a carer or housekeeper to care for one's children. What part of the positions vacant column would one use-teacher, nurse, welfare worker, psychiatrist, counsellor, dressmaker, accountant, dietician, chauffeur, cleaner? All of those skills come to mind. There can be no price tag on the unbounded love of mothers but do we collectively acknowledge the distinguished status of motherhood? I do not think we do. Individually we may, but successive Budgets have not recognised the contributions that mothers make, even the financial contributions, to the gross domestic product of this nation. Indeed, the value of the unpaid work of a mother is not contained in the gross domestic product figures. This is of concern. Their work ought to be recognised. In some way it had been recognised by the implementation of a new scheme of family allowances in 1976 whereby the taxation deduction which was available to the taxpayer in respect of his or her children was abolished and the money saved was put into family allowances. I praised that, because the money was going to the mother; it was not really going to the taxpayer. In most cases the taxpayer was the father. In this way it was taking the money out of the father's back pocket and putting it into the mother' s purse. I said on that occasion: 'Whilst that is a good idea, let us hope that it is not a three-card trick'. In order to maintain the situation of the one- income family at that time, it would have been essential to ensure that the family allowances were indexed. The plain fact of the matter is that the family allowances have not been indexed. Therefore, what occurred in 1976 was a real confidence trick on the one-income families in Australia.

I am particularly concerned about low income families, but I am concerned about all families, particularly those getting to the poverty line; not only those who are under the poverty line but those who are getting to it. I have promised to be very brief, but I should like to repeat what was told to me by Kevin Cairns. In the survey he had analysed for the travel industry, it was clearly demonstrated that travel and holidays by family groups had dramatically declined over recent years. That, if anything, would be an indicator of how one-income families with children are getting on. The first thing people do if they are feeling the pinch is to say to mum and the kids: 'I am sorry; we cannot go off on holiday this year'. The facts are there in a totally unrelated survey, and I am quite happy to give the Government or the Opposition the details of that survey.

Because of the failure to index family allowances, a family with three children is now $519.60 a year worse off than they were in 1976. In order to support that viewpoint, Mr Deputy President, I seek leave for the incorporation in Hansard of a chart prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Statistics Group on family allowance, which sets out the loss that has been incurred by the failure to index family allowances since 1976.

Leave granted.

The chart read as follows-

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY STATISTICS GROUP

Family Allowance

($ per month)

Estimated at

May 1976 Existing (a) May 1984 (b) Loss (c)

First child 15.20 22.80 33.00 10.20 Second child 21.70 32.55 47.15 14.60 Third child 26.00 39.00 56.50 17.50 Fourth child 26.00 39.00 56.50 17.50 Fifth and subsequent children 30.35 45.55 65.90 20.35

(a) Actual rates as at May 1984.

(b) Rate from May 1984 if May 1976 rates had been indexed by movements in the Consumer Price Index.

(c) Difference between Estimated and Existing rates.

Compiled at request by the Statistics Group of the Legislative Research Service .


Senator HARRADINE —I thank the Senate. It may be said that not all families are one-income families and not all families have children. That is true, but the situation is that most families come within that definition at some time; not if one just takes a snapshot of the whole situation, but at some time they go through that situation. It is that stage of the family's development, when they are nurturing children, that they are finding most difficult. I appeal to the Government and to the Opposition that when they are considering their proposals, which they will naturally consider to put to the people, to have regard to this situation, and that, as a matter of social justice and common sense, they should recognise that families are feeling the pinch in the current economic climate, that many families can no longer survive on one income, and that the necessary but unwanted second job is taken, creating strains on the family and pressures on employment. About that subject I shall speak later, but, in view of the time, I do not intend to proceed any further now.