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Tuesday, 16 October 1984
Page: 1744


Senator CROWLEY —Has the Minister for Social Security seen the article in today' s Age headed 'Child Support Awards unrealistic, study finds', which reports the study by the Institute of Family Studies commissioned by the Family Law Council for guidelines on maintenance payments in the Family Court? Is the Minister aware of the findings, which report that not only maintenance but also family allowances and pension child supplements are insufficient to meet the real costs of rearing a child in 1984? Can the Minister comment on the report and its findings and on whether the Government will be responding to the report?


Senator GRIMES —I did see the article referring to the report. Unfortunately I have not received a copy of the report, nor has my Department, although I will be asking the Department and my office to obtain a copy as soon as possible. I understand that, as I think Senator Crowley implied, the report is aimed primarily at assisting the Family Law Council with clearer guidelines on maintenance for use by the Family Court in determination of payments in this area. In this context the determination of maintenance by the Family Court falls under the jurisdiction of my colleague the Attorney-General. I am, of course, concerned about arrangements for maintenance in this area and I am concerned that it should be of maximum benefit to the parent who has the responsibility for the child.

With respect to the social security payments Senator Crowley mentioned, family allowances and their precursors-child endowment, tax deductions and, later, tax rebates that we have had in this country over many years-have never been intended to cover the full costs of raising children. They are intended to supplement the incomes of those who raise children and are some recognition of the costs of parenthood, but they are certainly not meant to cover the full costs. While increases in the level of general family allowances have not kept up with inflation since they were introduced, this must be considered in a budgetary context. I point out that to increase family allowances by $1 a week would cost $225m a year. So the scope for increase in this area, particularly in tight budgetary situations in times of high deficits, is not very great, no matter how much the Minister for Social Security or other senators would like to increase it. The Government has, however, targeted increased payments to pensioners and beneficiaries with children and single supporting parent pensioners with children, so that the increases in funds we did have available in this area were directed to those in most need. I will look at the report when I obtain a copy. I would certainly like to respond to it at some time. As I have not seen a copy, I do not think I am in a position to respond any more than I already have.