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Tuesday, 23 October 1984
Page: 2206

Senator GILES —Will the Minister for Social Security explain the carefully developed priorities of the Hawke Government in relation to the provision of children's services and assistance to the families for which such services are established?

Senator GRIMES —The Government has taken the view that the most efficient and equitable way to provide child care services and enhance existing services is via direct capital and recurrent cost funding to community based groups which manage child care facilities and by providing financial assistance to those unable to meet the full cost of child care. To this end we have given a very high priority to child care. In the last 18 months, since coming to office, we have provided $40m for new services and initiatives-$10m in the first Budget and $30m in the 1984-85 Budget. In 1984-85 we will see a very dramatic increase in the number of child care places because of this funding and because of the co- operation between the Federal Government and the State governments in the provision of child care places.

This contrasts with a virtual freezing of funds for new services by the previous Government in its last two years of office and a decline in real terms in Commonwealth expenditure over its whole period of office. This additional money will now be spent in high need areas or the introduction of new and innovative services for disadvantaged people in particular-for example, the children of unemployed, single parents, new migrants, Aboriginals and disabled children. We believe that this concentration on the less affluent areas and the more needy groups in the community is important. We will continue to fund in this way and we will continue to have a high priority in areas of high need. I am pleased to see that we will continue to get co-operation from the States to this end.

It is, therefore, with interest that I note, in passing, the new policy announced by the present Opposition and previous Government, which is apparently willing to forgo some $200m in revenue on a rebate for child care. However, during its time in office it was unable to expend any extra money at all and in fact was responsible for a real decline in funds. It is willing to spend money on a rebate which in fact will go to those who are paying taxes and which will be of no assistance to those who are on low incomes or pensions and benefits and do not pay taxes. When the tax rebate in the Oppositions taxation policy is viewed against the extraordinary vagueness of its social security policy, which many people will be surprised to know was also released yesterday, one wonders whether the social security policy was not released at the same time as the tax policy to make sure that no one noticed that it was around. No mention is made of figures in the extraordinarily vague child care provision in the Opposition's social security policy. It is claimed that the policy will give no assistance in special areas. It seems to me that the only undertaking is the tax rebate mentioned in the Opposition's taxation policy. That rebate, I repeat, will benefit those who are paying the most tax and those who are wealthy and is in extraordinary contrast to the willingness to spend almost $200m on child care through taxation forgone in a coming government when in a previous government the Opposition was willing not only to spend nothing more but also to decrease expenditure as the years went by.