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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2332


Senator PETER BAUME(3.10) —Whatever changes are occurring in Australian families, and there are changes occurring, the fact remains, as revealed in the 1981 family profile, that 84.5 per cent of Australians live in families; that is, six out of seven Australians live in families. That includes more than 60 per cent of Australians who live in what are called conventional families composed of two parents and dependent children. That is the nature of our society at present. The family unit is the rock on which Australian society is built. It is the unit of mutual support. It is the unit for love. It is the unit for standard setting. It is the unit for cultural and ethical transmission from generation to generation. It is the unit for the development of interpersonal relationships. It is a very important, valuable and positive unit in Australian society.

Australians realise that the certainties of 20 years ago are no longer with us. Australians understand that this is a more hostile world, a less certain world, a rapidly changing world with new and increasing problems and with great pressures and great stresses. But in this world, in the Australia of today, the need for mutual support is greater than it has ever been. The support that families, a variety of families, are able to provide is more necessary now than it has ever been. The need for back-up is greater now. The need for a haven for people is greater now. The need for assistance with such things as accommodation and schooling is greater now than it has ever been. It is the family that can provide these strengths. It is families par excellence which provide this support for Australians today. Because this is so, governments must act to enhance, support and look after the family. They must support it and sustain it. The policies which they produce and the programs which come out of those policies must demonstrate this support.

It is a sad but quite obvious fact that Labor neither understands families, nor has policies for or cares about families. The Liberal and National parties are unwavering in their support for families and of the role of families in strengthening and sustaining Australian society. Our policies which we have announced in the last weeks and even in the last days are directed to showing practical support of and practical encouragement to families and to demonstrate our commitment to families. It is proper that policies and programs should do so -policies and programs which translate the rhetoric of political activity into actions which affect us all.

This Labor Government, this mob of socialists, whilst it has tried to conceal its intentions, has acted to make families less secure, less certain, less confident and less able to do the job which they want to do and which they do best. Family allowances are worth less in real terms, as is the spouse rebate. This Government has opposed the kind of income splitting we have advocated to help single income families. We have seen increased imposts on families, whether by direct tax or indirect tax. We have seen offered a tax cut which does not even cover the extra tax collections so that families are worse off. We say that this Government neither understands nor cares about families. An example comes to mind. Mr Keating, the Federal Treasurer, just two days ago speaking on radio 3AW in Melbourne, said:

Our policy is not in favour of the family unit as a taxpaying unit.

He expressed quite correctly his Party's philosophy. That statement also explains the basis for some of the Government's legislation, some of its programs and some of its approach. Another example comes to mind straight away in the area of schooling. Apart from Labor's failure to honour its promises to public education where three out of four of our children receive their education , we find that Labor has found it easier to talk of wealthy schools in the non- government sector. It forgets entirely that it should be talking about parents and families who are struggling and sacrificing to give opportunities to their children. The rhetoric which Labor uses never supports the family, nor is it directed to family needs. In addition, we know that families are worse off financially now than they have ever been. My colleagues, Senator Messner, Senator Hill and perhaps Senator Lewis, will develop this further if they are not gagged. On 10 July this year Mr Eric Risstrom said on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's World Today program:

Over the last 12 months the tax for the typical family unit, husband, wife, two kids, who belong to a medical fund, buying a home, their tax has gone up 23 per cent.

That is the context in which we are operating. My colleagues will develop quite logically certain areas in which Labor has failed to support the family. They will indicate the severity of the burden and the task facing families. The signals from Labor are that families are, if not anachronistic, certainly not central to Labor's thinking or to its idea of this Australia or any future Australia. One example is the Sex Discrimination Bill. I supported that Bill because I wanted to support it; nevertheless it had one defect which stood out. That defect was a massive insensitivity towards those in Australian society who choose to hold to traditional values and structures and want to see some support for those roles from government.

My colleagues will lay out the penalties to families in areas such as tax policies, the accord, retirement income and housing and other policy areas. Labor's much vaunted accord has already been attacked by many people for its failure to provide support to families. It has entrenched unemployment, whether middle aged or youth unemployment, whether male or female unemployment. It has maintained and increased the family stress which comes about when there is unemployment. This has happened because Labor's priorities are with the haves. They are not with families or the coming generation. The Australian Labor Party has a variety of policies whose emphases, thrusts and priorities are to single units, to use the ALP jargon, and which do not emphasise mutual support, help and guidance.

We have seen the same thing in education. We have seen a failure to deliver promises on public education, to ease the burden on students and to maintain in our tertiary institutions support for every student. These families have increased the stress upon Australia's families. Positive harm has been done to them. It has become harder to establish new schools where they are wanted by parents for the members of their families. We have seen the removal of tiny subsidies given to halls of residence at universities and colleges, subsidies which make access for poorer members of society-non-metropolitan Australians-to tertiary education that much easier. The Government favours institutions, systems and governments as providers of education over parents and students.

We have seen other things such as the scandal associated with video pornography . This Government has been quite willing to facilitate the entry and dissemination of the most awful material. I am not in favour of censorship but people fail to understand that families in Australia who live in single family homes tend to have one living area. Some of the material which has come in and which Labor has consistently refused to address is available to the youngest in our community, the very ones who are not of mature mind and who are not able to make their own mature decisions about what they should watch. This is another failure to support families in Australia.

Another failure is in the area of criminal activity. Our families want to be secure in an honest society for themselves and their children. This Government has been running dead for a year and a half on every approach which has sought to have it deal in a vigorous way with organised criminal activity in Australia. My own State of New South Wales, under a tarnished Labor Premier, is like an open sewer in its criminal activities and the refusal of that Government, until forced by public opinion, to do anything about it. Even then it does too little. To extend that dilatory approach of Labor, if it allows even one criminal to recruit even one more person to heroin use or one young girl into prostitution is a price not worth paying. It is a further attack upon the families who are trying to look after themselves and who are finding it very difficult in the face of organised crime.

Many people do not comprehend the extent or quantum of the burden which families bear. Quite recently the Institute of Family Studies released a survey which indicated some of the costs involved in bringing up children. I note that the West Australian of Sunday, 20 October-last Sunday-stated:

Latest figures show that at today's prices two children would cost $80,000 to feed, clothe and provide with basic needs from when they enter the nest until they can legally leave it at 16.

This is the kind of burden which Australian families are trying to bear. Any program whereby families are taxed more, receive less or have their capacity to respond reduced is destructive of families, especially those of modest means and those who want to do nothing more than look after themselves and progress.

Medicare is a perfect example of a Labor policy whereby families in Australia in all areas are worse off than they were previously. Medicare is one of the extra burdens which Australian families have to bear today. What does it involve ? It involves a compulsory levy of one per cent. What is this? It is just another form of income tax except that it is not called income tax. It falls upon every income earner in the family. No longer is it possible to buy family health insurance for what it costs. Every income earner pays a one per cent levy . He pays more than he used to pay. The levy is phased in for very low income earners and those at the lowest end of the scale. For every extra dollar they earn the levy comes in at an effective rate of 20 per cent. The figures are there to prove it. Under Medicare the gap has to be paid on every medical service. Those who want private insurance have to pay their premiums. Already every income earner is paying the levy, paying for private insurance and paying the gap. In addition, there is a payment of $12.40 per day in a public hospital and up to $40 a day in a private hospital if someone requires to be in hospital for more than 35 days and if a doctor feels unable to sign a certificate on that person's behalf. This is aggravated by the lack of alternative accommodation which should be available and which has been promised.

The tax rebate on the costs of private health insurance has been lost. This is another impost which hurts the family. In addition, the costs of Medicare are continuing to rise. Those public costs which are not covered by the levy will have to be met from Consolidated Revenue. That, in turn, will require higher tax takes from every taxpayer which, again, reflects upon Australian families. What are they getting for this? They are getting lengthening waiting lists. They can never be sure that a bed will be available if they want one in a public hospital . That is what Medicare is supposed to promise. There is the 35-day rule, without adequate alternative accommodation available for those who need and want it. Therefore, elderly Australians are placed at particular risk. Their extended families are worrying about what will happen to their mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts.

We do not want to be part of a socialist program for health. We know that Medicare offices are hard to find. We also object to having our receipts taken so that we cannot have them back when we go to get our rebates. Our policies, our emphasis and our approach to the Australian people and to families are different. We want all Australians to stand up for families. We want all Australians to declare their support and to come in behind the needs and aspirations of our families. We are doing so. We want the Labor Party to do so. Most Australians support this approach. Most Australians want families to prosper. We know, families know, everyone knows that it is a struggle today to cope and to make ends meet.


Senator Crichton-Browne —How do they go on income splitting of families?


Senator PETER BAUME —The Labor Party will not even look at income splitting of families even though the people who would be particularly helped are the low income families with a single breadwinner. Of course the Labor Party will not look at it, and my colleague will develop this later. Our policies are not only fair, they are positive assistance to Australian families. They are so positive and the recent income splitting is so well accepted that, just yesterday, Mr Eric Risstrom, being interviewed on the national Today show, said:

I should say about 1.3 million families would gain under the Libs tax proposals . . .

My colleagues will develop that argument further. It is true that 1.3 million Australian families will gain under the Liberals' tax proposals and under what we offer. I was attracted to the annual report of the Institute of Family Studies.


Senator Crichton-Browne —An excellent document.


Senator PETER BAUME —It is an excellent document. At page 1 of the report for 1982-83 the Institute had this to say:

The family is not merely an isolated unit living its own private life, but rather a socially and politically structured unit which reflects the very nature of the society and its cultural values.

The well-being and stability of Australian families should be one of the most basic concerns of governments at all levels. The policies and programs developed by governments determine the social and economic environment in which families have to operate.

How true that is. My colleagues will make it quite clear that under this Labor Government families have not had that environment, they have not had that opportunity, and they have not been able to do what they wanted. Families in Australia can accept the stresses and can cope with the problems and difficulties if they get support. They can do it under the kinds of programs that the Liberal and National parties have put forward because we offer that support and we believe that Labor does not. It is not just a matter of who is providing dollars for particular programs. It is a fact that if a government presents itself, as Labor is doing, as being uninterested, uncomprehending, not caring, a heavy taxing government that takes more of the people's money, that protects them less and is less sympathetic, they will understand that their families are in more difficulty and more danger. Is it any wonder that families in Australia feel forlorn and threatened?

What Australian families want and what they are not getting from this Government is a fair go. They want a chance to prosper. They want help to succeed. They want a recognition of their worth and importance. They will get it from the Liberals. My colleagues will illustrate point by point how our programs will help them. We urge the Government to review its approach and to stand up for families in Australia, as we intend to.