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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2338

Senator HARRADINE(3.48) — The family is the fundamental group unit of society. It is also the most natural unit to nurture the young and to care for the aged. The family has a prior existence to the state and prior rights over those of the state. It is essential to the common good and essential to the future of any society that the government of that society, in this case the elected government, stand up for the family. How best is a family supported by government? First of all, it is essential, in my view, for a government, for a parliament, to create an atmosphere in which families can flourish, in which the objectives of families ingrained in nature can be achieved. It is essential for governments and parliaments to ensure that there is legislation which will reflect the view and the fact that the family is the fundamental group unit of society and that it deserves the protection therefore of society, unless that society is doomed to extinction. The least that families can expect is for parliaments to pass legislation which will ensure that the parents of families feel that they are parenting in a responsive society. Sadly that is not the case , and has not been the case for some time. Too many parents at the moment feel that they are parenting in an unresponsive society. Many thousands of parents are expressing growing concern about the unnecessary pressures that are being applied to the young, the unnecessary stress that is being placed on members of the family, including particularly the mothers of dependent children.

Thousands of parents throughout Australia are concerned about not only the economic prospects that their children will have in Australia's future society but also their prospects as sane and happy human beings. I have, in this place and outside, drawn attention to the fact that amendments which were made on 1 February this year to the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations, the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations and the new Australian Capital Territory Ordinance for the first time legalise the introduction and distribution of hard core pornography into this country. Of course it could be argued that before this was legalised there had been a trickle and then a flood of violent and pornographic literature and videos into this country, and this material was then distributed.

As I have explained in great detail, and I do not wish to say it again to the Senate, the rot set in as far back as 1973 when the then Attorney-General, now Mr Justice Murphy, issued instructions to the Australian Customs Service-he was then also the Minister in charge of Customs matters-which were tantamount to asking Customs officers to turn a blind eye to the importation of this material. Of course at that time the material was not of the qualitative-if one can use that word-nature that it is now. At that time videos were hardly heard of. But the trickle has become a flood and parents are very concerned about the future sanity and happiness of their children.

Parents are also concerned about the economic future of their children. So many parents whom I know and who have children in the last stages of schooling are concerned about the children's job prospects. In a matter of public importance last week I pointed to the very sad fact that in the metropolitan area of Hobart , in my State of Tasmania, 33 per cent of male youths are unemployed. That situation is reflected in many areas of Australia. It is nothing less than a national scandal and a national tragedy.

Yesterday I pointed out that there appears to be a structural appointments procedure in the Commonwealth Public Service which discriminates against the youth of this country. I pointed out that youths-the 15 to 19-year-olds-now comprise only 4.2 per cent of the total number of staff in the Australian Public Service. The Public Service Board definition of youth is those aged between 15 and 20-years-old inclusive. Honourable senators should compare this figure with the following. In 1966, 22.6 per cent of staff in the Public Service came within the definition of youth. In 1974 this figure fell to 12.4 per cent and it is now 6.7 per cent. Yesterday I tried to get the Senate to express its view to the Public Service Board that in an expanding area of the economy the Board should not discriminate against youth. I pointed out that had its policy of recruiting youth been the same as it was in 1971 there would now be 70,000 more youths employed in the State and Federal public services without one addition being made to the staff ceilings.

I come to another aspect of the family. I believe that it is incumbent not only on the Government but also on the Parliament as a whole to ensure that the family situation in this nation is preserved. It was mentioned by the Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, that for far too long family allowances have been allowed to be eroded to such an extent that they are now down to about 50 per cent of what they would be had they kept pace with inflation. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a Commonwealth Parliamentary Library table relating to this matter.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-


Family Allowance

($ per month)

Existing Estimated at

May 1976 (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 —A family with one child is now $10.20 a month worse off; a family with two children is $14.60 worse off; a family with three children is $ 17.50 worse off; a family with four children is $17.50 worse off; and a family with five or more children is $20.35 worse off. That situation is of great concern to people. I said in 1976 when this family allowance scheme replaced the old child endowment and tax rebate scheme that unless family allowances were indexed it would be a three card trick. I have come to the conclusion that families have been seen off. If anybody had suggested that in 1976 the tax rebate scheme would be abolished there would have been a revolution in this country. I agreed with the proposition that there ought to be a transfer from the hip pocket to the purse. The Government did that at the time but since then it has been dipping in to the mother's purse and taking out the money which the husband put in it via the exchange of tax rebates for children with family allowances. That is a disgraceful situation.

The Parliament has not stood up for the family. I congratulate the Opposition for at least looking at the question of income splitting. If high income groups, business and professional people can split their income why should not ordinary, average families do the same? Has the Parliament stood up for the family? The answer to that question is no. Honourable senators will recall that last year, during the debate on the Family Law Act, I proposed an amendment which was designed to ensure that separated married partners contemplating divorce attend an early meeting with a marriage counsellor for the purpose of considering the legal, social and financial consequences of a dissolution of the marriage, particularly its effects on any children, and to consider reconciliation. That amendment was thrown out the door. I am concerned that Senator Peter Baume, who brought up this matter of public importance, did not vote for that amendment but a lot of others on the Opposition-I think 22 of them-did. I believe that if such an amendment had been made to the Act it would have had a marked effect on the public perception of what the Parliament thinks about marriage as being the fundamental group unit of society and we would not have the sorry state that we now have of the poverty that has resulted from many separations and divorces. Time does not permit me to go into-as I had intended-the attitude of the Parliament to marriage as well as the family, but we all ought to stand up for the family.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.