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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2349

Senator LEWIS(4.57) —Believe it or not, the Senate is debating a matter of public importance concerning the failure of the Government to stand up for Australian families. My Victorian Labor colleague Senator Robert Ray has just delivered a speech which astounds me. I have never heard a more running- scared speech. I do not understand it. I know that Senator Robert Ray is a numbers man from the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party. I can presume only that the Victorian Labor Party has had a recent poll and that that poll has disclosed something that has caused Senator Ray absolutely to panic. I really cannot imagine any other reason why, suddenly, we would get that sort of speech from Senator Robert Ray. We all know that in the 18 months or so of this Government he has been very moderate and has made sound, sensible contributions to the debate.

Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle — Bipartisan.

Senator LEWIS —As Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle has reminded me, Senator Robert Ray has on a number of occasions been bipartisan, but today we heard a speech from him which absolutely astounded me. This was a speech in which he said his left wing mate from Victoria, Mr Steedman, would win his seat and someone else--

Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle —He is gone.

Senator LEWIS —I can only presume, as Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle said, that he is gone. I can only presume that he is in trouble. Senator Ray's speech was most incredible. I cannot imagine why he would deliver such a speech. He ranged far and wide and ended up making this appeal to the people of various electorates to vote for his colleagues. I return to the subject of the matter of public importance, which is the Australian family. That is the matter the Senate is supposed to be debating. It is the important subject. I think the Labor Party has finally realised that 60 per cent of Australians live in a traditional two- parent family situation and that in fact only 7 per cent of Australians live in a single-parent family situation. Under the guidance of its radical feminist colleagues, the Labor Party in government has been ignoring the two-parent family and concentrating on providing benefits for the other family. That must be creating problems out in the electorate as the families of Australia begin to realise that this Government will provide them with nothing and do nothing but harm them when it possibly can.

If the families of Australia want some assistance they had better start looking to the Opposition parties and Mr Andrew Peacock on 1 December to see whether they might get a better deal from those parties. I assure honourable senators that they will get a better deal out of those parties because our parties have adopted the family and we intend to have policies concentrating on the family. Let me say how delighted I am that that has happened because for some seven years I have been fighting, along with a number of my colleagues, to persuade my Party to adopt the family as the basis of its policy and as the basis of its support for welfare throughout the nation. Dr Edgar, the Director of the Institute of Family Studies, said:

Children are after all, every nation's most precious resource. Money spent on them is just not cost, it is also an investment and a profit.

Kerry Lovering, the author of Costs of Children in Australia, said that the most startling conclusion of her survey was that teenagers cost roughly 25 per cent a year more than primary school children. There can be no doubt that this generation of parents faces a burden of maintaining children that previous generations never had. Yet this Government's failure to index child allowances effectively means that there has been a cut of 8 per cent in real terms. Is it any wonder that the parents of this nation are not prepared to put up with this Government and are very cross with this Government? Clearly Senator Robert Ray in Victoria has had a poll which has caused him absolutely to panic.

Under this Government there has been a shift of priority from family allowances -the opportunity for the family to care for its own children-to a children's services program funded by the Government, funded by the taxpayers of the country, instead of by parents for the benefit of their children. Of course, we know from where this influence came because it was very heavy when we were in office. I am talking about the bureaucrats in the Office of the Status of Women and in the Office of Child Care, all of whom are so imbued with the feminist ideology that they see the women's work force as the only significant role for women.

Let us look at the spouse rebate, which is all that stands between the present high penalty tax on the single income family and what otherwise would be much higher levels of penalty tax. Without the spouse rebate the single-income family would be paying at least $26.50 a week more tax than other families having the same total income. There can be no doubt that if the spouse rebate were reduced or withdrawn unemployment would rise as many thousands of married women would be forced to compete in the work force. I have no doubt they would compete successfully in the paid employment market, particularly against the less experienced school leavers. Despite the well known and obvious fact the 1983 Federal Budget allowed no increase to the spouse rebate, which stood then at $1, 030. This current Budget again has made no increase to the spouse rebate. The family with dependent children is much worse off under this Government than it was under the Fraser Government. I give an example of the income tax problems of a typical family. For example, if we take a family with total average earnings of $20,700, the taxpayer would receive a nominal tax cut under this Government of $263 for the year 1984-85. However, he would have to pay an extra $500 tax at the punitive rate of 46c in the dollar on the extra $1,087 he would need to earn in that year just to maintain the family's real income level with a budgeted inflation of 5 1/4 per cent-as low as that. In other words, such a family would be paying a net extra $237 a year in tax-a cost of about $4.56 a week. Of course if he is to give his family any sort of proper health care other than this Medicare nonsense currently provided, if he is to give them the opportunity of going into hospital for proper medical treatment when the time comes, he will be forced to pay an additional $350 for hospital benefits insurance in order to cover his family for such services.

In other words, under this Government the family, as a result of changes to the spouse rebate, with the introduction of Medicare and with the loss of the rebate for children, is much worse off. The Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, who is now in the chamber, earlier plaintively cried: 'What have we done wrong in government? We all came from families and understand the problems of families so what have we done wrong?' Let me tell him of a few things that the Government has done wrong. The Government has failed to lift the tax threshold to $5,000 as it promised. It has failed to index child allowances; in fact, those allowances have been cut in real terms by 8 per cent. It has failed to index the spouse rebate, so in real terms it too has been cut by 8 per cent.

Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle —That is why Steedman is in trouble.

Senator LEWIS —Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle reminds me, that is why that fellow Steedman is in trouble. That is why Senator Robert Ray is panicking. The Government has failed to extend the family income supplement to needy people, it has abolished the health insurance rebate, it has abolished the home loan rebate , it has legalised the importation of hard core pornography, it has introduced Medicare and refused gap insurance, it has failed to honour school funding commitments, it has failed to honour promises of assistance to needy non- government schools, it has failed to meet its commitment under the tertiary education assistance scheme and to children at school, and it has failed to provide income support for youth. In a few short words, that is a simple list of the things the Government has done wrong, and that is the answer to Senator Grimes's plaintive cry of: 'What have we done wrong?'.

It is clear, Mr President, that this Government has suddenly panicked. The polls must be showing something. We do not have the polls; we are only allowed to read the one in the Bulletin. I would be delighted if Senator Robert Ray would let me have a copy of the secret poll that the Australian Labor Party must have received and which has created such a problem that he came in here today and did not make a speech in any way relating to the subject under debate but made an outright political plea to the people of Australia who might be listening to vote for certain candidates who clearly must be in trouble. I did not get all their names but after this debate is printed I intend to go through Hansard and write to my colleagues opposing those people to congratulate them on their probable victory in the forthcoming election.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The time for the debate having expired, pursuant to order the Clerk will call on the appropriation Bills.