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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1137

Senator ELSTOB —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security aware that child maintenance payment rates differ greatly from State to State and that some levels of maintenance payments have not been adjusted for over 10 years? Can the Minister advise whether any action can be taken by the Federal Government to rectify a system which appears to treat children most inequitably and which in many cases has a direct bearing on family poverty?

Senator GRIMES —Senator Elstob referred to child maintenance payments. All the payments made on behalf of children by the Commonwealth Government are paid at a uniform rate throughout Australia, with the exception of some additions in tax zone A. I assume that Senator Elstob is talking about the payments made by the various State governments for the maintenance of children in care, foster children and, in some States, children of families which have been deserted. I am certainly aware that those payments vary considerably and I accept the fact that in some cases they may not have been increased for some 10 years.

I do not believe that the Federal Government can do anything directly about this matter, although I will certainly make inquiries of the Minister for Social Security to see whether he has had any correspondence with the States on this matter. I suspect that in each State the individual level of those payments is the responsibility of the State department of social welfare or community welfare and that obviously that decision is made on historical and budgetary bases. I will see whether I can get any details for Senator Elstob, but I doubt very much whether the Federal Government has any power or any desire to have any power in this area.