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Wednesday, 10 December 1986
Page: 3697

Senator CHANEY —My question is to the Leader of the Government and it follows the welcome and novel interest in the family being shown by Senator Tate. I congratulate him for trying to put this issue on the Australian Labor Party's agenda. I ask: Is it a fact that families are now paying higher interest rates on their housing since the advent of the Hawke Government? Has the real value of family allowances deteriorated by about 30 per cent since the Hawke Government came to power? Has the dependent spouse rebate lost about 30 per cent of its value since the Hawke Government came into power? Has the relative position of families with dependent children deteriorated under the tax system in the way which was so admirably described by the Catholic Social Welfare Commission and the Anglican health and welfare services? Is it a fact that there are extensive waiting lists in public hospitals which means that many families are unable to get surgical treatment when they need it, quite apart from the shocking strike in Victoria which is preventing anybody from getting assistance, let alone families? Is it a fact that there has been a loss of choice of medical care for families and that a much smaller proportion of families are now able to insure because of the failure of the Government's Medicare system? Is it a fact that, as recorded by the church bodies I have referred to, the relative position of families has declined and is in urgent need of attention?

Senator BUTTON —I suppose it might comfort Senator Chaney somewhat to invoke church bodies in support of his flamboyant statistics. In respect of some of the matters which Senator Chaney averted to, I have not checked the facts precisely.

Senator Chaney —No one has checked them in the Government?

The PRESIDENT —Order! There are far too many interjections.

Senator BUTTON —They are not very good either; that is the point. I am fairly confident that the value of the family allowance has deteriorated by some 30 per cent in the last 3 1/2 years, as it did during periods of the Fraser Government. I am not sure about the dependent spouse rebate. There are certainly waiting lists in public hospitals, mainly for elective surgery which by and large does not affect the average family to the extent that--

Senator Lewis —Rubbish. How would you like to wait 12 months to have a hip socket replaced?

Senator BUTTON —I said elective surgery, Senator. I was then asked whether there has been a loss of choice in respect of health services. Nearly two million Australians under the Fraser Government had no health cover at all. These people did not have any choice; they just had no insurance whatsoever. The Opposition just comes in here and raises these arguments. So one can go through all these things, but they are matters for debate and not matters for--

Senator Boswell —Not matters for Question Time?

Senator BUTTON —Yes, they are matters for Question Time.

Senator Boswell —You told us we have to ask questions.

Senator BUTTON —If the honourable senator were capable of putting together a question I would invite him to ask one, but I do not believe that is the case. In respect of each of these matters I am quite happy to obtain a factual answer to each of the points made by Senator Chaney and provide him with that answer in due course.