Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1388

Senator WALTERS —My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As the Minister knows, when the Fraser Government was in power it not only increased the family allowance by 50 per cent but also increased the dependent spouse rebate from a maximum of $400 to a maximum of $1,030 per annum. What excuse does the Government give this time for the fact that it has not increased the dependent spouse rebate or the family allowance since it came to power in 1983?

Senator BUTTON —I am not offering any excuses. I am just telling the honourable senator that we cannot afford it, and no government could afford it at the present time. There are a number of things which this Government cannot afford. The honourable senator heard about them in the last Budget and she will hear about them again in the May statement, which will be brought down in five or six weeks time.

We live in a society in which a great variety of sections of the community still live in old aspirations of some future El Dorado in respect of their own particular interests. I will just go back to two decisions which were made in the last Budget, one of which has been held up in the Senate. I make this point again: Firstly, the Government proposed the amalgamation of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Special Broadcasting Service.

Senator Chaney —There was no saving in it.

Senator BUTTON —Just a minute. I would remind the honourable senator that Australia is one of three countries in the world that support one national broadcasting service out of taxpayers' money. People in this community want two. It is very glib to say that there are no savings. There are enormous savings down the track in terms of shared technology and hardware-a whole range of savings.

Secondly, if I, as a politician, go to a university there will be a demonstration about the $250 administration charge. This is one of the few countries in the world which purport to support a free tertiary education system. Australia cannot afford a free tertiary education system. It is exactly the same position with family allowances and it is exactly the same with the dependent spouse rebate. We cannot afford those things.

Senator Durack —Have you told Senator Ryan that?

Senator BUTTON —The Government made its decision about these matters last year, and at that time they were the subject of vast dismay and concern from an Opposition which says that living standards in this country are being lowered, and which at the same time says that there should be a freeze on all lower wage earners' incomes. Members of the Opposition indulge in that sort of thing and criticise this Government for fiscal restraint in the areas to which I have referred. They have to sort those issues out. But if I were the honourable senator, I would not tell people in Tasmania that the Liberals would increase the dependent spouse rebate and double family allowances-or whatever other fantasy she has in her head-if the Liberals happen to be elected to government.

Senator WALTERS —I ask a supplementary question. Do we take it from that that the family allowance, the dependent spouse rebate and free education will be abolished in the May mini-Budget?

Senator BUTTON —No, it does not indicate anything of the sort. I will tell the honourable senator one thing-although perhaps I should not discuss private views. I know that when it was put to a very senior Minister in the previous Government that some of the things that were done in the time of the honourable senator's previous Government were an obscenity in terms of what the country could afford, that very senior Minister agreed totally, because he is capable of recognising that times have changed.