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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1442

Senator CHANEY —My question is also directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women and follows the question asked of her by Senator Crowley. On behalf of the Opposition, I welcome the rather belated recognition from the Australian Labor Party of the value of the unpaid work done by many women in the home. I welcome the fact that it has acknowledged that it is not valued adequately by society. Is it a fact that the dependent spouse rebate, which is the only recognition given to the unpaid work of a dependent spouse, has not been adjusted by this Government and has, as a result, lost 30 per cent of its value since this Government came to office? In light of the Minister's pious embrace of the value of this work, will she guarantee that in neither the May mini-statement nor in the Budget will there be any diminution in the recognition of the unpaid work of the spouse who stays at home and that that allowance will be increased to take into account the loss of value under this anti-family government?

Senator RYAN —I would have been more impressed with Senator Chaney's leaping quickly to identify himself with the cause of women who contribute in unpaid work if his own Government had done anything by way of measuring that or if his own Government had any policy, but for the seven years it was in government it did nothing to recognise and involve those women in development of policy. Whereas the present government, by establishing the National Consultative Committee of Women, by consulting women throughout Australia, by providing participation of women to make their voices heard, has made it possible for us to take initiatives such as this. As for Senator Chaney's specific questions about the May statement or the budgetary processes, he knows the answers to those questions. There is no way in which Ministers will comment on those matters at this stage.

Senator CHANEY —I ask a supplementary question of the Minister. I note that she did not answer my question about the loss of value of the dependent spouse rebate. I ask her: In light of her comment that there was no attempt by the Fraser Government to measure the value of that work, does she agree that the dependent spouse rebate went from $400 when the Fraser Government came into office to a maximum of $1,030 by 1983 for those families where there is a dependent spouse with children? Is it a fact that the dependent spouse rebate has lost about 30 per cent of its value since Labor came to office, and what does the Government intend to do about it?

Senator RYAN —I would not dispute some of the facts Senator Chaney has set out, namely that there were adjustments to the dependent spouse rebate by the Fraser Government. But I assure Senator Chaney that it is not the view of Australian women that those adjustments adequately satisfied their requirement to have the value of their work properly recognised. If those adjustments to the dependent spouse rebate had been an adequate response, we would not have heard from women all over Australia that they wanted more recognition-and I must say not necessarily financial recognition, but more recognition of the value of their work. So far as the known preference of Australian women by way of survey material is known on these matters, a survey conducted by the Australian Nationwide Opinion Polls Pty Ltd for the Office of the Status of Women a couple of years ago showed that Australian women had a much higher recognition of the family allowance payment, placed much more value on that payment, and that knowledge of the dependent spouse rebate and its value, if any, to a family was not widely spread among Australian women. Whatever adjustments the Government of which Senator Chaney was a member made to the dependent spouse rebate, it appears to be the case that those changes were not widely recognised or welcomed by Australian women and that they would prefer a much more practical and direct recognition of the contribution they make.