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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2063

Senator MINCHIN —My question is directed to the Minister for Family Services. Why has the minister refused an invitation to address a public meeting in Adelaide this Sunday organised by Mrs Carole Carroll seeking a fair deal for a parent's choice to stay at home? Why has she refused even to nominate someone to speak on her behalf? Why is the minister treating with contempt the genuine concerns of thousands of parents who wish to be full-time carers for their children?

Senator CROWLEY —The best way to open the batting on this is to ask Senator Minchin why he is supporting Mrs Carroll in her campaign to have repealed the cash rebate for child care—a piece of legislation he voted for in this chamber. I would like to ask him what votes he thinks there are in actually asking for the repeal of legislation—

Senator Campbell —Mr President, I raise a point of order. Since Senator Crowley has now asked the questions, does Senator Minchin get four minutes to answer them?

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.

Senator CROWLEY —What mileage does Senator Minchin think there is in asking for the repeal of this legislation which for the first time recognises that the cost of child care is a legitimate claim against earning an income; a campaign that has been fought by women and many men—

Senator Hill —Mr President, I take the same point of order in view of the minister's continuing to go down a line that is irrelevant to the question asked—

Senator Gareth Evans —He asked why she would not be turning up at a meeting and she is explaining it.

Senator Hill —No, she is not, actually. Mr President, I draw your attention to the standing order concerning relevancy. I ask you to invite the minister to attempt to answer the question rather than entering into some sort of discussion on a different matter.

Senator CROWLEY —On the point of order, Mr President: this meeting has been called to talk about exactly this matter, which is the repeal of the child-care cash rebate legislation and the motion being circulated by Senator Minchin. Indeed, in speaking as I am, I am being entirely relevant.

The PRESIDENT —I certainly do not support any point of order regarding relevance, but I do think you are starting to debate the issue, Senator Crowley, and I ask you to get to the point of the answer.

Senator CROWLEY —Why can I not be at a certain place on Sunday afternoon? I never really thought it was my responsibility here to declare the full details of my diary and where else I shall be on Sunday. In fact, for the record, I shall be in Lismore, concerned about opening a breast cancer screening unit. Senator Minchin can say whether or not I take issues about families and payments to families seriously. I most certainly do; a point I have also made directly and expressly to Mrs Carroll. I have had the opportunity to meet her and I have made that point to her.

  The issues of concern as to what are valid and fair payments for families and what are valid and fair payments on behalf of children have been debated extensively in this place. In fact, the government payments taking account of both those needs of women have had huge endorsement in the community. I am not ignoring those issues at all, but I do not believe there is any mileage in joining one small part of a community that is trying to repeal legislation that is of huge benefit to the families and women of Australia.

Senator MINCHIN —I ask a supplementary question. Why did Senator Crowley threaten to take away the home child care allowance bill from Mrs Carroll if she did not behave herself?

Senator CROWLEY —I never made any such threat at all. This is really desperate stuff when Senator Minchin starts grasping at this kind of straw or reaching into the bottom of the barrel like this. Secondly, I have supported the home child care allowance legislation in this place. Women of Australia are looking forward to the legislation. In the end it is not mine; it belongs to the Minister for Social Security. This is an absolutely pathetic attempt to try to make something out of nothing. If Senator Minchin wants to go out and say to the women of Australia, `We won't pay you the home child care allowance'—which they are all looking forward to—`but intend to take it away', well, Senator Minchin can go and say it to them. I will be right there to support the opposite view.