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Monday, 9 May 1994
Page: 413

Senator MINCHIN (3.16 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley), to a question without notice asked by Senator Zakharov this day, relating to the parenting allowance announced in the government's white paper on employment and growth.

Senator Crowley got very excited when telling us about what she regarded as the greatest announcement in history—this historic new payment. There are a few facts about this parenting allowance that need to be put on the record—and the government has not done that.

  The opposition has indicated that it welcomes the parenting allowance but some aspects need to be noted. It will apply to only the poorest five per cent of Australian families with dependent children. It will be available to only about 120,000 families out of the two million families that have dependent children. It will apply in full only to a family earning a very low $231 a week and will disappear completely when the family reaches a level of income of $378 a week—well below the average income of around $600 a week.

  The most glaring omission of all in the government's announcement and proclamation is that it will not be available until 1 July 1995, a full 14 months away. I notice Senator Crowley did not point that out when she answered a question today. It suggests to us that the government is much more interested in buying votes for the next federal election than in providing genuine assistance for the people who have been most hurt by this government's economic policies. There is no doubt that very low income families have been badly hurt by this government's policies and that the system of welfare and support in this area needs changing as a result of the hurt that has been suffered by these families after 11 years of Labor.

  So why is the government going to take 14 months to bring into effect what it regards as an historic new payment? It just so happens that a federal election is likely in the latter part of 1995, conveniently just after this new payment comes into effect. It is quite proper for people to be very cynical about the government's motives. The other thing that needs to be pointed out about the parenting allowance, as welcome as it is, is that it does nothing for the overwhelming majority of mothers who sacrifice an income to care for their children at home. They have not been helped one bit by this announcement and have been left as second-class sisters by this government in its gross discrimination against the great bulk of mothers who sacrifice an income to care for their children at home.

  Increasingly, as a result of the campaign being waged by Mrs Carole Carroll and others, Australians are beginning to understand the level of that discrimination as a consequence of the operation of the Childcare Rebate Act and the home child-care allowance. A mother of two will get double the benefit under the Childcare Rebate Act for putting her children into paid child care compared with a mother of two who sacrifices an income to stay at home and look after her children. The former—the mother in the work force—will get $61.20 from the government while the mother sacrificing an income to stay at home will get only $30 a week. The government is running around saying, `It is $60 a fortnight.' It is trying to disguise the fact that it is only half the payment. The child-care rebate is paid completely without any means test. I saw an advertisement for the rebate yesterday which says, `It does not matter how much money you earn.' You can be a millionaire and we will give you this money.

  A mother sacrificing an income to stay at home starts to lose her home child-care allowance as soon as she earns $242 a year. The discrimination and unfair treatment applied to mothers at home are disgraceful. This government has not done anything about it in the white paper. I would love to see the government do something about it in the budget, but my hopes are not high.