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Monday, 9 May 1994
Page: 414


Senator HERRON (3.20 p.m.) —This much-vaunted announcement of the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley) affects five per cent of the lowest income earners. That is all it affects. Senator Minchin brought to the Senate's notice the fact that a woman who wishes to stay at home and look after her children gets half the amount received by somebody who takes a child to a child-care centre and gets somebody else to look after the child. There is no question in any of our minds—there is no disagreement—that the best child care is given in the home by the parent.   Child care is hard work—any woman would know that, as would any man who stays at home and looks after children. The worst week in my life was when my wife got ill and had to go to hospital, and I had to look after my children. It was the hardest work that I have ever done, and I am sure most males do not appreciate this point until something like that occurs.   Let me say something about the differential rate of payment that applies to people who get other people to look after their children. When I was in Hobart last week I saw a chain of preschool children roped together walking through a mall. They were being tugged along by a child-care worker who was looking after them. While I was watching, one child fell over. It reminded me of the convict days in Tasmania. Those children would have been far better off being at home and being looked after by a parent. Yet the system that the minister is self-congratulating herself on differentially works against those women who wish to stay at home and look after their own children.