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Monday, 9 May 1994
Page: 414

Senator CROWLEY (Minister for Family Services) (3.22 p.m.) —As honourable senators would know, I did not hear everything that my colleagues opposite had to say in this debate. I take it that their comments—particularly those of Senator Minchin—were along the lines of what they have been saying outside of this place. There is a remarkable campaign of opposing this government's programs for supporting choices that families want to make. We have made a very historic announcement concerning family payment. But what do we get?—a miserable, grudging acknowledgment that it might help some people at the bottom end of the income scale. That is, I suppose, a fair assessment of the arguments of those opposite.

  Opposition senators cannot freely acknowledge and accept the benefits of what the government has announced. Here is a payment that is going to help families, particularly families with low incomes, to make choices even more easily. In recognising those choices that families and particularly women want to make between being at home with little ones and being in the work force, the system is designed, firstly, to recognise that and, secondly, to provide incentives for those families to get back into the work force.

Senator Herron —Incentives to leave home and leave their kids.

Senator CROWLEY —There are incentives in that we can say to people that if they stay entirely on benefits and payments they will be less well off than if one or both of them go to work. It is clear that Senator Herron does not fully understand what the basic family payment is about. If he did, he would not have such curious complaints.

  Senator Minchin has also been putting abroad a misrepresentation in his campaign against the child-care cash rebate. As I have said in this place before, he voted for that legislation. Here is a benefit to families to assist them with the cost of child care—something that women in particular, but also families, have been campaigning for and will be very appreciative of. This is really going to help people deal with those choices.

  This campaign has been perpetrated by an opposition that does not want to take account of the facts. It prefers some kind of myth that women in the work force do not really want to be there, that women do not want to make those choices and that women do not want to move between one and the other. The family allowance that has just been announced as part of the white paper is something about which those opposite should be congratulating the government.

Senator Minchin —We welcomed it.

Senator CROWLEY —Good. I am very pleased to have that on the record. I did not hear all of Senator Minchin's words, but I do welcome that. I heard the start of Senator Herron's comments, and he was being a bit carping about the very small number of people who will benefit from this measure. This government recognises those choices that families want to make. It recognises that lots of people are in the work force because of job satisfaction, the social interaction that work brings and the benefit it brings to their families in all sorts of ways, and this government supports them in those choices.

  It also supports many women at home who take up voluntary work for the same kinds of reasons. It supports women in their choices and it supports families in those choices. People have campaigned for a long time for the recognition that the cost of child care should be a legitimate claim against earning an income. That is recognised in the cash rebate, and I cannot understand at all why Senator Minchin would possibly want to oppose that extremely splendid achievement. At the same time, through the home child-care allowance, which is to become the parenting allowance, those spouses who choose to be at home—particularly the women—are recognised in a contribution that is paid directly to them and that will be of equal benefit to their families.

  Taking note of this answer allows me the opportunity to remind the Senate of this very significant achievement in the white paper—a very significant bringing together in an even better way than before, of the interface between economic considerations and social policies, so that as people take up job opportunities in this country they will not be disadvantaged by the way the social security payments are structured. This is a very historic change. It deserves our highest congratulations and praise, and I am very pleased to be able to talk about it in this place.