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Monday, 20 June 1994
Page: 1704

Senator GARETH EVANS —At question time on 9 June, Senator Harradine asked Senator Robert Ray, in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister—and, indeed, imminent Acting Prime Minister—a question without notice seeking details of the government's commitment to consider the introduction of a maternity allowance in next year's budget. I seek leave to have the reply of the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) incorporated in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

  The reply read as follows

I provide the following answer to Senator Harradine's question:

Nothing the Prime Minister has said on the Maternity Allowance limits the proposal only to women in the workforce.

The Government is introducing this payment to assist families at the time of the birth of a baby, when families need assistance with extra costs. The allowance will be payable whether the mother was at home or in the paid workforce prior to maternity leave. It is proposed that the allowance will be paid through the Social Security system so that mothers can receive the payment directly into their bank accounts, as is the case with other family payments.

With regard to family payments or tax relief for families after 12 weeks of maternity leave, the Government has an extensive package of payments aimed at ensuring adequate support for families with children, and it is important to see the Maternity Allowance in this context.

Family Payments assist almost 85% of families with the costs of raising children and are paid on a per child basis, with a higher rate for low income families (Additional Family Payment). The new Parenting Allowance and the Home Child Care Allowance will be payments for a partner who is caring for children. With the commencement of the Parenting Allowance in July 1995, these two payments will be combined into a single payment.

An important shift in the Government's approach to family-related assistance has been the move to payments made directly to the primary carer, usually the mother, and away from payments through the taxation system.

The Government's record of assistance to families is a record we can be proud of. We are building on this record with the next historic step of a Maternity Allowance.