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Thursday, 27 June 2013
Page: 4256


Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (12:54): I wish to speak against this bill in order to record my opposition to yet further erosion of assistance to families. The cuts to the baby bonus are uncalled for. Also, the payment of the baby bonus at a lower level for second and subsequent babies perpetuates the myth that children are cheaper by the dozen. The reality is that the birth of the second and subsequent children brings about additional financial pressure on families. They face increased costs in child care, housing and transport.

For over 30 years, governments of both persuasions have departed from the concept of horizontal equity for families and they have reduced families to welfare recipients. I still believe that families are the basic units of society. They make a huge contribution, not just in raising their own children but in forming the citizens of tomorrow. Unfortunately, this is no longer seen as an important social function. Having children is viewed as a private decision. If it is a private decision then you are entirely responsible for funding it.

The reduction of the baby bonus in this bill demonstrates that the government no longer believes that children are an investment in the nation's future. Children have been reduced to a commodity for which the user pays. 'If you cannot afford them do not have them; we don't care.' That is the message that this bill gives to families.

All families ought to receive some financial recognition for their contribution to society in raising tomorrow's citizens. And low-income families ought to receive additional financial assistance because no child ought to be raised in poverty. Investment in children is an investment in the future, and all parents deserve tax recognition for this important role. Wage earners are now treated as independent individuals with no dependants—a triumph of rampant individualism. Having children makes you an economic basket case.

Until the 1970s the tax system took into account the number of dependants that the wage earner provided for before taxing them. The government recognised that supporting families was an investment in the future—not any more. Families are no longer seen as productive social units but as drains on the public purse and as recipients of welfare. The fact that assistance to families is subject to strict income tests means that only low-income families receive financial assistance. It is demeaning for some families to be singled out—by being reduced to welfare recipients—as unable to support their dependants. I believe our economy is best served by looking after families and communities first. Unfortunately, this is not the message that this bill gives families. As such, I will be voting against the bill.