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Shadow Minister discusses the Coalition's national family strategy

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Yesterday morning I talked to the Federal Minister for the Family, Rosemary Crowley, about the Government's input into the Year of the Family. And I know there are many of you ready to accuse us of leaning politically in one direction or the other, so I thought this morning we would hear from Rosemary Crowley's Shadow. Dr David Kemp is the Coalition's spokesman on Employment, Training and Family Services, and he's on the line this morning from Melbourne.

Now, I think there's a bit of a perception that family issues don't rank all that highly in the Coalition's policy mix. How important do you believe the family will be when it comes to time to vote in the Federal election?

DAVID KEMP: Well, I'd be amazed if that perception were there, Elizabeth, because the Coalition is the only political grouping in Australia to have actually put out a national family strategy. And it was one of the top priority items in the Things that matter. So, in fact, family has been one of our major policy elements and will continue to be, right through to the election. And we believe that family issues are going to be very important in the election campaign. There's a very widespread sense in the community that many of the policies of the Government - economic policies, tax policies, welfare policies - are really anti-family in the way that they operate. And families, in this International Year of the Family, have felt very neglected, I believe, by Government policies.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Do you go along with this call of Professor Bettina Cass for a super ministry, a super family ministry?

DAVID KEMP: Well, of course, the proposal for a department of the family was, and is, part of our national family strategy, and what Professor Cass has done has been essentially to endorse the proposal of the Coalition on this matter and for the same reasons that we put the proposal forward - that there is a need for a much more co-ordinated approach to family policy at the Federal level, and there's a need for some mechanism which makes sure that family is not neglected in the whole range of policies which come to bear on families.

Too often, unfortunately, the impact of a policy on the family is just overlooked by a government when it makes its policy, and to have a department there raising family issues and, indeed, part of our proposal is a family impact statement which has to be associated with every relevant area of policy to make sure that families are not neglected.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Dr Kemp, we quite often get views coming out of the Opposition on the importance of tax splitting as an aid to families. Is that still a possibility?

DAVID KEMP: Well, we've undertaken that we will look at the whole tax and family payment system and make sure that that system ceases to discriminate against families, particularly families with young children. And that is certainly one of our commitments, as we move towards the election campaign. When you look at the range of policies, such as economic policies for example, rising interest rates and the reliance the Government has placed on that area, it's having a very marked anti-family impact. Families are finding, since August this year, that they're paying an average of $50 a month extra on their mortgage repayments, and for many families that's going to really bite into Christmas. And, of course, there are 800,000 dependants in families around Australia where no one has a job.

So it's not just tax policies, it's the range of economic policies and other policies as well which bear on families. And I think most families around Australia probably feel that the International Year of the Family is a lot of rhetoric and hot air which hasn't produced much in the way of real benefits to them.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Do you think that?

DAVID KEMP: I think that that is true in terms of Government policies. I don't apply that to Professor Cass's report. I think what that report has done, very valuably, is to document the very serious plight that families are in. That report, in effect, is a damning indictment of the neglect of families in Government policy over the last 11 years.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: All right, Dr Kemp, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you for those comments this morning. Dr David Kemp, the Coalition spokesman on Employment, Training and Family Services.