In Committee
Database Senate Hansard
Date 24-03-1994
Source Senate
Parl No. 37
Electorate VIC
Page 2182
Party LP
Speaker Senator PATTERSON
Context Bill
System Id chamber/hansards/1994-03-24/0091


Senator PATTERSON (12.30 p.m.) —Without seeking to make a personal explanation, I want to clarify one issue. I take this opportunity to make it clear that I did not say that the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley) was threatening people that the HCCA would be taken away. I could go back through Hansard, but do not believe I said that. I think that if Senator Crowley looked at Hansard, she would find that I did not say that.

  Senator Crowley has said that she is not at all interested in drafting amendments to deal with the issues that Senator Harradine, the Greens and I have been raising. I would interpret that to mean she is not at all interested in families with dependent children who are outside Australia for longer than 13 weeks. I refer to those people who go and serve in developing countries on behalf of organisations such as World Vision and the missionary organisation Interserve—all those organisations whose members have contacted me on other issues, claiming that they are paying tax in Australia and are not eligible for benefits.

  There is the example of the Medicare levy and young academics who are travelling overseas, paying their taxes in Australia and struggling to pay for a rented home overseas while developing their skills for the benefit of Australia. Senator Crowley is saying, `We don't care about those people'. She is not at all interested in them or in the families in which the youngest dependent child is a full-time student aged between 18 and 25 and earning less than $1,785 a year. She is especially not interested in country kids who cannot get part-time jobs. She is saying that the government is not interested in families in which the dependent child is a prescribed student or in those families which are treated differently in this system because they are now under social security legislation rather than under the taxation act.

  All those people sat in front of their television sets waiting to hear the promises that Mr Keating gave them before the election—many of which have since been broken. For those people this is one promise that has been broken. They thought they were going to get a home child-care allowance. As Senator Harradine has said, the government has not explained to us why young academic families and families working overseas on aid programs are excluded. It is beyond my comprehension. To some people $270 to $300-odd may seem a small amount, but to those families which are struggling to achieve an improvement in their own knowledge or assist other people in other countries, it is a major amount. I do not understand it, and I do not believe that Senator Crowley has done anything to make us understand it. That is why we are giving the government every opportunity to explain it. Yet Senator Crowley says, `Why would we draft such amendments?'. Hopefully the minister will see the light, as she did in the other legislation where amendments were drafted, and say, `Yes, we will address this issue and we will extend what would have been available under the dependent spouse rebate to those families which are now excluded under the Social Security Act'.

  As I explained earlier, in a letter to Mr Ruddock, the minister alleged that Senator Harradine's request for amendments would `remove access to the HCCA on a current income test basis'. This was in fact the basis for the majority of the minister's alleged concerns about the Senate's request for amendments.

  It is not only a complete furphy; the advice I have been given indicates that the HCCA income test in the current bill may not actually achieve the government's stated objective of allowing families which have exceeded the separate net income threshold to be eligible for the HCCA during those parts of the year when they are looking after their children full-time. I would like the minister to advise me on this issue. I would like to know whether she knows the answer to that question and, if she does not, whether she would seek independent advice as to whether that is the case and my advice is correct.