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Tuesday, 10 September 1996
Page: 3817

Mr BRADFORD —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Given that the government is committed to strengthening the central role of families in Australian society, what steps has it taken in its recently very well received budget to prevent and overcome family crises?

Mr HOWARD —The honourable member for McPherson, and indeed all members of the House, will be aware of the central elements of the budget which included the delivery over a period of four years of a $4 billion family tax initiative precisely in accordance with the commitment that I made on behalf of the coalition during the election campaign. They will also be aware of the commitments in relation to private health insurance. In addition to that, there are a number of very important initiatives that those who are interested in the welfare of families in difficulty and in crisis will be both interested in and concerned to hear about.

To start with, I am very happy to say that in the last budget, in the first coalition budget, the Liberal-National Party government has exactly doubled the amount of money going to marriage and relationship education. We have exactly doubled the amount. As all of us who go around the country are constantly told, large amounts of money are properly available if families disintegrate and perhaps a little more money ought to be made available to prevent families from disintegrating.

I know that the members of the opposition are not interested to hear about this; they are not interested to hear about a $4.3 million program that is going to go to organisations like the Salvation Army, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Sydney City Mission, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Smith Family. You are not interested to hear about that, are you? I think you ought to sit and listen. I know you always get very angry when it is pointed out that you do not have a monopoly on compassion. You get very angry about that. You think you have a monopoly on concern for the less privileged in our community.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr HOWARD —We are for the first time—and I repeat it above the noisy interjections of the frontbench of the Labor Party—putting a sum of $4.3 million into a parenting education program that will be designed in part to attack some of the root causes of child abuse in our community.

This money will be made available to organisations like the Salvation Army and the Society of St Vincent de Paul in order to provide programs to help. In addition, the high rate of youth suicide which touches so many families—

Honourable members interjecting

Mr HOWARD —I know the Labor Party is not interested in these valuable social welfare measures.

Honourable members interjecting

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! I think everybody, particularly on my left, had better calm down. The volume of noise, the amount of interjection, is not acceptable. It is not acceptable to this parliament, I am sure it is not acceptable to the people of Australia and, if you think about it, you will find it is not acceptable to you.

Mr HOWARD —Not only do we have the new parenting education program, not only do we have a doubling of marriage and relationship education funding but, in addition, we are going to provide $19 million over three years through the national youth suicide strategy—and I am sure that all members of the House would recognise its importance, given the alarmingly high rate of youth suicide particularly amongst rural males in Australia.

As I announced in my address to the Council of Social Services in October last year as Leader of the Opposition, we were going to inaugurate a youth homeless pilot program. The pilot study has already been completed by the youth homelessness task force that was chaired by Captain David Eldridge of the Salvation Army who, in fact, was commended to me by the member for Hotham as being somebody very learned and very understanding and quite expert in this area. I certainly share the view of the member for Hotham about the capacity of this man to make a contribution in this very important area.

Mr Crean —Yes, he is very good. I appointed him first. You are not too flash in the nomination stakes.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! The member for Hotham!

Mr HOWARD —As promised, we have allocated $8.1 million to the youth homelessness pilot project. In addition, we will be allocating other funds to deal with the levels of violence and crime within our community.

Finally, I know that all members of the House do recognise the important work of agencies such as the Salvation Army, the Smith Family, the various capital city missions and many other organisations of that kind. There is an emergency relief program, which has been running at about $16 million to $18 million over the past few years.

In the recent budget, we have increased the base funding of that program by $5 million, and we have also promised to review the indexation factor for the increased funding because, according to the advice I received directly from a number of those agencies, the indexation factor provided by the former government was resulting in a steady decline in the funds that were being made available to those organisations. So we have done two things: we have increased the base funding by $5 million on a one-off basis, and we are going to introduce a new indexation factor—

Mrs Crosio —Who are you kidding?

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! The member for Prospect!

Mr HOWARD —to make certain that the resources available to these organisations properly keep pace with need within our community. I know the Labor Party squirms and is embarrassed whenever those opposite are reminded of these sorts of programs, and I know they go absolutely ballistical and tropical about it. But I can tell you: you are going to hear a lot more about the broadly based social welfare support measures of the coalition government.