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Wednesday, 13 May 1987
Page: 3079


Mr PORTER —Does the Minister for Social Security agree with the Institute of Family Studies that a single income family with three children and a dependent spouse requires an income of something over $40,000 to live at the same standard as a single taxpayer with an income of $24,000? Is it a fact that the value of the family allowance and the dependent spouse rebate has declined in real terms by 25 per cent under labor? Will the Minister assure the House that single income families will not be further harmed in the forthcoming mini-Budget?


Mr HOWE —I am afraid that the honourable member will have to be patient and wait until he hears the contents of the May statement, which the Treasurer will deliver tonight. Let me make it clear that the Government has, in its approach to this particular statement, as it has in its approach to economic policy during its period in office, been consciously aware of the needs of families, especially the needs of the low income families to which I have referred frequently in this Parliament, and generally of the needs of Australian families. As the Prime Minister has made clear on a number of occasions, if one is to make any kind of impact analysis of government policy in relation to families, one has to look at a whole range of policies. Certainly one has to look at the taxation policy.

I am sure that you, Madam Speaker, and the House are aware that the Government has met its commitments to Australian families by ensuring that it has delivered, over a period, significant tax cuts. Further tax cuts will be delivered on 1 July. It is also clear that the needs of families have been taken into account in a range of policy areas. In terms of education, no government has done more to improve the possibility for families to have their children complete secondary education than the present Government. No government has had a more attractive first home buyers scheme to help families who have been locked out of housing get into housing and become home owners than the present Government. No government has done more to protect the health of families and provide their health needs through a comprehensive insurance policy than this Government.

As was made very clear by the Economic Planning Advisory Council in its recent report, if we are to look at the real disposable income of Australian families we need to look at wages policy. I think we know what the wages policy of the Opposition has been. It has opposed increased wages at 18 of the last 20 national wage cases. We need to go to tax policy. We have delivered very significant tax cuts. We need to go to social security policy. This Government's performance is significant in terms of delivering income support both through the social security system and through the education system. We need to go to our housing policy, and, above all, we need to go ultimately to our employment policy. Ultimately, the craw in the Leader of the Opposition's throat is that he knows that when he was Treasurer unemployment doubled in this country. Nothing has done more harm to Australian families, either then or since, than that massive increase in unemployment during the years 1980 to 1983. I am quite sure that when people tonight hear the May statement they will be clear that we continue to be very conscious of the need to ensure equity for Australian families.