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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31518


Ms MACKLIN (2:08 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Has the minister seen comments in today's Melbourne Age from Reverend Tim Costello arguing that the government's maternity payment should be paid in fortnightly instalments rather than as a lump sum:

A baby bonus isn't meant to be a pokies bonus... It should be the children not the gaming industry who benefit.

Government members interjecting


Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I consider—as do others, obviously, by their reaction—that language unparliamentary, and I ask that it be withdrawn.


The SPEAKER —Order! There is nothing unparliamentary in the comments made by the member for Jagajaga. She has the call.


Ms MACKLIN —Minister, would it not be more responsible to adopt Labor's baby care payment rules and pay families on a fortnightly basis, as Reverend Costello suggests?


Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Children and Youth Affairs) —I would like to thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for her question. It has always been the government's philosophy that, when it comes to spending patterns, we should leave that up to Australian families. What I find extraordinary today is not just what has been said about the maternity payment but also comments made by the member for Lilley, saying that we should mandate that people should get fortnightly payments, almost suggesting that Australian families cannot look after their own financial affairs. This is the absurd situation and that is the proposition being advocated by the Australian Labor Party: (a) we should not be giving lump sum payments; and (b) we should not be giving a $3,000 maternity payment, but that it should be a fortnightly payment.

The suggestion by the Australian Labor Party is that Australian families are irresponsible; they cannot look after their own financial affairs and therefore the government has to legislate how they are paid. This is a ridiculous notion. In all the comments that I have received, particularly from a lot of expectant mothers, people are absolutely delighted that they will receive that $3,000 payment, which they can use for the provision of their children or for their home. In circumstances where we deem that an individual or a young mother is perhaps at risk—there could be a drug dependency problem or alcohol issues—then there is discretion by the secretary of the department to look at those particular narrow areas to ensure that that money is not all blown in one hit but used responsibly.

The fact is that the Australian Labor Party want to invade households' lives. Last week they were telling us that families were irresponsible and that therefore they have to ban advertising on television. We have had notions from the Leader of the Opposition of parental contract orders. Today they are suggesting that Australian families are not responsible enough and that therefore every payment should be a fortnightly payment. The $3,000 payment is a good payment and we stand by it.