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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 8554

Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (10:33): Since it is about time somebody did, I rise to ask: won't someone think of the childless? Politicians seem to be obsessed with families, so it may come as a surprise to many that most households in Australia are childless. A quarter of all households consist of an individual and more than a quarter of all households consist of an adult couple. There are also hundreds of thousands of households where unrelated adults live together. Childless households are also on the rise, in part because kids have grown up and moved out of their parents' homes, and because of the increasing propensity of couples to remain childless. To the childless people of Australia I want to say, on behalf of this parliament, 'Thank you for being childless.'

You work for more years and become more productive than the rest of Australia. You pay thousands and thousands of dollars more tax than other Australians. You get next to no welfare, and your use of public health services is minimal. But you pay when other people get pregnant; you pay when they give birth; you pay when they stay at home to look after their offspring; you pay for the child's food, clothing and shelter; you pay when the child goes to child care; you pay when the child goes to primary and secondary school; and then you pay when it goes to university.

Thank you, for all you do for others. I am sorry that rather than receiving thanks, you are often ignored, pitied, considered strange or even thought of as irresponsible. For your sake, I hope the children you are forced to support do not end up as juvenile delinquents and I hope that they get immunised so that you do not end up getting sick, because you will pay then too.

For this reason, amongst others, I support the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Bill 2015. This bill concerns parents who, on religious or conscientious grounds, refuse to immunise their children. The bill makes such parents ineligible for childcare subsidies and family assistance end-of-year supplements. This is as it should be. It is bad enough that people continue to bring wave upon wave of these little blighters into the world. The least they can do is immunise their bundles of dribble and sputum so they do not make the rest of us sick.

Withholding welfare payments from parents who fail to immunise their kids is entirely legitimate, including from a libertarian perspective. Immunisation generates a significant social benefit, and parents do not have a right to welfare payments. Such payments are, fundamentally, a gift from their fellow Australians. No work is done for the money, so there is nothing wrong with placing conditions on it. The fact is that most welfare payments to parents should be abolished, because people without children should not be forced to subsidise people with children.

Children generate great joy, warmth and meaning for their parents. They are a precious gift. What more do you want? It is unfair that people without children are forced to pay money to those people who have received the gift a child. Some people are childless by choice and are happy with that choice. There is no moral case to make them subsidise other people's choices. For some people, childlessness is not a choice; it is a great sadness. Forcing them to hand over money to more fortunate people is like charity in reverse. It is like making people in wheelchairs pay for other people's running shoes.

People without children are not freeloaders; they can look after themselves throughout their life through working, saving, and engaging in voluntary, mutually-beneficial exchanges. It would be weird to suggest that you need to pay for the upbringing and training of a baker just because one day you will want to buy bread. It is equally as weird to suggest that a childless person needs to pay for the upbringing and training of children just because they might want to buy services from those children in the future.

Some argue when taxpayers fund subsidies for today's children that this is a proxy for paying back the subsidies the taxpayers received when they were children. But this ignores the fact that some taxpayers received little or no subsidies when they were children. They have nothing to pay back. And forcing money on today's children, whether they need it or not, does not create any special obligations on them in the future either. And there are plenty of adults right now who pay little or no tax, so if they received subsidies when they were children they are not paying them back now. Overall, intergenerational wealth transfers are best achieved within families.

The Liberal Democrats support the abolition of childcare subsidies, coupled with deregulation of the childcare sector—including its excessive credentialism—to cut the costs of childcare. The Liberal Democrats support the abolition of taxpayer-funded paid parental leave, which is an arbitrary payment provided only to those new parents who were in employment in 10 of the prior 13 months. The Liberal Democrats believe that family tax benefit part A should be limited to low-income families, and that family tax benefits should end their march through the alphabet right there. Family tax benefit part B should be abolished, and, instead, we should have a flat income tax rate to ensure that families are not penalised if one member of a couple makes more money than the other. Parenting payment would remain only for low-income families with children who are not yet in school.

Some people may say that if this policy platform came to pass they would not be able to afford to have children. In response, let me make this very clear: people do not have a right to expect or force others to pay them to have children. The government is not your parent or your spouse. Get over it. In fact, do not just get over it; be thankful for it. The government does not make a good parent—just ask any ward of the state. What is more, when you allow the government to become a de facto parent it encourages the breakdown of traditional family units—something many politicians claim to support. Mark my words: when you treat the government like a parent, it will soon enough treat you like a child. The passage of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Bill 2015 should help. I commend the bill to the Senate.