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Tuesday, 2 October 1984
Page: 1413


Mr RUDDOCK(11.49) —Lest it is thought that the Minister's answer was an effective answer to the comments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Howard, I would like to take issue with him over his suggestion that what the Government is seeking to address in this Bill is an anomaly in that the provisions that are intended to be placed in the income tax area, and in taxation generally, are on all fours with the provisions operating in relation to the Social Security Act insofar as de facto couples are concerned. The fact of the matter is that the principal provisions in which in the Social Security Act de facto situations are treated in the same way as married situations are those relating to the payment of a pension at the married rate. Of course, if a de facto couple living together were to be treated in the same way as a married couple no significant disadvantage would be suffered by the married partners through their being married. However, if a de facto couple who were living together were treated as two people living together and received two single rate pensions while maintaining one household they would be significantly advantaged and a married couple receiving only the married rate pension would be significantly disadvantaged. The reverse is the situation in the taxation area. I think that is what needs to be understood. In one situation, that is, in the social security area-


Mr Hurford —You are being hypocritical.


Mr RUDDOCK —I am not being hypocritical at all. I ask for a withdrawal of that statement.


The CHAIRMAN —Order! The Minister will withdraw.


Mr Hurford —Madam Chair, because you asked me to withdraw, I will do so.


Mr RUDDOCK —The fact of the matter is that they are quite different situations. In the area of social security-I know that the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Hurford) understands this-a married couple would be penalised in relation to the pension rate that they would receive if de facto couples living together were able to receive two pensions at the single rate. In relation to the income tax situation, the reverse is the case. We are saying that maintaining the disadvantage that exists in the taxation area is a positive symbol of support for the concept of marriage. If the Government reversed the situation in the area of social security to give effect to the former arrangement that operated in the area of taxation law, the situation would be that married couples would be positively disadvantaged through the way in which the Social Security Act operated. It would not be a support for marriage at all; it would be a positive disincentive to marriage. In view of what we see as being the desirable end that ought to be achieved it was totally consistent to have two methods of interpretation in relation to what regard would be paid to the fact that parties were living in a de facto relationship. I think that important point needs to be understood. It is the very justification for the Opposition's approach in this matter and for its consistency in relation to the approach it maintained in the area of social security.

Amendment agreed to.

Remainder of Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments; report-by leave-adopted.