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Wednesday, 16 October 1985
Page: 1308

Senator HARRADINE(12.01) —In respect of Senator Peter Baume's contribution, I believe that there is a major matter of principle here and that is that if a family, at whatever level of income, has dependants that should be recognised in the tax system. After all, it is recognised in the tax system so far as business is concerned, so why should it not be recognised in the tax system so far as the most important business in the whole of Australia is concerned namely, families?

Senator Peter Baume —Why not start with getting rid of it?

Senator HARRADINE —Why does not the honourable senator oppose what the Government is doing? That is the way to do it. I understand that Senator Siddons is trying to face the reality of the situation and is trying to bring in at least some alleviation for those families which will be afflicted by chronic ailments over the next few years. The Minister for Finance, Senator Walsh, has now revealed to the Senate that in order to give overall tax cuts the Government will ensure that families with grave illnesses help pay for those tax cuts, to the extent of $34m or $40m or whatever it is. Those tax cuts-that is another argument-will be across the board and those families without dependants will be able to benefit from them. Not only do we have this non-recognition by the Government of the need to ensure that families with dependants do not have a greater burden to bear, including a greater indirect tax burden, but also the Government has decided to attack those families with chronic illnesses. I say again that the mind boggles at the attitude that those families with a large number of dependants with chronic illnesses should have to bear an unfair burden to the extent, as the Minister said, of $34m in Government revenue.

The Committee should consider what it is doing. The Government is treating in an unfair manner the family with a number of dependants who are unfortunate enough to have chronic ailments which require quite considerable amounts of money to be expended upon them. It is treating those families in a different way to those who are blessed with good health. I believe that that is not a fair proposition. It is contrary to what I thought the Government's policy was on Medicare. For example, one cannot claim orthodontic treatment on Medicare. Will the Government place families in a situation in which they will not be able to make a claim for their medical expenses for orthodontic treatment other than for amounts over the $1,000? Even that amount will, of course, be subject to a rebate of only 30 per cent. This matter ought to be reconsidered. I know we are getting into an area which is probably more appropriate to the debate which is coming up on the supplementary taxation paper, but this concern ought to be registered here. I believe that what Senator Siddons is proposing is at least a better deal than what is proposed by the Government.