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Wednesday, 16 October 1985
Page: 1357

Senator COATES(6.12) —Before the debate was interrupted today I had already mentioned some of the Government's new initiatives in social security reflecting our priority of assisting those in the greatest need. I had dealt with the new carers' pension, the special assistance for families with multiple births, the extra increases above indexation to single unemployment benefit recipients and the extension of rent allowances to the longer term unemployed over 18 years of age.

I now turn to the other Budget measures in this Bill to which I draw the Senate's attention. The additional payment to pensioners, beneficiaries and family income supplement recipients with children will increase $2 a week to $16 a week per child as from next month. In May next year the mothers or guardians allowance will also increase by $2 a week to $12 a week. These small but significant increases will be of special help to supporting parents. This group will also be particularly assisted next year by the attack on poverty traps announced in the September tax package involving the removal of the separate income test on rent allowance, the doubling of the amount of income per child disregarded for the income test and the general increase of $10 for each child in the amount of income disregarded for the income test. I point out that in this Bill, to apply in May, the amount of income disregarded for the income test on unemployment and sickness benefits will increase by $10 so that it matches that applying to pensions.

One other minor but important change in this Bill will involve the continued payment of the handicapped child's allowance for children who temporarily leave home for respite care. This will be available for a period of up to 28 days in any one year. I know it will be very welcome to those parents who have in their care a disabled child.

To summarise, all of these improvements to the social security system and the equivalent veterans' affairs payments show once again this Government's commitment to combating poverty. These measures do not abolish poverty; nobody would pretend that. We remain concerned about the extent of desperate poverty in Australia but, with what funds are available and in the sort of budgetary environment which exists these days, those funds are clearly directed to those in greatest need. I support the Bill implementing the Budget measures in social security and veterans' affairs.