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Thursday, 13 April 1989
Page: 1504

Senator COLSTON —My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security relates to the announcement last night that child payments will in future be adjusted for inflation. Will the Minister inform the Senate of the significance of the announcement by the Treasurer?

Senator BOLKUS —The importance of last night's statement is that, in essence, it is an historic announcement. It is one that this Government is extremely proud of. It is historic because it gives on-going benefits to most Australian families; it is historic because before last night no government and no parliament of this country had placed children first; and it is historic because we have done so. Not only have we done that but we are also committed to maintaining the value of payments to families with children. The basic strength of our commitment is that all child payments will be automatically adjusted for inflation. Whether it be the family allowance, family allowance supplements, additional pensions and benefits, the mothers/guardians allowance, the child disability allowance, double orphans pensions and multiple birth payments, they will all be automatically adjusted for inflation.

As a nation I think we like to pride ourselves on putting our children first. But I do not think we can fairly say that before last night's statement we have actually done so. Not only have we now achieved benchmarks but we have also indexed the child-related payments to ensure security and protection. We are the first government in the history of Australia to commit ourselves to maintaining the real value of payments of families with children.

In recent days the Opposition has made a number of claims that it is the party for ordinary families. But our performance can very easily be compared with that of the Opposition. In seven years in government the coalition made only one increase in the family allowance and that was in 1982 in a period of economic disaster. In this context, the Government's package is quite historic. It is historic because it is the largest increase in the family allowance in our history; it prevents the erosion of payments ever occurring again. But more importantly than that, it is part of this Government's long term commitment in this area, a commitment which was very well spelt out in Social Security Review Paper No. 1 in 1986. That paper committed this Government to achieving short term measures to accommodate people most in need and long term measures to restore fair income distribution to families with children and, more importantly, to protecting from inflation families with children.

As I said at the start, this is an historic package and we are proud of it. We have delivered in terms of achieving the benchmarks that we set out to achieve for low income families; we have delivered, as I said, because it is the biggest increase in family allowances in our country's history; and we have delivered in the sense that we are protecting child-related payments from inflation. In closing, I stress the point that all these achievements have been made in the context of a long term commitment by this Government to achieve protection and reform in this whole area.