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Wednesday, 14 June 1989
Page: 4021

Senator BOLKUS (Minister for Consumer Affairs)(6.33) —I rise to respond to all the points made. The Australian Democrats remind me of the political journalists who, over the space of six months or so, have managed to predict an election date which on every occasion is different from the one they predicted the time before. Then, once the election is called, they say, `There you are, we told you'. No-one accuses Senator Powell of stating that there should be only one government program delivery in the area of social security and veterans' affairs. No-one would ever accuse the Democrats of limiting their priorities in that way. We say that the Democrats set their benchmark for this issue in 1986. They made it very clear that they wanted $22 per week, indexed. I said earlier on that, had this been done, younger children would be $7 a week worse off and older children would be $17 a week worse off under the Democrats' proposal. The Democrats just have to accept that in this particular instance maybe they did not ask for enough.

Senator Harradine made a couple of significant points. In respect of those I think I should bring the discussion to a very quick conclusion and quote from the Institute of Family Studies. On the night of the April statement it said of that package:

The package appears to redress the erosion of family incomes since 1976 through tax bracket creep and the failure to index family benefits. The indexation of family benefits is an historically significant feature which will ensure that these payments will not be eroded in the future.

In every year of this Government's term of office there have been quite important targeted increases in child and family payments. In the April statement, as the Institute acknowledges, through the package there has been a major achievement in terms of the maintenance of the adequacy of those payments.

Question put:

That the amendments (Senator Powell's) be agreed to.