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Wednesday, 26 May 1993
Page: 1318

Senator TATE —Does the Minister representing the Treasurer agree that the dependent spouse rebate is an important tax equity measure, especially beneficial to single income households? Will the Minister therefore give an assurance that the Government does not regard the promised cashed out payment of a rebate to be directed to a dependent spouse with children as a welfare measure and therefore vulnerable to reduction or even elimination, as if its payment were a social security benefit?

Senator McMULLAN —I want to make it very clear that moving a measure from the revenue side of the Budget to the expenditure side does not make it more vulnerable in any way at all. The capacity to change it remains the same, for good or ill. In fact, it makes the benefit more apparent. It makes it more evident. It makes who the beneficiaries are intended to be more directly apparent. It makes the payment more overt. There is often a problem with hiding expenditures in the tax system. Tax expenditures are not so apparent and therefore not so protectable.

  Senator Tate is correct in saying that the dependent spouse rebate has important equity implications for single income households, but this enhancement of it, which we announced in the election, is just part of a further enhancement of child-care policy—this and others. It will redirect assistance by converting the tax rebate to a cash benefit paid directly to the spouse at home caring for children. It is, as the Prime Minister said, a recognition and an appreciation of the important role played by women who choose to stay at home while their children are growing up. It represents an enhancement of the Government's assistance in this area.

  Therefore, it is an enhancement of this measure and makes it more apparent and makes the beneficiary more clearly stated and, I think, more appropriate. Any concern that may have been expressed to Senator Tate that placing it on the expenditure side will make it in some way more vulnerable is ill-founded. There is no cause for any concern on those grounds.