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Friday, 17 December 1993
Page: 4981

Senator HARRADINE (2.35 p.m.) —I support the stance taken by Senator Woodley. Anybody who has heard me speak on this matter surely would not be surprised at my saying this. Anybody who has seen over the years what has happened to the family allowances would not be surprised by the consistent attitude that I have taken about this matter. We must think about what family allowances are. If we think back to 1976, we will see what family allowances really are. In 1976, the then government abolished—

Senator Herron —Child endowment.

Senator HARRADINE —No, it abolished tax rebates for children and child endowment—it abolished both. It abolished the tax rebate for children and cashed it up into a family allowance to be paid to the carer. I agreed with that. In fact, some six years before that, when I was on the ACTU executive, the then President of the ACTU, Albert Monk, made a recommendation that the money should go into the hands of the principal carer instead of being spent in a hotel or something like that because, ultimately, it was the taxpayer who was getting the benefit and not necessarily the carer. That was the situation.

  So what really happened was that it was out of the hip pocket into the purse. I remember it well—it was out of my hip pocket into the purse. It cost the government absolutely nothing. On that occasion, I well recall saying to the then government, `Well, I hope you are not going to make this sum dwindle away'. I remember Senator Grimes standing up in this chamber in the old Parliament House and saying exactly the same thing: that family allowances are not welfare payments; they are part of the tax transfer system. That is what he said; that was Labor Party policy.

  What has happened since then? Remember, it was out of the taxpayers' pocket into the purse. Since then, successive governments have had their hands into that purse, pilfering the money from the purse of the carer who, generally speaking, was the mother, and the government is going to pilfer again now. I have worked out that over $8 billion was pilfered from the purses of mothers. This was done by two means: firstly, when the family allowances were not indexed—as indeed were the tax rebates—and, secondly, as a result of means testing, thresholds and so on.

Senator Herron —Shame!

Senator HARRADINE —Yes, it is a shame. Here we have another attempt to exacerbate this situation, to pinch a few more bucks from the purses of the mothers of this country. That is what this government is doing.

Senator Herron —At Christmas.

Senator HARRADINE —As Senator Herron said, at Christmas time. That is what the government is doing. It did not say that it would do it before the election, but it is doing it now. It should contrast what it is doing on this particular measure with what it did yesterday with the child-care rebate. There is no means test on that. There is no means test on dual income families, many of whom live in this capital city. They can put their children into care and there is no means test on their rebate. I will give the committee an example. I cannot remember the amount that is suggested; it might be $55,000 or something like that.

Senator Woodley —That is the asset limit.

Senator Sherry —$60,000.

Senator HARRADINE —It is $60,000. I give the example of a two-income family in Canberra, two well-paid senior public servants on, say, $50,000 a year each—$100,000. They put their kids into child care. They are not subject to means testing at all. On the other hand, a one income family on $60,000 with children is means tested.

   It was not the government's money in the first place. It was the taxpayers' money in the first place. The government is pinching it out of the family purse. It is going right against every single principle upon which this particular payment was based. If it is talking about targeting, then it should target properly. But that is a welfare measure. We have to have a really good look at this at some stage. I congratulate Senator Woodley on taking this stand at this time. I hope his amendment will be carried.