May 22nd 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: An election winning Budget?

EDITORIAL: Child care funding and the Budget

AGRICULTURE: Sugar package, Clayton's package

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Ethanol for strategic energy self-reliance

STRAWS IN THE WIND: More history wars / Betrayal / Guilt by association / ALP founding

COMMENT: Tougher law enforcement needed to stop drug wars

FREE TRADE AGREEMENT: Economist describes CIE report as laughable

Nature says no to same sex marriage (letter)

Vietnam human rights (letter)

Western media hypocrisy (letter)

No choice for mothers (letter)

Marriage unaffordable (letter)

Taiwan and the WHO (letter)

US economic integration defended (letter)

ECONOMY: Manufacturing decline causes foreign debt crisis

Europe's uncertain future

REPORT: More of the same at UN women's conference

COMMENT: Same-sex marriage: there are no limits

BOOKS: EMPIRE: How Britain Made The Modern World, by Niall Ferguson

BOOKS: Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars: The Covert Life of a Soviet Spy, by G. Edward White

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No choice for mothers (letter)

by Alan Barron

News Weekly, May 22, 2004

The Prime Minister's introduction of a "Maternity Payment" of more than $3,000 over a 14-week period to all mothers irrespective of whether they work or not is discriminatory. It is also seriously flawed.

The stay-at-home mother once again has been left out in the cold. If a couple chooses to have both parents work, then why should taxpayers, including single-income families, subsidise the child-minding payments of dual-income families?

In addition, the Commonwealth Government intends to bolster child-minding fees to help parents move off welfare and into work. That's fine if the nation has full employment. But the reality is Australia has a chronic unemployment and under-employment problem, going on ABS figures, of around 17 per cent.

The official unemployment figure of around 5.5 per cent is a sham. In other words, jobs are scare and not freely available, so why should people waste time seeking phantom jobs?

The "Maternity Payment" is fundamentally flawed as it will have the effect of encouraging married women to stay longer in the workforce. Yet the Government bemoans the fact that Australia has a greying of the population due to a declining birth-rate.

Over the past 30 years, since women have been encouraged to see a career in the paid workforce as normal and as their primary focus in life, the birth-rate has slowly declined as more and more women have joined the workforce. This movement has also resulted in declining male employment opportunities, especially for mature aged males.

If Australia is to address the chronic high unemployment rate and the greying of the population, then there is no escaping the fact that the nation needs larger families. Mothers should be given incentives so that they can afford to leave the workforce if they so choose. This would have the effect of encouraging larger families - providing housing prices were kept in check. At the moment, many families don't have much choice.

In terms of fairness, there is no compelling reason why working women with a working spouse, who have the benefit of an additional income, should receive any middle-class welfare "Maternity Payment" from the government.

This country has many politicians but too few statesmen.

Alan Barron,
Convenor, The Memucan Institute,
Grovedale, Vic

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