OPINION: by George Christensen MPNews Weekly
Unwaged mums forgotten in baby bonus cut
, June 8, 2013
In 1942, Robert Menzies struck a nerve in the Australian populace by speaking out for the “forgotten people”.
More than 70 years on, the “forgotten people” still exist and are found in almost one million Australian families where one of the parents makes the choice to “stay at home” and look after the couple’s own children. The recent removal of the baby bonus has certainly seen to this.
While polls suggest the baby bonus was probably well past it use-by date within the electorate at large, Labor’s removal of the scheme is yet another betrayal of Australian families. Two years ago, Families Minister Jenny Macklin was saying that the government was “budgeting for the baby bonus to continue right out into the future”.
“The government won’t be scrapping the baby bonus,” Macklin said at the time. “We understand how important it is to provide financial support to families when a baby comes into the home.”
Given Labor’s track record on broken promises (witness the carbon tax, the private health rebate cut and the supposed budget surplus), it’s a minor miracle the baby bonus scheme lasted so long after that particular promise by Macklin.
The removal of the baby bonus, while perhaps politically popular, leaves a massive void in the nation’s family assistance regime.
For families in which one of the parents chooses to leave paid employment and provide care for their own children themselves rather than outsourcing that care to a childcare centre, there seems to be little in the way of assistance when compared to that on offer to other families.
This is not the first time that Labor has whittled away at programs that parents who choose to care for their children until they are of school age.
When Kevin Rudd was still Prime Minister, Labor stripped more than $3,250 a year in Family Tax Benefit B out of the pockets of more than 40,000 families in which one parent earned $150,000 or more while the spouse remained out of the paid workforce in order to provide care for their children.
The baby bonus has also been hacked at by Labor in budgets past. Last year, Treasurer Wayne Swan cut the baby bonus from $5,000 to $3,000 for children other than the first-born. Back in 2011, as Swan began to face up to his growing national debt crisis, he cut the baby bonus by $400 a year.
This cut was condemned by Liberal National Coalition leader Tony Abbott, who said at the time that he thought the Gillard Labor government “has never had much respect for the stay-at-home mums of Australia”. He’s right. It doesn’t.
Back in her university days, Julia Gillard rose to the lofty heights of president of the Australian Union of Students (AUS). Under her presidency, the AUS came out with a policy position that “prostitution in marriage is the transaction of sex in return for love, security and house-keeping”.
In other words, our Prime Minister presided over a group that believed all housewives were harlots.
Both the Prime Minister and her Families Minister Jenny Macklin are members of the radical feminist faction of the Labor Party known as Emily’s List. Along with the liberalisation of abortion laws, one of the key aims of this organisation is getting mothers out of the vocation of caring for their children themselves and into the paid workforce.
For the radical feminist brigade the choice of “staying at home” to look after children is seen as less worthy than being in the paid workforce. It’s one of the reasons Emily’s List has been such a cheer squad for paid parental leave.
Under paid parental leave, so-called stay-at-home mothers are left on the scrap heap. For a woman who, five years ago, left her paid career to become a full-time mother, caring for her child herself, until he or she was of school age, and who then became pregnant again in the past nine months, paid parental leave delivers nothing.
Government policy now officially values the work of mothers in delivering their own personal child care as less than that of those who are in the paid workforce, and that is not only sexist but a great shame to this nation.
The removal of the baby bonus without a decent scheme to replace it only compounds the inequity. With our nation now cruising towards a debt of more than $370 billion, there appears to be little financial capacity to introduce a sound replacement to the baby bonus in the short term.
However, future governments must consider the needs of these “forgotten people” — unwaged mothers looking after their own children.
George Christensen is federal Liberal National Party (LNP) member for Dawson.