Friday, May 17, 2013

Baby Bonus gone

The federal treasurer's announcement in the Budget 2013 that there is to be no Baby Bonus from early 2014 is, in my opinion, a sad legacy of the present government, and an equally lamentable commentary on the opposition's lack of support for those who need it most. 
It sometimes takes a cartoon to speak truthfully about political situations.  Thanks, Australian.

Mothers who stay at home with their young children, particularly in the pre-school years; mothers who do not benefit from paid parental leave because they do not have employment out of the home; families who live on one income - these are the ones who will miss the baby bonus most.  And, as it happens, many in this sub-group of modern Australian communities are the ones who also value wellness and protection of health in pregnancy, birth, and nurture of their babies - and who employ a midwife privately.  Many mothers have 'afforded' homebirth, knowing that they will be entitled to the baby bonus.  So, in that sense, I must declare that my interest in the baby bonus is, in part, linked to my need to earn a living as a midwife.

I don't have time thismorning to write any more, but will get to it as soon as I can, and add to this post.  Any comments from readers will be appreciated, either in the comments section here, or by email.

Responses received in 4 our so hours since I wrote include:

Cancelling the baby bonus demonstrates ...
"undervaluing of the role of a parent"
Yes, the current social pressure to have children of all ages cared for by specially designated child care businesses does ignore the very real intuitive and personal roles of parents in caring for, guiding, and teaching their own children.
"full time parenting is not recognised as gainful or important.  ... the role of a stay at home mum has been labelled 'for the chronically unambitious'."

"I think this really will have an impact of breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding rates."
No doubt!


Then, there are those who have seen what they consider to be abuse of the government's over-generous middle class welfare, new parents who have boasted of purchasing the flat screen TV, state of the art coffee machine, new sofa or a trip to Bali.
or, as a midwife notes, 
"the women in [low socio-economic area/suburb] who come back and have a new baby each year, and can't wait to get the Centrelink forms filled out so that they can get their payments."
Yes, any social welfare scheme can be abused.  We Australians have many supports provided by government at the time when our babies are being born and nurtured, including family tax benefit, parenting payment, as well as the child care benefit and child care rebate for children in approved care facilities.  For more detail, click here.

A quick review of media around the scrapping of the baby bonus informs me that there will be an end to the current baby boom, that teenage pregnancies will be discouraged, and that families will no longer have 'one for the country', as proposed by Peter Costello in 2004.  The consensus amongst thinking people seems to be that the baby bonus is better relegated to the wastebin of bad economic management.

Here's a story.  Once upon a time ...
There were two men in a certain city.  One was very rich, and he had properties and flocks and herds and many possessions.  The other was very poor, and lived near the rich man.  He owned just one ewe lamb, which the poor man had bought.  The poor man and his family loved that lamb, and it ate their food, and drank from the same cup, and slept in the poor man's arms.  Now one day a traveler arrived at the rich man's house, and he invited the traveler to stay for dinner.  The rich man did not take a lamb from his own flock, but in stead took the lamb from the poor man, killed it and had it prepared for his meal.
[This story is based on the one in 2 Samuel 12.]

I see the cancellation of the Baby Bonus as the rich man taking from those who are weakest and least able to defend their own interests in the political arena.

When (then Treasurer) Peter Costello introduced the Baby Bonus reform legislation in 2002, he stated that:
"The Baby Bonus recognises that one of the hardest times for families, financially, follows the birth of a first child. A family could lose one of its two incomes for a period of time as the mother, or father, gives up or reduces paid employment to care for the child." [click here for more]
The need for support when one parent gives up or reduces paid employment to care for a child is an ongoing need.  By all means, the provision of the baby bonus should be refined and managed in a way that minimises abuse.  In the current financial situation, I believe it would have been prudent for the opposition to hold to the long-term support of this program, rather than supporting the government's plan to use the ewe lamb owned by the poor man to feed the rich man's guest.

1 comment:

Joy Johnston said...

It's a couple of days since I wrote this post. I don't usually get involved politically, but this issue is troubling me deeply.

In the matter of support for new mothers, whether it's baby #1 or #10, there are many who believe that they are the best people in the whole world to care for their babies. Our society has, until now, given some support to these mothers through the baby bonus, which had its beginnings back at the time of Federation.

Now, a mother who has a job to return to after paid parental leave (which is funded by big business, not by Treasury), is generously rewarded to spend the first months of her baby's life with the baby. A mother who does not have the option of paid parental leave gets nothing.

This is unreasonable.