Traditional Family Unit
TRADITIONAL FAMILY UNIT
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: I direct my question without notice to the Leader of the House, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, representing the Premier. What action is the New South Wales Government taking to promote and implement the International Year of the Family to support the traditional family unit, especially the mother in the home as the primary child carer? Has the Government rejected the recent homosexual submission calling for recognition of legalised same sex marriages as supported by the Young Liberals?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: Yesterday the Government, through the Premier, announced a major program to bring the family together as part of the New South Wales Government's commitment to the International Year of the Family. However, in this day and age one must beg the question: what is the traditional family? I recently heard someone say that a single parent with children could not be regarded as a traditional family. That is difficult to address in the case of a widower looking after children. That illustration itself begs the question: what is the traditional family today? It must be recognised that in Australia today, unfortunately, 40 per cent of couples are divorced and have established other families. The extended family in that sense exists. Though the Government recognises married parents with children as traditional families, the Government must ensure that its programs recognise that the family unit is the cornerstone of our community. In recognising that it is a family unit, support should be provided for that family unit and should not cause the community to be any further disjointed and disrupted than, in a sense, it already is.
The Hon. Elaine Nile: You are placing emphasis on child care rather than on the mum who makes sacrifices to stay at home and look after the child.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: The approach the Government is taking is to recognise the need to support children within a unit and to attempt to provide as cohesive a unit as exists within the community - whether children are in the custody of a single parent, an adoptive parent, grandparents or other members of an extended family. Members of the family must be able to support each other. One of the biggest problems experienced within the community today is the disrupted unit. Community pressures are great on all members of the family because of income needs, with both family members working and unable to support the children or even to support themselves. That leads to a breakdown within the marriage.
One of the initiatives the Government will consider this year will be to promote an industrial relations environment that will allow maintenance of the family unit in those families with two adults in the family working. It may require totally flexible working hours and encourage the community to consider more flexible working hours. Another option which the Government is seeking to encourage is for employers to adapt child care arrangements to meet new industrial approaches that will allow children to be closer to the working environment. When I was Minister for Community Services, trials were made of some of those programs. Finance was provided for some workplaces to build child care establishments within the working environment and to offer financial support for those establishments as part of a trial program.
While many would favour what I describe as the small "t" traditional family, it must be recognised that we are a totally diverse community and that programs must be put in place to try to maximise the opportunity for the unit to stay together and for its members to support each other. It is recognised that those units will break down from time to time. However, if debate can be encouraged on the reasons for such disruption and such breakdowns, and if the causes of that environment can be addressed, this year will have been a success in focusing on those issues. If we start the year believing that at the end of the year a significantly changed social environment will have been effected, we are deluding ourselves. The Government will endeavour to implement the programs by which discussion of these issues will begin, and to start trial programs on these issues, so a decade of change will ensue from this year. The Government also will support others in their initiatives during the year.