News reports today that the baby bonus is only going to come in installments for teenage (< 18 years) mothers.
The decision follows claims that mothers under 18 have been using the $4000 bonus to buy items such as plasma television sets instead of spending it on their children.
From January next year, teenage mothers will be prohibited from claiming a lump sum. Instead, it will be doled out in 13 instalments over six months.
The Government believes adult mothers mostly deal with the lump sum responsibly, but younger mothers are more financially vulnerable.
Family and Community Services Minister Mal Brough told The Sunday Telegraph: “The intent of the policy is to help families with the immediate costs of having children.
Well, there are so many things wrong here, it is hard to know where to start. First, everyone knows the policy has nothing to do with children but to do with the votes of families with young child. To even pretend otherwise is laughable. Second, what did you think was going to happen? It is a lump sum payment for goodness sake and people spend that on whatever they want. And not just teenagers. If I can point to a single purchase we made after getting the baby bonus that I can attribute to it, it was a plasma screen television; just in time for the 2004 Olympics.
And it is likely that we were hardly alone in that. This graph is from Google Trends. It shows google searches in Australia for “baby bonus” and “plasma tv.” Note that the baby bonus one spikes around May 11 (when it was announced in the budget) and then in the last week of June (just before it came in). That latter one also had a spike in plasma tv searches.
Of course, there are many reasons to think this is coincidental. However, my point is that spending on things other than stuff for babies is a common practice. Indeed, how many teenagers with babies are really hauling big screen televisions in their houses?
Finally, how will installments make a difference in an age of credit cards?
All this amounts to is age discriminatory pandering. For shame, given that the real irresponsibility is the fiscal and governmental irresponsibility of having a baby bonus in the first place.