Mothers aged under 18 will get their Baby Bonus payments in instalments, Minister for Families Mal Brough has formally announced today. Teenage mothers will also have to visit social workers to receive the payments.

The announcements – leaked to Sunday papers — follow claims that teenage mums have wasted the money on plasma TVs or have been pressured to part with payments.

The welfare lobby initially welcomed the move. “I think what it’s about really is ensuring that single mothers and single parents that really do struggle on very constrained budgets are able to access the finance they need, week to week, to be able to meet their bills and be able to pay for what their children need,” ACOSS president Lin Hatfield Dodds told Channel 10 yesterday morning.

Later, though, Hatfield Dodds said she was concerned that young mothers were not being given enough choice. Anglicare has also said the decision could lead to tough times for many young mothers on low incomes.

Labor isn’t complaining, though, with Labor’s families’ spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, praising the change. She told the Sun-Herald about “disturbing cases… of teenage mums being coerced into giving away their cheques”.

Brough and Plibersek both have valid points – but they’re both also just offering politically correct reworkings of “teenage mums get pregnant for the welfare”. If they don’t already, the baby stores will offer goods on instalments.

But Brough and Plibersek clearly don’t read Harvey Norman catalogues. You don’t even need to make instalment payments there. Their plasmas are always being promoted as two years interest free.

And extortionists – like the rest of us – appreciate regular incomes.

Peter Fray

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