TEENAGE mothers will be offered assistance to manage maternity payments of up
to $5000 amid fears this could encourage under-18s to get pregnant.
Despite John Howard urging Australians yesterday to procreate in the national interest, he conceded there were concerns teenagers could be seduced by the cash.
Men's Rights groups warned that women might use the cash to "buy a new car" and demanded accountability measures be considered, including for fathers who shared custody of children but could not access the money from ex-partners.
The Prime Minister said he was concerned, but believed only a small proportion of women would have babies for the wrong reasons.
"There are not too many people who willingly - despite a popular view to the contrary - there are not too many people who deliberately have children with some expectation of support," Mr Howard said.
"In fact, teenage pregnancy is not a big problem for Australia as it is for some other societies, and for example the great bulk of single mums in this country were once married or in relationships."
Asked to respond on television to the concerns of a single man named Richard, who complained he would not get a tax cut because he only earned $35,000 and did not have children, Mr Howard urged him to father a child.
"All those Richards out there, come on, come on - your nation needs you," he told Seven's Sunrise program.
And Peter Costello defended the fact that the payment would be available to all, regardless of income.
"I don't think there are going to be many people in waterfront palaces who are young families having their first child," the Treasurer said.
"I think every family that has a baby incurs additional costs. And every such family should get a benefit."
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward welcomed the initial maternity payment of $3000, rising to $5000 by 2008.
"It equates to $20 per week for 14 weeks, which will provide income replacement for many women who are engaged in part-time and casual work," Ms Goward said.
"For women in full-time work it does not replace their wages, but is nonetheless a valuable contribution to household income at this important time. The next challenge is to address the availability and affordability of childcare under five, particularly for the nought to two-year-olds, and for employers to introduce flexibility for parents at a workplace level."
Men's Rights Agency spokesman Reg Price said some women might get pregnant for cash.
"Straight away on the internet we had one woman saying, 'Terrific, I'll
get pregnant and be able to buy a car'," Mr Price said. "That's my