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Community Affairs Legislation Committee
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill 2015
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Community Affairs Legislation Committee
CHAIR (Senator Seselja)
Moore, Sen Claire
Siewert, Sen Rachel
Brown, Sen Carol
Ms Hatfield Dodds
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Community Affairs Legislation Committee
(Senate-Thursday, 19 November 2015)
CHAIR (Senator Seselja)
Senator CAROL BROWN
Ms Hatfield Dodds
Senator CAROL BROWN
Senator CAROL BROWN
Senator CAROL BROWN
Senator CAROL BROWN
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Siewert)
Senator CAROL BROWN
- CHAIR (Senator Seselja)
Content WindowCommunity Affairs Legislation Committee - 19/11/2015 - Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill 2015
COWLING, Mr Martin J, Associate National Director, UnitingCare Australia
HATFIELD DODDS, Ms Lin, National Director, UnitingCare Australia
Committee met at 09:02
CHAIR ( Senator Seselja ): I declare open this public hearing and welcome everyone here today. This is a public hearing for the committee's inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill 2015. I thank all those who have made submissions to the inquiry. This is a public hearing and a Hansard transcript of the proceedings is being made. The audio of this public hearing is also being broadcast via the internet.
Before the committee starts taking evidence, I remind all present here today that, in giving evidence to the committee, witnesses are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to the committee and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to the committee.
The committee prefers all evidence to be given in public, but, under the Senate's resolutions, witnesses have the right to request to be heard in private session. It is important that witnesses give the committee notice if they intend to ask to give evidence in private. If you are a witness today and you intend to request to give evidence in private, please speak to the secretariat staff. I welcome the witnesses from UnitingCare Australia. Could you please confirm that information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : Yes.
CHAIR: Thank you. I now invite you to make a short opening statement, if you would like to, and then we will move to questions
Ms Hatfield Dodds : Thank you, Zed, and thank you, Senators. Thank you to the committee for providing us the opportunity to comment on this bill. As we have noted in our written submission, we have previously indicated support for reform of social services legislation when it is informed by a thorough analysis of the needs of individuals and families who access the welfare system. It is paramount, we think, that the impacts of any reform are thoroughly and transparently assessed prior to changes being implemented that might result in adverse impacts on the most vulnerable members of our community.
It is therefore with concern that we note, in relation to the bill, that the government appears not to have released substantive evidence to highlight the impact of its proposed changes on families. It is our view that, in the absence of data sets and evidence to support or explain the measures in the bill, UnitingCare Australia is unable to support the proposed reforms. We understand the importance of a payment system that is both efficient and effective. We know that the impact of payment reforms is not isolated and the smallest change in arrangements can tip a family into crisis unless their support system is improved overall. We therefore emphasise the need for substantive evidence to be provided, setting out the overall impact of these proposed changes on individuals and their families. Given the substantive budget savings that the reform measures will facilitate—nearly $5 billion over the forward estimates—we need further explanation on where the burden of these savings will fall.
We also draw attention to the government's red tape reduction agenda and its support for aligning and simplifying payments, including avoiding incentives that might encourage people to move between benefits. This was a position supported in the 2014 McClure review of Australia's welfare system report. Significantly, however, the report highlighted the need for payments that enable people to have a basic, acceptable standard of living and that allow them to meet their obligations to look for work or study and to support children as necessary. To achieve this, the McClure report recommended that the government review all supplements alongside the detailed development of the new payment structure. We are concerned that a comprehensive review of the new payment architecture has not accompanied the introduction of this bill. We therefore seek further explanation on how a review of the adequacy of payments, as recommended by McClure, will be facilitated. Ideally, we would like to see this taking place in the context of a broader tax and transfer reform framework.
Concerning the bill's proposed measures, we specifically seek further clarity in relation to the following three things: the net effect on the range of family types of the five-dollar-per-week increase proposed by the bill when combined with the proposed removal of the supplements; any further evidence that the costs to families of raising children aged over 13 are lower than those for children below that age, or an alternative rationale for those proposed adjustments; and further explanation concerning the proposition to exempt only grandparent families from the removal of FTB part B for couple families when the youngest child is aged 13 or over, but not to exempt any other category, including foster carers.
In our experience working with families in need, we have found that there are usually multiple structural barriers that people face in securing employment. We find that the vast majority of people dependent on welfare payments want to work or work more hours or secure higher paid employment. We therefore support the provision of incentives that encourage and enable welfare recipients to gain improved training and employment so that the economic and social situation for them and their children is improved. In our experience over many decades working with unemployed Australians, if a person is unable to work or cannot find employment, despite attempting to do so, reducing payments is not an effective incentive if someone is genuinely looking for work. To be effective in attaching unemployed people to jobs, we believe our focus needs to be, beyond training and employment support, on investment in job creation.
Finally, UnitingCare Australia believes that reforms to the funding and delivery of child care are important—everyone benefits from a well-functioning childcare system. We believe that early childhood education and care must be accessible to all children and that universal access should be considered a basic right. We support the broad direction of proposed childcare reform that takes an investment approach, simplifies the payments system and provides more support to those most in need. However, we are concerned about the proposed activity test which shifts focus away from a quality service provision for children, determining access instead on the basis of a parent or guardian's circumstances. This will disadvantage some children and their families who do not meet activity test requirements, and many of these families will be recipients of FTB part A and/or part B. It is important that any reforms pursued do not risk compounding negative effects for the children of some of Australia's most vulnerable families.
Again, we thank the committee for the opportunity to comment on this bill. My colleague, Martin Cowling, and I are happy to take any questions.
Senator MOORE: Good morning, and thank you for your submission and your evidence. What is your understanding of the motivation behind this bill? From your understanding, working with families all the time in the field, and from information you have received from the government, what do you believe is the purpose of the bill?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : I think part of the broad purpose is that we have a structural deficit issue in this country; it is a really big issue that we are spending more than we are currently prepared to raise through the tax system. So I think the government, overall, has a focus on looking at whether they can tighten and focus payments. I think another driver is around whether we can make the system simpler, more efficient and more effective. We want to see it fairer as well.
I think one of the challenges in those spaces is that the way governments work in Australia is that ministers, generally, can determine reform and changes within their portfolios, but it is hard to do it beyond them. When you have about a third of the Australian government budget-spend focused in the social services space—much of that on these kinds of transfer payments—I think it is very tempting to look at it and think that we can realise a lot of savings there. We may be able to realise savings there; we may well be able to make the system—and I hope we can make it—more efficient, more effective, simpler and fairer. But I think we have to look at that system in the broader Australian context around our tax system and all of the other things that we spend money on. So I guess our concern is that if we just take a portfolio approach and just look at family payments in isolation, the burden of the heavy lifting we need to do as a country to address the structural deficit will be unfairly borne by those who are least well equipped to do so.
Senator MOORE: You mentioned the issues of McClure in your evidence; we have all been looking at McClure, and the minister, in his second reading speech, did refer to McClure. From your understanding, do you think that, if these changes were to be effected, it would make the system simpler and more transparent?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : It is hard to tell. That is why, in our submission, we have asked repeatedly for data and evidence that we presume—we hope—the government has: because it is hard to tell. Certainly, on the face of it, there will be population groups and family types who will be worse off if this bill goes through, which is why we cannot support it in the absence of any—
Senator MOORE: Without information.
Ms Hatfield Dodds : Without any information or without any contextual benchmarking, I suppose, across the broader system.
Senator MOORE: We are also waiting for that information; we do not have it yet. We are looking forward to that submission this morning. Would you like to run through which family groups you think would bear the most impact from this particular legislation?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : In terms of most impacted, families with children 12 months and below are going to receive some benefit. I guess the biggest issue, from our perspective, is that, when you are taking billions of dollars out of the system, everybody is going to be worse off. If you accept those billions are coming out of the system, then some of the money released by the proposed reforms will be redirected to families with very small children. That is in line with the kind of evidence that we all know about—that the early years are critically important. The first six to 12 months are really important for brain development and attachment and connection for small children.
I guess the broader issue, and the reason we have gone to the evidence and not listed particular family types in a list like that in this submission, is just that everybody is worse off with that amount of money coming out of the system. Unless there is a rationale and evidence base for doing that, it is hard to say anything. But it appears that everybody would be worse off.
Mr Cowling : Senator, you would be aware that many of our organisations deal with people whose finances are very finely balanced all the time, and that any shift in those finances can push a family into crisis. Again, we are concerned at the lack of modelling to be able to identify who those families will be, but we anticipate there will be impacts on our services in terms of people saying: 'Look, this has shifted for me. I was not prepared for it. I was not aware of it and my financial circumstances have tipped my entire family into crisis.'
Senator MOORE: One of the issues is that there will be some increase, with the $10 that is there, but we do not seem to have any information about how the $10 will impact on the loss of the other elements.
Mr Cowling : That is our concern—the loss of supplements and what the overall balancing effect is on families whose finances are balanced on an edge.
Senator MOORE: The argument around the bonus has been that the system has changed—this bonus was introduced during that difficult period, and we questioned at length in this committee how FTB A and FTB B worked with tax returns—and now there will be no need for that because the Taxation Office has produced this new e-process. Everything is 'e'. I am interested to know how many of the people you work with have 'e' access and are 'e' capable, that they can do everything online. That is the rationale: you do not need a bonus anymore because there is no need for the bonus.
Ms Hatfield Dodds : If we believed that our payment system was adequate for all family types and all individuals, we would probably say, 'Sure, things we introduced in particular periods of time for a particular purpose you could let go.' One example would be the $50 million or more that went into financial counselling during the global financial crisis. That is gradually being wound back. But when you are in a situation where you know that payment adequacy is not enough, it is difficult to have these reform conversations without addressing that elephant in the room. I suspect today you are going to hear that from every social service provider and consumer group that speaks to you. That would be our comment about the bonus.
In terms of e-capability, we all know about the digital divide. The lower you go in terms of the quintile you sit in, the more disadvantaged your community and family is, then the less likely you are to have digital connections. I do not have the data in my brain this morning, but I have read about—I am sure you have all read it too—the differences are stark between middle-class and professional families in urban locations and families that are struggling to get by on welfare or very low-income families and their access to digital technology, or even just portals to the internet. I know we have seen that through our aged-care services. I cannot speak to our welfare services, but I know, because of the introduction of consumer directed care this year, we have done a lot of work in the Uniting Care network, and it is very clear that people who are disadvantaged are finding it very difficult to even engage with digital portals, let alone have much e-capability.
Mr Cowling : I do not think we actually collect the hard data from our clients, but we know anecdotally there is a significant amount of frustration at being unable to access electronic information. Many of our clients would have access to the internet only on prepaid mobile phones, and usually at the lower plan, which means they use their data up really quickly. Many times they are actually halfway through a transaction with one of their providers when their data runs out. Sometimes they cannot actually get money to pay for additional data, so then they come into our emergency relief services looking for access to the internet or looking for money to pay for access to the internet—it becomes a vicious circle,
Ms Hatfield Dodds : Ironically, the digital divide is not hard to leap, and you can leap it in one jump. When I was chairing the Australian Social Inclusion Board, I was in Inala one time with then Minister Mark Butler. We met with some families who had been given iPads—iPads at that point cost $300 or $400. They were highly disadvantaged families; they were families with children with impairment and disability of some kind. The iPads were loaded up with apps to assist, and they had a whole lot of apps that took you to government service portals, but also to the schools. It was really lovely because the kids were teaching the parents. They were building their own parents' e-capability. So for very little capital cost, for some wraparound in not-for-profit service support, there were four or six families who were just starting to fly in the digital space. I often wonder why we cannot do that with more families. We do not have to give everybody state-of-the-art Apple Macs. An iPad is actually enough to start bridging that divide from having nothing, or having to go to the library or your local youth or community centre, to having it at your home where you can sit down as a family with your children. Almost every school now has a digital portal for homework, which for all of us as parents is the bane of our lives, all those little assessment matrixes. But there is a bunch of families who cannot access that, and that does not make sense to me.
Senator SIEWERT: I will start where you have just finished, the digital divide. I want to go to the issue around the myGov site. We had an inquiry here last Friday into the job seeker compliance bill, and one of the issues that came up quite a bit was the usability of the myGov site, which is presumably where the government is going to go with this in terms of ease of reporting. Have you had any feedback about the usability and effectiveness, whether there are problems or not, with the myGov site?
Mr Cowling : A lot of our clients have expressed that myGov is actually very difficult to navigate. And to be honest, some of our staff have expressed that it is difficult for them to navigate, and our staff have higher literacy rates—not always—than some of our clients. It is a number of things. I think the first thing is it is difficult to navigate. The second thing is that the whole password functionality is quite complicated and is quite complicated to change. We have people who sometimes, as you are aware, are in transit between residences. They lose their details. They do not always have access to the internet to get them back again. So I think a number of our clients give up on the whole myGov thing. With the apps that are able to be downloaded to the phones, we have had a lot of positive comments about those. People find those very user-friendly and very easy to navigate. But the actual site itself, the myGov site, is—
Senator SIEWERT: We were trying to get online at the inquiry on Friday and we were having some problems.
Ms Hatfield Dodds : It is not that there are easy silver bullet answers for these kinds of things—MyGov is a complex environment—but we need to keep making it better and more usable.
Mr Cowling : I think my concern is that some of the technology that underpins it may be quite old technology—it is almost like a steam engine with a modern front—which makes it difficult for people too.
Senator SIEWERT: We were talking about the supplement before. One of the issues that we are assured of is that it is now going to be easily reportable. I suppose there are a lot of questions around whether, in fact, that is the case.
Ms Hatfield Dodds : We know we have had some bumps along the way around moving to consumer directed care and aged care with the government's IT platform. So it is really good to see in the budget that the government in Australia is investing in that. We all know that is probably going to take longer and be more expensive than we think at the beginning—that is just how IT always seems to work. But it seems to us that that is a really critical thing to invest in and invest in strongly as a country. That is the back end, so we need to get the government IT platform set.
The next challenge is going to be thinking about how do non-government IT platforms interface with that? I do not see a lot of that thinking happening at the moment. Then the last piece is the digital divide piece. How are we going to ensure that very low-income and disadvantaged Australians actually have portals on them? Are we going to consider making iPads, cheap computers or handhelds available? Because it is very difficult to expect people to go to a community place. It is terrific that there are those community places where people can learn and build their capability, but the reality is that most of us are on the internet outside of office hours transacting that kind of personal business.
Senator SIEWERT: I will go back to the issue around the datasets and looking at the information that is needed in order for us to understand the detail of the impacts of the legislation. Can you take us through what the key datasets are or the key information that you think that we need?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : We have named a few of them in our submission so I will start there. Our assumption is that the government has modelling or evidence that looks at the net impact of the changes that are proposed in the bill on the different types of families. We would be interested in seeing that, particularly for those that rely completely or very heavily on income support, because they are the people that are going to be most immediately impacted by any changes. We would like to hear the government's thinking around the framework for the bills and the proposals in the bills, in relation to looking at the adequacy of payments—that is, as you know, a McClure review recommendation. We would like to see the net effect, as I said earlier in the opening statement, on the range of family types of the $5 per week increase. That is obvious if you look at that on its own, but we would like to see the net effect combined with the proposed removal of supplements. So that is around are some family types better off? Are some family types worse off? How does that play out in terms of vulnerability and people's capacity to contribute, belong and be valued in their community?
With the issue around children aged over 13 and those proposed changes, we would like to see some data or evidence around that. We assume that it is the case that there is evidence that the costs of raising children over the age of 13 are lower than children below that age. For any of us who have lived with teenagers, that does not seem possible unless very vulnerable Australians have different teenagers to other families. So we assume there must be an alternative rationale for those adjustments, and we would like to see that. We would like to understand why the government proposes to exempt only grandparent families from the removal of FTB part B for couple families in that category of children over the age of 13, and why it is not proposing to exempt any other category of parent carers, including foster carers.
The bottom line is that we would love to see the rationale for the suite of changes. We would like to see that in an interrelated way, not just looking at proposed change in isolation from a proposed different part of the payment system but looking at it as a package.
Mr Cowling : If I could just highlight what Ms Hatfield Dodds has said? We are quite concerned about that over-13 age group. We would like to see a rationale for why it costs less to raise teenagers, because there is a whole range of activities that those children—well, I should not call them 'children'—that those young adults try to access at school that cost more. There are a whole lot of activities that they want to participate in, and if we want to prepare these people for the workforce and to give them a hand up we do not want to see them at a disadvantage.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. Have you asked the government for that information?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : Yes, we have.
Senator SIEWERT: And I presume that means, given that you are asking for it, that the government has not provided that information?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : We have not had a response yet.
Senator MOORE: Excuse me: we should have them at 12.50, Ms Hatfield Dodds.
Senator SIEWERT: Can I go back to the issue around the McClure report and implementation, and this process? The concern is that we are making changes, if this goes through, and we do not have that overall framework in place and directions set as to how much of the McClure report is being implemented and whether this is consistent with the approach that the McClure process would take.
Ms Hatfield Dodds : That would pretty much be my response. That was a question and response, Senator, in some ways!
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.
Ms Hatfield Dodds : That is the concern, that we have all—government, the parliament, the social services sector itself and many citizen consumer groups—put in a fair amount of energy inputting to the McClure review. I think there has been broad agreement and consensus around its broad directions and recommendations. Again, it would be good to see proposals like this considered within that framework and, again, perhaps the government is doing that but we are not seeing that rationale explicitly set out before us. If it is the case that these payment change proposals are within a broader context and there is other action planned it would be good to know that up-front.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes—to see the overall framework.
Ms Hatfield Dodds : Yes. But I guess that it will not particularly surprise any of the senators on this committee to know that this is our view. One of the critical elements of the McClure report, of course, was going to adequacy of payments. We have long held the view, as has much of the community sector, that payments are too low and need to be increased.
There is ACOSS research that shows us that within two weeks of going onto a Newstart payment, for example, people start going backwards financially. If we are serious as a country about needing to continue running the economy strongly, then we need to take participation and productivity seriously. It is hard to know how we are going to get ahead as a country when we seem to be moving in a direction that is going to continue to lock some people out of attachment to jobs over the long term.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. I have one other question: in terms of the evidence that you have seen and the comments you have made about grandparent carers versus foster carers and other carers, have you seen any evidence that shows that it is more expensive for grandparent carers than it is for, say, foster carers—or other kinship carers?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : Do you mean evidence from the government?
Senator SIEWERT: Well, any evidence from governments or, in fact, from your work. It is not that I am knocking grandparent carers—I do not want that on the record! But you have made the point about picking one set of carers versus other carers: have you seen evidence that they, in fact, pay more, or that it costs them more than, say, other kinship carers or foster carers?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : I have not. I would not be surprised if there are think-tanks or people like the AIHW that have that data, but we have not seen it—only because we have not gone looking for it.
Senator SIEWERT: But in your advocacy work?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : As opposed to the written evidence?
Senator SIEWERT: Yes.
Ms Hatfield Dodds : Certainly, in the work we do across the community, children cost quite a lot of money at whatever life stage they are at. Babies cost a lot, children starting school cost a lot, and when kids hit their teen years they cost a lot. For us, the issue is adequacy. We would be open to considering payment changes that met need. The principle we have put out in this submission is: our payment system needs to provide an adequate safety net for people, and it needs to be based on need rather than any other principle. We do need that evidence as a country: what does it cost to raise kids at different ages, in different locations and in different family types? How do we wash that data and evidence through considerations of payment system changes?
Mr Cowling : We would be interested to know why grandparents have been focused on and foster carers have not been included in the equation. We would like to see the data and evidence of the government.
Senator SIEWERT: Or other kinship carers, as opposed to grandparent carers and foster carers.
Mr Cowling : Correct.
Ms Hatfield Dodds : While we do not agree with the proposition that the best form of welfare is a job—the best form of welfare is decent welfare—a terrific way out of welfare permanently is a decent job that is well remunerated with a pathway that lifts you and your family out of poverty permanently. That is why in the submission we talk about the importance of access to skills and education acquisition for people, and also the importance in this country of thinking about job-creation and where jobs are. Realistically, we know that, if we want to assist people to move from welfare into work in a permanent way, we need to provide them with entry-level, low-skill jobs, so that they can then access skills, grow their skills as they move into those jobs, earn more money and gain permanency—all the things you need to support you and your family in a way that is going to deliver you a decent life. It is good for those families and it is good for the economy.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I want to clarify what consultation has been undertaken by the government department with the sector. I know you said you have asked for information and have not received a response yet, and there has been a short period of time since the announcement of the measures. Were you aware of or consulted at all about what would be announced?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : UnitingCare Australia spends a fair bit of time at Parliament House, as you would all know. We have had conversations in the ministerial wing about the budget generally and about measures, but there was no formal consultation of the sector, as far as I am aware. We have had some conversations, but they have not gone into huge amounts of detail. It was in those conversations that we asked if we could see the evidence base for any changes that were proposed, but we were not consulted in any formal sense.
Senator CAROL BROWN: When it was announced, what was your initial view?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : Pretty much as set out in the submission, Senator. It is difficult to form a view that you could do anything but not support the proposed changes, in the absence of any evidentiary framework that these changes are in the best interests of the people who are the most disadvantaged population groups in our community. We absolutely accept and have been champions of the fact that our transfer and payment systems are complicated and clunky and a historical mishmash of things. It would be fantastic to make them simpler, efficient, effective and fair, but we need to do that in a way that does not place a huge burden on the people who are the most vulnerable in our communities. That is why, in the submission, we talk about how we would like to see these changes considered in a broad sweep of tax and transfer reform. The structural deficit that we face as a country is probably the central plank that we have to address. That would be the context in which we need to think about these payment changes: who bears the burden of change and how fair is that?
Senator CAROL BROWN: From what you have said, these measures do not meet the government's own view of making it simpler or fairer.
Ms Hatfield Dodds : That appears to be the case. Again, that is why we have said that we would really like to see the rationale for these. You could only assume that in the government's mind they do meet the government's purposes. Why would you propose things that would not do that? But, certainly, it is hard to join those dots from where we are sitting at the moment.
Senator CAROL BROWN: It might be a bit too soon to ask this question, but I will ask it anyway, given the period of time we have had these measures before us: have you received any feedback from your clients?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : We have not, as yet. I notice that you are speaking to the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children. I assume they have gone out to their members and would be able to respond. We have not done that; we have not heard from our client groups.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Okay, thank you.
CHAIR: I might have misheard you a little earlier, Ms Hatfield Dodds, on the issue of jobs and welfare. I am not sure if you said that you do not agree with the proposition that the best form of welfare is a job? I am struggling to understand that. What do you mean by that? Do you not think that it is better, in most circumstances, for people to be working rather than getting welfare?
Ms Hatfield Dodds : No, I absolutely do. I think it is conflating employment with welfare. I understand what people mean when they say, 'The best form of welfare is a job.' It is a shorthand, T-shirt slogan way of saying, 'A decent job is way better than being trapped on welfare.' I cannot imagine anybody in Australia would disagree with that. We agree strongly, as a network, and I am passionate about that myself, personally.
But it is an easy jump from there, I think, to say, 'If our focus is on getting people into jobs, maybe we don't have to focus so much on a terrific welfare system.' So that is why I say that the best form of welfare is actually welfare—welfare that provides people with adequate support to live on, access to skills and education acquisition, and opportunities to find work so that we can help people move into employment.
Our overwhelming experience over many, many decades of working with unemployed Australians in almost every Australian community is that the vast majority of people desperately want to work. There is almost no Australian who wants to be trapped on welfare. It is not a lifestyle; it is not much of a life. I think the question is: how do we create pathways? If we can understand that people really do want to work we could probably put less effort into incentivising them and more effort into supporting and empowering them, and creating opportunities for them to find work.
Senator MOORE: I just have a quick follow-up question on Senator Brown's question about consultations. You know that this is the second or third time that the government has rejigged this family package from the 2014 budget. In that time, there has been significant feedback from the community about it. On the particular changes that we have now, and in the ongoing discussions you have had with departments and governments, was there any discussion about this kind of rejigging—in terms of the process? There is certainly the overwhelming expectation that there will be changes. That is factual—the McClure stuff and where that is going to go. But just on some of these issues, because they tend to touch areas that you have worked on both in UnitingCare, in the social inclusion space and in all those areas for many years, I want to tease out from some of Senator Brown's questions and whether you saw this coming.
Ms Hatfield Dodds : Only in the broadest of terms. It is when you are in conversations with the department or the government around where you might go, so not in terms of specific proposals.
Senator MOORE: Thank you.
CHAIR: We have come to the end of our time. Thank you very much for your evidence. We are now going to seek to get the Australian Council of Social Service on teleconference.
Ms Hatfield Dodds : Thank you, senators.