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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 13667

Mr BOWEN (McMahonMinister for Immigration and Citizenship) (18:29): The government will not be supporting the opposition amendments. We believe this bill already strikes the right balance between creating opportunities for teen parents and jobless families to access services that will assist them to finish their education and enter the workforce and requiring responsibility through the threat of income support suspension.

Anything further than the proposed bill before the House, we believe, would be too harsh. The government also opposes the amendments because formal interviews with teen parents will occur only every six months and therefore a penalty amount might become very large over a period of time. Teen parents are already a vulnerable customer group and already have complex and multiple barriers, such as the risk of homelessness, few life skills and small resources to draw upon in many instances.

The purpose of the trial is to provide assistance and support to families, not to further entrench them in financial difficulties. It is important to note that these arrangements are a trial and that most of the teen parents in the trial will not have had any requirement to do the activities before now. In addition, it is important to note that not all teen parents will be in the trial so that imposing a threat of debt on some parents but not others does not raise equity concerns. For those reasons we continue to commend the bill to the House and oppose the opposition's amendments.

Question negatived.

Bill agreed to.