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Monday, 17 September 2007
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To The Honourable The Speaker and. Members of The House of Representatives Assembled b in Parliament:               

WE THE CITIZENS OF AUSTRALIA are concerned with the lack of reform for our welfare system as recommended by the McClure Report that was commissioned: “to provide advice to the Government on... approaches to welfare reform” (July 2000, ‘Participation Support for a more equitable society: Final Report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform, p. 2).

We your petitioners wish to draw to the attention of the House a seminal proposal of that report, published in The Australian newspaper on 20 December 2004 regarding harmonisation of existing welfare payments to achieve a less discriminatory outcome for welfare recipients. This was: “A single welfare payment was ... proposed by the landmark McClure report... commissioned by the Howard Government with a base sum plus add-ons to reflect personal circumstances.”

Our primary concern is that reform as contemplated by that Report has not occurred and that certain groups of welfare recipients continue to be inequitably assessed under the present system. Austudy recipients for instance are the group from which the future professionals and high net income producers of our country including doctors, lawyers and engineers are eventually derived. It is by their efforts that our wealth and national skills base will be enhanced for the benefit of future generations. Yet this very group who stand to benefit us the most are disadvantaged from the outset by being relegated to significantly lower Austudy payment than others such as Newstart and Abstudy recipients. Moreover, Austudy recipients are deprived of rental assistance while —others who have dependant children and or a partner who receive a Centrelink payment are permitted rental assistance. Austudy recipients may earn more (although many are unable to) before their benefit is reduced does nothing to alleviate the discriminatory effects of that benefit. All students should be entitled to rent assistance to relieve them of financial burden while studying and freeing them to focus on their academic achievements similar to that provided by governments of foreign students studying in Australia. Considering the recent revelations regarding migrants, would it not be more commonsensical to implement the McClure recommendations to facilitate increasing numbers of professionals right here in our own country? How can it be that our Government has consistently failed to implement all the McClure recommendations so publicly heralded over the last 5 years to stamp out the discriminatory effects identified within Australia’s welfare system? It is for these and many other reasons that we your petitioners remain concerned that the current system continues to produce inequitable and discriminatory results.

Your petitioners therefore request the House to abolish the system of Austudy as it currently exists, and aligning student benefits with those of Newstart and Abstudy- so long as they remain engaged in full time study and/or practicum. Secondly, implement a new welfare system that those capable of working aged 16 to 64 years may access a new base pay-thew-System plus add-on payments to assist the recipient to manage their personal circumstances as recommended by the McClure Report. We need a new system which takes into proper consideration the recipients personal circumstances in a non-discriminatory way regardless of race, marital status, and whether the recipient has dependents or not.

by Mr Truss (from 112 citizens)