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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 313


Mrs SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (16:27): Our nation has an amazing system of welfare support, representing almost a third of the federal government budget. Things that have happened in recent times are not a generation of efficiency dividends. Sometimes I think that running a country is a bit like running a business, and I can say that after 17 years of making fudge, sending it out and collecting money for the stuff I sent out. If I sent too much or a customer owed me money, we would negotiate a payment and work out a schedule. I made a mistake. They might have made a mistake. We fixed it. I am not saying that the system is pure, but this is exactly the same as recovering overpayments from the taxpayer funded welfare support system. And it is only being done when there is an apparent difference between the self-declared income of a welfare recipient and the records held by the Australian tax office.

The system is going through some teething problems. We all know that. However, I have had a little look at the statistics that have been quoted this afternoon, and each member has stood up and said, I've had 10' in one case. Some people have said, 'I've had up to 100 constituents who have needed assistance.' I do not know about you but I have got 114,000 constituents. I have had about 14 people who have needed my help. I am sure there will be more, because I have just said to people: 'Come and ask me to help you, if this is causing you grief.'

This is my job. We are there to help these people get through a system that may not have worked for them. This is your job—the opposition—but that is not a lot in the scale of things in this system. Instead of putting their lives on the public record—I hope you got their permission to do so, because it is a complete breach of privacy, if you did not-you should have gone straight to the minister, as all of us did, and said: 'A constituent's got a problem. Can we help them?' That is our job as members of parliament. We are there to help our constituents and not throw their lives into the newspaper. Get real. Get it fixed and help sort these problems out for the people.

Opposition members interjecting

Mrs SUDMALIS: That is exactly what I am doing.

Mr Dick: It's a computing mess.

Mrs SUDMALIS: It is a computing mess which could have and should have been fixed up during the Rudd-Gillard years. It has been there for a long time—

Mr Dick: You're in government.

Mrs SUDMALIS: Yes, we are in government. Guess what? We are fixing it, and this is part of the process. There needs to be a drop of reality on the other side. Running a country is like running a business. We need to be completely focused on helping our constituents at all times instead of making a public debacle of their lives. What you have done is very, very wrong. I am not happy with the way things were done, and I am sure I know how to calculate. If you have a hundred constituents that you need to help, that is less than one in 1,000 people in your electorate, and it is our job to assist them. If there is a problem, you go to the minister and you help fix it. That is our job in every aspect of what we do.

I am sure that, for every person you have represented in parliament today—through the Acting Deputy Speaker—you have permission for that particular public thing. Even though there is privilege in here, you have actually exposed their life to public criticism, particularly when that person still owes money. I personally would not like any of my constituents to be exposed that way.

I really think we need a concerted effort to work together on this situation. We are running a country. There is a debt to be paid back. There is a system in place. I want all of those in my electorate who are entitled to government income support to be able to earn that government income support and to be able to exist on it. What do I say to this person here who should be getting income support when they have a neighbour who they know should not be getting that income support? This is all part of the process of balancing the payments, making sure people feel safe and secure in their income support and that this government is doing the right thing by those who are absolutely entitled to be getting support. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Irons ): Order! The time allotted for this discussion has expired.