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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 6841


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (10:44): I note, first of all, that I was the only voice for the ayes in the chamber for that amendment. I move:

(3) Schedule 2, item 2, page 5 (lines 9 to 15), omit the item.

The effect of this amendment would be to restore the indexation of the family tax benefit. Freezing the indexation of these supplements could create financial hardship for low-income families. It is that concern that ultimately drives us to move this amendment. Although the indexation may in theory only amount to the loss of a few dollars a week, it is a significant amount for low-income and single-parent families.

There are over 629,000 recipients of family tax benefit on income support who will be negatively affected by this measure. The supplements were initially designed to deal with family tax benefit debt, but they are now an essential part of budget planning for low-income families. Evidence given by the Australian Council of Social Service to the inquiry into this bill confirms this. ACOSS said:

People whose families are living on, for example, less than $30,000 a year, which includes many families on income support payments, need every dollar they can get. They particularly struggle with bulky expenses such as car registration, fridges breaking down, having to move house, which frequently happens if you rent privately, and finding the bond. These unavoidable expenses often come as lump sums and the feedback we have received from members is that people find those supplements particularly useful to meet those kinds of expenses and also to repay the debts that they have incurred to meet those expenses in the past including, for example, Centrelink debts.

That was the Australian Council of Social Service, who know a fair bit about the pressures that are faced by low-income families and particularly those on benefits. My electorate of Melbourne has the highest number of public housing dwellings of anywhere in the country, and there are very many people in my electorate of Melbourne on very low incomes who will find it just that much harder to meet the cost of living as a result of the freezing of the indexation.

We heard a fair bit a little while ago from the coalition about cost-of-living pressures and forgotten families and so on. This amendment gives them an opportunity to do something about it. They moved a second reading amendment that they knew had no prospect of success. Now they can actually put their money where their mouth is and support the removal of the pausing of indexation of family tax benefit. If they do not, it will be just another in a long line of stunts and ultimately we will find Labor and the coalition agreeing yet again to take money away from those who are doing it the hardest.

We accept, as the Greens, that there is an argument for addressing the situation of family tax benefit for those who are not on low incomes, but, until we address the situation of those who are on the lowest of low incomes in this country, this is not a bill that we can support unless the schedule is removed. It is for that reason that I have moved this amendment to remove the schedule. I urge all of those in the chamber, but particularly those who for the last hour have spoken in loud voices about this issue, to support the amendment.