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Wednesday, 21 June 2000
Page: 15297

Senator NEWMAN (Minster for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) (11:29 AM) —I would have thought that the significant issue that is being ignored in this measure—a measure which I think both opposition parties have endorsed and by which we are trying to achieve some consistency and simplicity of process—is that people who may never have been able to consider going overseas in the past, regardless of the length of time they were able to go, are now better placed to take that step because of the provision of rent assistance and pharmaceutical allowance. For people on long-term welfare payments going overseas for things like family reunion is quite difficult. The fact that the government is providing a new entitlement to what has long been wanted and the opportunities that that opens up for people are surely something to be factored into what the length of the period should be for those who do go overseas.

Perhaps the opposition parties are labouring under a misapprehension that the package of measures for portability, et cetera, is a savings measure. It is not. It is pretty well fiscally neutral. So I do think it is a great shame that the chamber is clearly missing a great opportunity to improve the social security system so it is easier to administer, clearer as to entitlements, and does not have one group on income support benefiting as against other groups. I would have thought just plain equity, as well as a recognition that more opportunities are going to people to be able to reunite with families, should have had the wholehearted support of the entire chamber.

The CHAIRMAN —The question is that opposition amendments Nos 11, 12 and 13 be agreed to.

Question resolved in the affirmative.