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Monday, 28 November 2005
Page: 45


Senator POLLEY (3:29 PM) —I rise to take note of the answers given by the minister, Senator Abetz. I was accused of scaremongering in the Tasmanian media last weekend, but I stand by my belief. The Work Choices and Welfare to Work bills are the inbred children of a mean and out-of-touch Howard government. If given a chance, these bills will mature and resemble their Uncle Sam in all his ugliness. This government has made it clear that it has no intention of listening. Isn’t it time that John Howard and his arrogant government stopped and listened? If they did, they would hear why women, especially, are concerned about these changes. If they had listened, they would have heard the good people from St Vincent de Paul and the Uniting Church express their concerns about child-care places for people forced back into work under the Welfare to Work proposal.

What guarantees are there that children will not be forced to move schools to access after-school child care? Parents on income support cannot afford top-end child care, and this government must know that the promised funding for more child-care places will not go anywhere near meeting the needs of the people trying to participate in work, education and training. Australia will go back to the dark old days of the latchkey child. Australian children will be shuffled between child-care providers, parents will become desperate, and children will suffer—just like America. Is that what we want—a society like America? Because that is what John Howard’s blind government is engineering: a little America, where the dollar and the gun speak, and the poor, children and the elderly are left to fend for themselves. These are survival-of-the-fittest politics and this is an arrogant government. These changes are not the policy of a government committed to a fair go. What happens when this Welfare to Work bill becomes law alongside its Work Choices cousin?

What will happen to disabled persons in Australia’s dismal workplace future? How timely it is, I do not think, to be debating this bill before the pending International Day of Disabled Persons on 3 December. Who will bargain for the rights and conditions of disabled persons? Who will make sure that they are not being ripped off by a greedy boss? Who will make sure that their workplace is safe? How will people who suffer severe anxiety find their way to work? A mildly disabled person living in regional Tasmania will still be expected to commute up to 40 kilometres to a job. The proposed wage subsidy scheme offering financial incentives for employers to employ people with disabilities will be rorted—you know that. And the supported wage system, where people with disabilities are paid according to their level of productivity, in an open workplace leaves the most vulnerable of Australians open to exploitation. Disabled Australians will be exploited. They have always been exploited, and this is a cruel law.

A job must be a pathway. Single parents and recipients of other benefits must be supported in their efforts to create a brighter future for their families. But Welfare to Work is about cost-cutting. It will create an invisible underclass of workers with no bargaining rights. What will happen to the single mother who cannot cope with her new job? What will happen when her children get sick? Kids will still get sick, even when the industrial landscape changes. So what will happen when a single mother has negotiated away her rights to parental leave? We all know what will happen: the single mother will be sacked because she is taking too much time off work. There will be no such thing as unfair dismissal, and she will have no benefit to fall back on.

This is law-making at its cruellest. We all want to see people on benefits offered opportunities to study, work and expand their horizons. Not everyone can cope with the intellectual or physical workload of raising a family and working. Not all parents can cope with a couple of days of work on top of raising their children. Some parents have trouble just making it through the day. They do not have the ability to study or even consider part-time work. (Time expired)


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The question is that the motion moved by Senator Lundy be agreed to.

Question agreed to.