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Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Page: 3905

Senator MOORE (3:12 PM) —It is very worrying that in this place we actually descend to the level that has just been done in that response. In terms of process, over the last nine months there has been constant attack by the opposition about lack of action from the government—not taking into account the years of lack of action, refusal to answer questions and refusal to respond to any of the issues about pensioners that we were raising during that process. I cannot believe that Senator Bernardi got up in this place and ran the argument that we refused to actually look at the one-off payments when we all know that it was a clear budget scare campaign, used in a very open way.

Before the budget was brought down, the opposition tried, through media scare campaigns, to terrify the community, elicit a response from the government—which was moving towards its first budget—and have leaks from the government. We assured the people of this country—in particular the pensioners of this country—that we were listening to their concerns. What was happening with this particular attack about the one-off payments was that the government were looking at the options they would take and were goaded by the opposition leading up to it. They were trying to create fear amongst the people we were trying to support. In the end, when the budget came down, there was a clear understanding that the utilities allowance, which Senator Bernardi mentioned, would continue. We actually came forward with the process of continuing to work with pensioners to ensure that there was going to be a response to their needs.

We did not pretend that there is a simple answer—at no time has there been any pretence from this government that it was going to be a simple answer—but what we said was that we were going to give the immediate payment through the budget process, not in response to the scare campaign from the opposition but rather to try and work effectively to respond to some of the issues that came out in the Senate inquiry into the cost of living for older Australians. We were listening to that. We were not listening to the attempts to bring down a government budget before it was produced. What we said was that we would take the immediate steps through the budget process and that then, through the establishment of the Henry review of the whole process of taxation and expenditure from the government, there would be a dedicated process, looking in particular at the issues of older Australians. Senator Bernardi knows this. This is what is most offensive in the process that is being used by the opposition. They know the process that is in place. They actually know how complex the social welfare system that is going through is; they know that. But still, to gain a cheap response and also to scare the people about whom we should be concerned, they consistently come forward with short media grabs to try and create a more negative process.

In the Henry campaign, the process is being put in place across the whole of the economy and also, most particularly, in response to what we have been hearing this afternoon about the attacks on pensioners and people who are doing it tough. That is being handled through the Harmer subcommittee of the Henry taxation review. On that subcommittee we have a number of people from across the whole process.

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator MOORE —We hear that reviews are not good enough. Yes, it was good enough for 12 years to come up with a bandaid response in budget after budget and one-off payment after one-off payment, with no attempt to look at the whole system, no attempt to plan for the future, no attempt to engage with the people about whom we are speaking—the very people who will actually need to be supported by the process. The process that has been put in place by this government, which Senator Evans referred to in his answers, is going forward using the people who have the need and actually working with them to see what the long-term solution is, not a short-term bandaid. We know that, the more you do not address the key problem and the more you take a short-term response, the harder the program and the problem are going to be. That is what we have lived with in this country for 12 years: we have not sought to find an overall solution to balance the needs and to actually engage the whole process to look at what can be done for the people who have the most need. We have tried to get the good news program, the good news headline, so that we can feel good for a couple of days while, at the same time, taking every opportunity to throw dust in the eyes of the people who are trying to do a longer term response.

No-one pretends that this is easy. Minister Macklin has been open about how she understands that people are suffering, and that has never been denied. But continuing to put the bandaid on it, as some people in the opposition think is the way to go, is not the best response. As long as we continue to scare, it will not— (Time expired)