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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 3447

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) (11:52 AM) —In response to Senator Boswell, what Senator Stephens did on behalf of the government was refer to a decision of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal from a hearing in April 2007 which affirmed the decision by a Centrelink review officer who affirmed the original decision to reject a claim for maternity payment for a termination of pregnancy at 22 weeks gestation. In fact, they tested the legislation and found it to be sound and achieving what it was supposed to achieve. This was the original Howard government legislation. The framework applied here is the same that applied in that legislation. There is no need for amendment; in fact, it can be argued that one might weaken the provision. The concerns that were raised were addressed in 2009 with a form to make it absolutely clear how the law applied.

Senator Fielding, I think the reason people like Senator Joyce get upset about these issues is that when people start saying things like, ‘Drug addicts, prisoners and welfare cheats are getting better deals,’ there is a bit of a sense that maybe we are trying to whip up a little hysteria in the debate. I think that is what concerns people. We should take a calm, considered view of it. First of all, ‘welfare cheats’ means, I assume, that you are on welfare; therefore, you are not entitled to parental leave, so I am not sure how welfare cheats get into the act. If they are cheating and, therefore, on welfare, they are not entitled to parental leave. But it is all rhetoric. The bottom line is this legislation has been in place for a long time under successive governments and was passed by this Senate. It is meeting the objectives set for it. The type of payment paid has changed—this is a significant social reform—but the same framework applies in relation to consideration of payments for stillbirth and for those who have an abortion. Nothing changes. The legislative framework has been tested and found to be sound. It is meeting the objective of the parliament and, therefore, ought to be supported on this occasion.