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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 793


Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (15:33): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Special Minister of State (Scott Ryan) to a question without notice asked today by Senator Siewert relating to the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017.

The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017, as I pointed out in my question, seeks to make over $5.6 billion of savings. When I asked why the government combined the childcare measures, the paid parental leave measures and 15 other measures that cut our social safety net, the minister went to issues around savings. He said that the country has a savings challenge. This is the same government that rammed through this place tax cuts to more wealthy Australians. So, they chose to spend another $4 billion on tax cuts to the wealthy and then chose to try and make $5.6 billion from some of the most vulnerable members of our community. This will directly affect inequality in this country—inequality that we know is rising. The wealthier are getting wealthier and the poorer are becoming worse off.

It is very clear that the government tried to act as if these savings were needed for child care and paid parental leave, but we know that the $5.6 billion is money over and above any money that they would put into paid parental leave and child care. It just shows how much they really care about child care and paid parental leave—that they would tie them to the zombie measures that affect families, young people, older Australians and, particularly, young people who they want to kick off Newstart and onto the even lower payment of youth allowance. They also want to keep those young people off income support for five weeks before they can access any form of income.

I asked the minister when they made the decision to channel those savings—which they are making from some of the most vulnerable members of our community in the first place—into the NDIS. He could not answer that question. But he then went on to have another bash about the NDIS and how the funding was not available for it. Essentially, what the government are proposing is that they take money from one vulnerable group and condemn them to further poverty, and use that money to fund the NDIS for another vulnerable group of Australians. Given the announcement by the Treasurer yesterday that over $5.6 billion of savings from this bill will go into the NDIS, this smacks of another decision made on the run so that they could try to pressure and blackmail the Senate into supporting the savings cuts that the Senate has repeatedly said are not fair. Guess what? The Senate is going to be saying the same thing: these cuts are not fair.

One of the questions that I think the government also need to be asking is whether they have done any modelling or assessment of the impact of these cuts on families. Remember that, despite the government trying to use sleight of hand to say, 'We're giving families a little bit more money while we're taking away the supplement payments,' families will still be worse off on FTB A and FTB B. If you are on just family tax benefit A, you will lose around $7.80. If you are on family tax benefit B, you will lose about $13.80. So families will be worse off. Young people will be worse off; the government is trying to condemn them to trying to survive on income support when, as I have said in this place many times before, living in poverty is yet another barrier to finding work.

Age pensioners will be worse off because the government wants to take away portability and reduce portability for the pension from 26 weeks to six weeks and also apply that to the supplement. They want to take away the energy supplement, taking $4 off people on income support. The government knows that Newstart is way below the poverty line, that Newstart needs to be increased and that every dollar counts when you are trying to survive on income support.

The government is trying to take away the pensioner education supplement, something that is relied on extensively by single parents. So not only will single parents be hit by some of these other cuts—changes to FTBB, in particular; they also want to take away the education supplement. It is a bad bill and they should withdraw it.

Question agreed to.