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Thursday, 28 June 2012
Page: 4941


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (22:54): I did indicate earlier that I would get some information for the senator which might meet some of the queries he had. I will just make two points. Four thousand people have voluntarily decided to access the BasicsCard. They clearly then are not humiliated, as they have done it voluntarily. You may be worried about humiliation; I think you ought to be worried about poverty, child abuse, social dislocation, alcoholism and foetal alcohol syndrome, as I know you are. But you have to balance your preciousness about humiliation, which is not matched by the 4,000 people who did it, and the serious social issues occurring in these communities. You can meet with Green Left Weekly and other groups in Sydney and discuss broad policy and philosophical objectives but in the end you have to get down to saying, 'What can we do to help these communities that are suffering some of the worst social conditions in the world in the middle of one of the most prosperous economies in the world?' This is a genuine attempt to come to terms and to assist people to deal with those issues. You have a philosophical opposition to that, but we have taken a different view.

Senator Ludlam interjecting

Senator Milne interjecting

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN ( Senator Moore ): I reminder senators that shouting questions across the chamber is not appropriate.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: To be honest, I am more inclined to listen to the Northern Territory representatives in the House of Representatives and the Senate about these issues than I am the Greens. I do not doubt your motives, but Senator Crossin moves in these communities all the time. I am much more inclined to take her advice on these issues and the practicalities. Senator Milne, I am not sure what visibility you get from Tasmania on these issues, but I would rather follow the advice Senator Crossin gives me about the practicalities of these measures on the ground. While I am interested in the views of the many groups that Senator Rhiannon read to me, the reality is that we are trying to engage and build support in these communities for measures that make a difference to people's lives and that allow the children of those communities to have some sort of fair start in life. I think that is something we ought to focus on. As I say, while Senator Ludlam might want to focus on what he thinks is humiliating, we know at least 4,000 people have volunteered to use the scheme because they find it a protection against some of the pressures on them in their communities.