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Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Page: 6309


Senator LAZARUS (QueenslandLeader of the Palmer United Party in the Senate) (11:10): The Palmer United Party does not support this bill. The Palmer United Party is the only voice in Australia prepared to stand up for all Australians. We will not be supporting many of the Abbott government's ruthless budget measures and we will not be supporting this bill.

Australians are facing very difficult and challenging times. In my home state of Queensland, we are facing an unemployment emergency. Communities are hurting, people are struggling and families are suffering. In Queensland, unemployment is at a record high level of nearly seven per cent—the highest level we have seen for some 12 years. Disturbingly, youth unemployment is at an unprecedented high level. In fact, according to the Brotherhood of St Laurence, youth unemployment has spiked in key Queensland areas, jumping 88 per cent on levels of youth unemployment two years ago. Youth unemployment has risen by 88 per cent in Cairns, 79 per cent in Moreton Bay North, 68 per cent in Brisbane West, 61 per cent in Brisbane South and 43 per cent in Ipswich. If this trend continues, youth unemployment could hit 50 per cent in parts of Queensland by the year 2016.

Clearly, we are facing an unemployment crisis in Queensland. And these figures do not even include the issue of underemployment. Many people are working, but are only able to find part-time or casual work, because there are simply not any full-time jobs available. The Newman government has systematically destroyed confidence in the economy and the job market in Queensland since coming to power in 2012—slashing jobs, cutting critical government services and eroding community spirit. The economy is so depressed that businesses are not putting people on; they are laying them off. Businesses are scared and unsure of the future because of the state of the economy and because of the potential impact of the nasty budget measures the Abbott government is trying to push through.

The role of government is to support its people to ensure they are safe, secure and provided with basic and essential services. The role of government is also to create an environment which fosters economic growth, the pursuit of opportunities and the creation of jobs. Despite this, the Abbott government is attempting to implement a budget which will hurt the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our community and diminish their opportunity to contribute to this great country, to achieve, succeed and pursue a better life. Australians did not vote for the Abbott government's nasty budget measures at the 2013 election; Australians did not vote for higher university fees; Australians did not vote for a GP co-payment; Australians did not vote for fuel price increases—and just for your information, Joe Hockey, low-income Australians do drive.

In fact, many low income earners often drive long distances. In my home state of Queensland, which is a large and expansive state, the only way to move from place to place in many areas is by car. Because access to public transport is poor, the cost of public transport is high and the state of the rail system is such a mess and in such a dilapidated state, the most efficient way to get from A to B is by car. In fact, this is another reason that farmers are doing it so tough: our country's rail, road and port systems are in such a poor and inferior state that our farmers cannot get their products to market as quickly and efficiently as they would like; the nation's infrastructure is letting them down. This country is systematically failing our farmers on every level and nobody seems to care. The Palmer United Party cares about our farmers. We appreciate that farmers are the lifeblood of our country and play a critical role in ensuring food security for Australia. Farmers deserve better, and the Palmer United Party is determined to ensure that Australia does more to support and assist our farmers.

In 2013, Australians voted for hope and promises of a better way of life—promises which have now been broken by the Abbott government. Australians voted for better solutions to build a better Australia. The Abbott government has failed the people of Australia miserably. Thankfully, the Palmer United Party is working hard to rebuild Australia. We are listening to the people and we are developing ideas to turn this country around.

The people of Australia have been duped by the Abbott government. They have been deceived. The Palmer United Party will not allow this rot to continue. The Palmer United Party is determined to ensure that the Abbott government's cruel, unjust and unfair budget measures are not implemented. The people of Australia want a government which will grow Australia, not cut, slash, undermine and burn.

And that's what this bill will do. It will impose harsh penalties and abolish the rights of Australians to a genuine right of appeal should they find themselves in a situation where they are hit with a non-payment penalty for refusing or failing to commence work without good reason. While we need to ensure that we have systems in place to ensure that those who do the right thing are rewarded and those who do not are appropriately dealt with, without sufficient safeguards in place which outline the nature of exhaustive and acceptable definitions of 'suitable employment' and 'reasonable excuse' we cannot possibly allow this bill to pass.

Why would the government want to impose harsher penalties on vulnerable Australians? Why would the government want to strip the departmental secretary of the power to overturn a period of penalty on any grounds? Does the government not trust their own departmental secretary to make the right decisions? Is there a breakdown in the relationship between the departmental secretary and the government? Why would the government want to remove some of the secretary's powers? Why would the government want such important and critical decisions regarding the livelihood and future of everyday Australians being managed by departmental staff without any process for review by the head of the department? These are all good questions that do not have satisfactory answers.

It seems the Abbott Government wants to penalise Australians for struggling because the government has failed to create an environment which supports the creation of opportunities and jobs. There are no jobs in many towns and communities across Australia. The government wants job seekers to apply for 40 jobs a month. Where are the jobs? Ask the unemployed youth of Queensland. The answer is there are no jobs because unemployment is at an all-time high. That means there are more people looking for jobs than there are Jobs available. Despite this, the Abbott government is still allowing foreign workers to come into Australia on 457 visas. These foreign workers are taking jobs away from Australians—Australians who are desperate to work.

Only a small number of Queensland nursing graduates are able to find work in their sector in Queensland. Life is getting harder for everyday Australians; it is not getting easier. The cost of living is increasing for everyday Australians. Basic essentials are getting more expensive. The stresses and challenges of everyday life become even greater during difficult times. Why would we want to place greater strain on everyday Australians at a time when things are already very tough?

We will not support this bill. We will not allow the Abbott government to remove human rights and access to due process from Australians. The government needs to ensure that it enables the department to manage its programs, responsibilities and obligations appropriately, efficiently and effectively; therefore, retention of the secretary's power to overturn penalties is an imperative element of this requirement.

Australia has a new voice. Australians can rely on the Palmer United Party to listen and act to ensure the interests of all Australians are protected and progressed. Mahatma Ghandi once said:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

The Palmer United Party is committed to being the party of the people and for the people. We hold the balance of power in the Senate. We are serious, determined and focused and intend to continue to deliver real results for Australians. As each day passes, we grow stronger in our resolve to succeed. We are overcoming challenges and attacks from the duopoly 'Bill Abbott' and biased media and, with the growing support of the Australian people, we are winning, kicking goals for everyday Australians.

We have already removed the carbon tax, resulting in the pass through of cost savings to Australian households. We have clearly stated to all Australians that we will fight to stop the Abbott government imposing a GP co-payment. We will fight to stop the deregulation of Australian universities. We will fight to stop many of the Abbott government's nasty budget measures. We will fight for all Australians.

Australia needs new ideas, better solutions and a new way forward. Abolishing the rights of Australians is not the way forward, and therefore the Palmer United Party will not be supporting this bill.