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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2321

Mr HODGMAN(5.13) —The Social Security Amendment Bill is extensive legislation and enables honourable members to express a view about the fairly broad range of social security matters which are covered in the Bill. I shall be speaking on some specific matters, one of which has already been covered in some detail by the honourable member for Moncrieff (Mrs Sullivan), but I have to say, and I say it with no great pleasure, that tragically today Australia, under the policies of the Hawke socialist Government, has become in my opinion a bludgers' paradise. It is a very sad reflection on the present state of affairs, at a time when the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) says that in economic terms we are in a worse position than we have ever been since World War II, that the most recent surveys conducted by this delinquent Government seem to indicate that as many as one out of four social security beneficiaries is obtaining either in whole or in part his or her benefit under false pretences. I ask you to contemplate that, Mr Deputy Speaker, because we in this chamber are well aware of your very sincere and genuine interest in this matter and in particular the matters which you raised in General Business earlier today.

The thought that the situation has become so bad under this profligate and extravagant Government that as many as one in four social security beneficiaries is receiving his other benefit fraudulently appals me. I want to adopt the remarks of the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges), a former Minister in the Fraser Government and a very good one, if I may say so. He appealed to Australians to understand that what is being committed in this country before our very eyes and under our very noses is a massive rip-off of the taxpayers of Australia. On behalf of those taxpayers, I have to say that we are sick and tired of this Government handing out taxpayers' money as if there is no day of reckoning and as if there is no end to it. It is almost reminiscent of the printing presses working through the night during the dark days of the Whitlam Government when this country was plunged to the brink of bankruptcy that we have a government which has been weak and delinquent and which has turned Australia into a bludgers' paradise.

It is a crying shame that many young people going through our schools, and receiving what I can only describe as dubious instructions from some of those in whose charge they find themselves, now genuinely believe that they have a choice as to whether they intend to work when they leave school or to opt for the alternative lifestyle at the expense of the taxpayers of this country. We have so many new options available to us in this avant garde system of teaching which is ripping at the heart of our nation-the option of whether one works; the option of whether one engages in relations not with a member of the opposite sex but with a member of the same sex; the option as to whether one becomes one of those who regard the consumption of drugs as normal; the option of whether one prefers to collect one's unemployment benefit and spend time at the hotel while one's colleagues go into apprenticeships and obtain jobs and finish up with less personal disposable income at the end of the week than one receives in a commune where one lives with five, 10, 15 or 20 colleagues. It is a matter of record that as recently as five years ago a first year apprentice motor mechanic was receiving less personal disposable income in his or her pocket at the end of the week than the counterpart who chose deliberately not to work but to go on the dole.

I know that later in this debate some honourable members will say once again that a member of the Opposition is attacking those who are unfortunate enough not to be able to gain employment. That is not so. I repeat, and I shall do so ad nauseam between now and the next Federal election, that we on this side of the House do care, and care very greatly, for those young people and for the older ones, particularly those in the forgotten bracket of 40 through to 55 years who find themselves in a situation where, no matter how hard they try, they cannot get employment. The Liberal Party of Australia, of which I am proud to be a member, is firmly of the view that those who try to get employment and, through no fault of their own, are unable to do so should be assisted by the Government through the social security system. Our complaint relates to those who choose not to work, and the taxpayers have had a gutful. If one had a continuing graph, one would see that we are fast approaching a situation where within 20 years there will be more people being supported on social security benefits than there will be people in the work force.

Every person in the work force today have on their backs the ghost of one other person who is being supported in one way or another by the state. We think that we are an advanced country. We think that Australia is one of the leading countries. Some people would be inclined to suggest that our near neighbour-Papua New Guinea-is in some way primitive or backward. Did honourable members see, as I saw, on television the other night a most impressive television interview with the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Hon. Paias Wingti? I was tremendously impressed. I have not yet met Mr Wingti, but I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr Somare and I knew the late Sir Iambakey Okuk and Angmai Bilas and a number of very fine Papua New Guineans who have served their country with great distinction in parliament and government. Mr Wingti was asked about unemployment benefits in Papua New Guinea. He said: `We do not have them. It might be all right in Australia to have them, but it would be no good in our country. We believe in working. We have no unemployment benefits'. Our nearest neighbour-Papua New Guinea-does not have the unemployment benefit and I thought: `What does that do to the number of unemployed in that country compared with that in Australia?'. Papua New Guinea has one of the lowest levels of unemployment of any of our South Pacific neighbours. Mr Deputy Speaker, does that tell you something? The new Prime Minister, the honourable Paias Wingti, said quite clearly, quite categorically: `We have no unemployment benefits at all in our country because we want our young people to work, and they are'. If any politician stood in this Parliament today and said `Why don't we decide that next April-April 1988-just to clear the books, all unemployment benefit payments will be suspended for that month?' there would be an outcry but I am certain that it would clear the books and I am certain that many people would very quickly find employment. What does that say about where this country is going?

I notice the former Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr West), is at the table and he will confirm these figures. On any given day anywhere between 50,000 and 90,000 illegal immigrants are working in Australia. What does that say? It says this: Even though they are illegally in this country, even though they have none of the accreditation and documentation of support that we have-they cannot produce documents to prove their legitimate arrival in Australia or the legitimacy of their stay-they can still find work. What does that say about the Australian who is not dodging the immigration authorities, who is not dodging the Australian Federal Police and yet says: `I cannot find work'?

I think we are letting down our young people. Day in and day out young people come into my office and ask: `Mr Hodgman, can you help me to get a job? Mr Hodgman, will you provide a reference? Mr Hodgman, are you prepared to pick up your telephone and ring Mr so and so at such and such a company to see whether I can get an interview?' I have found-I am not boasting-that in the majority of cases I have been able to help those young people in that I have been able to see them get a job and to know that they have started off on the right track. They ask me: `How many young people come in and see you?' I say: `On an average day, out of up to 45 appointments I would have between 10 and 15 with young people seeking employment'. A young person asks me: `Can you give me a reference?'. I say: `Bring me your school reports and any other references you have and we will sit down and talk'. I satisfy myself as to that person's bona fides. Then I will not only give a reference but also I am prepared to ring an employer and to take the person who has come to see me to the place of employment.

There are little side issues. I say to them `Have a haircut. I have nothing against the length of your hair but a potential employer might' or `I have nothing against the earring you are wearing but I suggest that you take it off'. In some areas such as factories and the like it is positively dangerous to wear them. I say little things like that. The young people who were promised jobs by this Government have been betrayed and today youth unemployment in Australia is higher than it was under Malcolm Fraser.

I invite my friend the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Jenkins), who will follow me, to dispute the fact that whilst his Prime Minister can boast about 660,000 new positions being filled-again this is not true; many of those positions are being refilled-when he cited those figures they were torn to pieces by the Australian Financial Review when he was around the 150,000 mark. It is not correct to say that the Hawke socialist Government has created 660,000 new jobs because a large proportion of those are vacancies which have been filled as a result of death, retirement, retrenchment, leaving the country, marrying or whatever. Where are the young people getting work? They are not and they have had a gutful of the Hawke socialist Government. Priority One: Young Australia is a disaster: Worse, it was a confidence trick.

Let me turn to just one specific matter. I acknowledge the presence in the chamber of one of our most dedicated and, I believe, effective members, the honourable member for Moncrieff, who raised a matter in the debate earlier today which, incidentally, I have been pursuing. This is at a time when the country is nearly bankrupt and the Prime Minister says that we are in a worse situation than we have been in since World War II. One part of the legislation that this Parliament has been asked to pass will now be put to a vote, thanks to an amendment which will be moved at the Committee stage by the honourable member for Moncrieff, which I would happily second. People driving home might nearly run off the road when they hear this; they will not believe it could happen. This Parliament on this day is being asked to approve a provision in Schedule 1 which will require the Department of Social Security to pay married rate benefits to underaged de factos who are committing a crime. The amendment follows a case in South Australia where a young girl of 16 was living in a de facto relationship with an older man. The law of South Australia provides that the age of consent is 17 years and therefore they were effectively committing crimes. He was committing the crime of defilement, otherwise known as unlawful carnal knowledge, and she was committing the crime of aiding and abetting him in the commission of the crime of defilement.

This young girl applied for a benefit and the case went to the administrative Appeals Tribunal, a tribunal which I frequently appear before in a completely honorary capacity on behalf of my pensioner constituents in Denison. The Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department, very properly-one would expect this to be so in view of the stature of our Attorney-General and Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Lionel Bowen)-said quite clearly and categorically that it could not administer the social security system to allow `anyone to benefit from the commission of a criminal offence'. The upshot was that the Tribunal ruled that the underaged de facto was entitled to the benefit at the married rate. To put the matter beyond doubt, the Hawke socialist Government says that it will now make it compulsory for the Department to pay married rate benefits to under-aged de factos who are breaking the law in every State and Territory of Australia where sexual intercourse occurs involving a female person under the age of consent.

Mrs Sullivan —Or a male person under the age of consent.

Mr HODGMAN —Or, as my colleague the honourable member says, a male person. The logical extension of this is that the next cab off the rank from this crazy, profligate and totally amoral Hawke socialist Government will make it compulsory to pay married rate benefits to underaged brothers and sisters who jointly commit the crime of incest. Before Government members laugh about that, they should remember that during the days of the Whitlam Government one of its law reform agencies in the national capital publicly advocated, and it had under very careful consideration, the abolition of the crime of incest between brothers and sisters.

Mr Hollis —You're sick.

Mr HODGMAN —If the honourable member says that, he has not even looked at the legislation. The Government will compulsorily require the Department to pay married rate benefits to under-age de factos committing the crime of defilement. The Government would provide-the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Moncrieff will put this one out of the way-that the Department pay the married rate benefit to brother and sister who are under age and committing the crime of incest. The Government now deems that cohabiting juveniles aged 15 years are married to their partner. It then says, `We will pay to the two of them $202.30 a week for their activities'. Why on earth would they want to go to work?

Where does the Prime Minister intend to go next? Will he decide to present each of them with a gold medal? That is what Government members are asking the Parliament to approve today; yet the honourable member for Throsby (Mr Hollis) says I am sick. I say that he is sick if he is prepared to make it compulsory-I repeat, compulsory-for under-age de factos committing the crime of defilement to be deemed to be married and paid for it. Many in the community would take the view that the Government is wrong to deem adult de factos as married. But now the same person who can be dragged before the court for unlawful carnal knowledge will be able to say: `Why am I being prosecuted when Mr Hawke says I am entitled to a married rate benefit?'. I repeat: Were it not for the amendment to be moved by the honourable member for Moncrieff-and the honourable member for Throsby says I am sick; I do not think he has even looked at the legislation-brother and sister jointly committing incest would qualify for a married rate benefit under the ruling of that Tribunal and the amendment proposed in schedule 1.

Where are we in this country heading? We have a Prime Minister who lied, who misled the people of Australia by promising employment for all. He has betrayed the youth of this country. He encourages a system whereby the young people of Australia today are given the option of working or not working, and it becomes more and more attractive by the minute not to work. Prime Minister Hawke has turned this country into a bludgers' paradise.

Mr Hollis —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I heard the honourable member claim that the Prime Minister had lied. I think that that was unparliamentary and I would ask him to withdraw that comment.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cowan) —The point of order is upheld. I ask the honourable member to withdraw that remark.

Mr HODGMAN —Mr Deputy Speaker, only because you are in the chair, I will do so. I remind the House that the Prime Minister accused the former Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, of lying, and that, on that occasion, was not ruled out of order. But because you are in the chair, I will withdraw.