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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 306


Mr DRUM (Murray) (15:55): I too am delighted to have the opportunity to rise to talk about this data-matching program, where this government has proven with its tenacity that it is in this game to govern for all Australians. We are not in this game to try to victimise people who are doing it tough. We do not take any great pleasure in going through the financials of some of our people who are doing it tough and are out of work. But, for the Labor Party to be trying to milk this issue for more than what it is worth again shows that they are becoming the ambulance chasers of the parliament, particularly when putting people up in front of the media without actually checking their details to see whether they do in fact have debts that need to be repaid to the Australian taxpayer.

This $170 million welfare system that we have is the envy of the world. When any of us travel to places like America and we see people in their hundreds living on the streets, it makes us all understand how lucky we are to be in a country where we have a welfare system that is fair and just and gives people an opportunity in times when they cannot find work. We have a safety net that we should be so proud of to make sure that support is available if you are not able to get work and, if you are not able to work, there is the disability support pension, a carer's allowance or whatever your support mechanism may be. This is the country that you want to be in if you are doing it tough.

However, there is an enormous responsibility that comes with that privilege, and that responsibility is that we should be honest, open and fair. We have just spent a summer talking about how careful politicians should be with taxpayers' money. This is a slightly different way of spending it, but this is another example of where we have to be incredibly careful with taxpayers' money. Given that the Labor Party instituted this data-matching process, we should, with the new technologies available, be able to take it to another level. If the data being received from the tax office gives us one story and it is at conflict with the data being received from Centrelink and you do not do anything about it, you are not worthy to be in this place, because you are not doing the right thing by the Australian people.

It is just a matter of how much courage you have to pursue what is right. How cheap do you want to be if you want to go after the mistakes that are in this system? Yes, obviously there have been mistakes in this system, but what we need to be looking at now is the way forward. As the minister said, when these contradictions arise and people receive a letter, it is not a letter saying that you owe us this much money and get a debt repaying plan. The letter is about notifying that a discrepancy has been identified and basically says, 'Here's the opportunity for you to explain why your income level, as per the ATO data, is different than what you have said.' It could be a date discrepancy or it could be a discrepancy in the amount. Therefore, I think what we have seen here—again, consistent with the Prime Minister's message in his address to the Press Club only last week—is that every policy and every decision of this government is giving more Australians the opportunity for them to be their best.

As we continue to govern for all Australians, we are trying to have a progressive tax system that is going to be fairer and give us a more equal society as a result. I think this is the leadership that we have been yearning for from Prime Minister Turnbull: that when we have to make these tough decisions we have Minister Porter and Minister Tudge prepared to make these calls. And yes, things have gone astray. However, now we find that they are able to say: 'Here is the way forward; this is why we are doing this.' All of us have to take responsibility for living in such a great country with such a great welfare system. (Time expired)