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Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Page: 76

Ms HALL (Shortland) (18:54): I rise to support the legislation, and in doing so I say that it is no surprise to any member of the government that the opposition is opposing the legislation. It opposes everything. It is an opposition that says 'No, no, no.' The other aspect of members on this side of the House not being surprised about the opposition opposing this is that we on this side of the House believe that there should be support for people on low incomes. Those on the opposition bench want to support those on high incomes, and there is nothing that demonstrates this more visually than the fact that their changes to the Paid Parental Leave will benefit people on very high incomes whilst disadvantaging those on low incomes. They are going to take away tax relief to low-income earners and support those on high incomes.

The legislation we have before us today recognises the fact that the people who are on some form of income support such as: Abstudy; living allowance; Austudy; Newstart allowance; paid parental partnered payment; Newstart parenting payment; partnered parenting payment; sickness allowance; special benefit; youth allowance for apprentices, job seekers and students; transitional farm family payments or exceptional circumstance relief payments are people who do not have a lot of disposable income. The government recognises that from time to time these people find themselves in significant financial hardship. I know that I would find it very difficult—I would have to say impossible—to survive on any of these allowances.

It is extremely challenging when you have to make very few dollars go a long, long way, and I have met with single parents today who have told me their story about how hard it is for them. This income support bonus will be more than welcome by them as they struggle on a day-to-day basis looking after their children whilst they have very little disposal income. Many of them are very prepared to get a job. Some of them work part-time, but still it is very, very difficult to make ends meet. The government recognise that people struggle, and that is why we are putting in place this support bonus which will provide $105 to single recipients on a six-monthly basis. It will be paid in March and September, and the first payment will be made in March this year.

I really believe that the opposition need to develop a bit of a social conscience. They need to understand that not everybody receives the wages that they do. Some people find it difficult to pay their basic utility bill and, if something goes wrong with their car and it needs repairing, they have got absolutely no way to get that money, and a car is very important for a person who is looking for work or going to university.

I would encourage those on the opposite side of this House to rethink their position in relation to this legislation. I might add that it is not only those people who are on the allowances I mentioned earlier but also those people who receive payments under the Veterans' Children Education Scheme and the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act Education and Training Scheme. They will also receive this supplement. I think it is something that is well deserved.

I was talking about how single payments would be $105 every six months and those people who are in a relationship, or partnered, will receive $87.50 for each partner every six months, which equates to $350 a year or $150 per six months. In the case where one of the partners is in respite care or in some other way has to live away from home, the other person will receive the single income support.

This is good legislation. It is delivering some support to the people who are doing it hardest of all in our society. They are the people who look to this parliament for support. They are the people that find it difficult to visit the dentist and pay for dental work to be done. They are the people that those on the opposition benches tend to ignore. They really are not prepared to acknowledge their existence or acknowledge that they have needs. Rather, they are only interested in acknowledging those people who have significant levels of income. The government should provide support for those people who most need it, not provide middle-class welfare. The government is targeting its policies towards those people who look to government for support.

The Senate had an inquiry into the adequacy of the allowance payment system, and it has brought down a report with some very significant recommendations. I know that the minister is very seriously considering those recommendations. I would say to members of this House that if we, as members of parliament, want people to find jobs, if we want our young people to train and get the qualifications they need to find a job, to be self-sufficient, then we need to support them along the way. If a person does not have the resources to get themselves to work, if a person does not have the resources to find a job, then as a parliament—not only as a government—we fail. We have a role to increase the participation of people in the workforce. We have a role as a parliament to ensure that each and every person has an opportunity. To ensure that people have opportunity, we need to make sure that they have the resources to reach out and grab that opportunity.

Those people in receipt of parenting payments have so many demands upon them—demands upon their time and their finances—and once again this legislation does provide a level of support to them. I remain totally unconvinced by the argument that was put forward by the member for Menzies. I would have to say to the member for Menzies that as members of parliament we have to look at the priorities and the decisions we can make. We have to look to whether we have a social obligation to those people in our community who struggle and are doing it a little bit harder than the rest or whether our obligation is only to those people who have financial resources and are able to support themselves. I argue that we have an obligation to both groups, but I would argue that we have a very special obligation to those people who struggle from day to day. Whilst this bonus is not a large one, it will help a lot of people and they will be able to use it for the types of things that I have mentioned in my contribution to the debate.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): I ask the member for Shortland to resume her seat. The member for Kennedy will leave the chamber if he is going to persist in using that mobile phone. It is highly unacceptable behaviour in the chamber and completely disrespectful to your fellow members.

Mr Katter: I apologise. I assumed I had switched it off but I had not.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you, but it is the second time you have done it during this speech. It had better be switched off now.

Ms HALL: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know that the member for Kennedy would not intentionally try to disrupt my contribution to this debate, and I fully accept the apology that he has made. I know that he is aware of the fact that people do it hard and that, when they are doing it hard, they need the support of government.

I will end my contribution to the debate here by urging members of the opposition to rethink their position, stop saying no to everything and acknowledge the fact that people who are in receipt of the payments that have been outlined and will be covered by this new income support bonus really need support from government. The income support bonus is $1.1 billion over four years—a fraction of the cost that the opposition is promising to spend on their paid parental leave scheme and many other of the policies that are out there in the ether but are not properly costed and are without any details. I would encourage them to look at something that is very tangible and will provide support to a lot of people: to those who are single, to those who are in relationships—partners—and also to those young people who are training so that they can contribute to our Australian economy and society.