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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 834


Mr LITTLEPROUD (Maranoa) (12:38): This is nothing more than cheap, tawdry politics that has no foundation. It shows the Labor Party is bereft of ideas and policies. The reality is that in 2011 Bill Shorten introduced an automated system—the very one that we are looking at now. The hypocrisy of the Labor Party—to sit here and to try to have some game of politics that we are deluding the people of Australia around how the welfare system is in part being played out is absolute hypocrisy of the greatest level.

We have a welfare system of $170 billion a year which we actually have to fund year after year after year. There are five million people across Australia that are on social security. We actually have to have a sustainable welfare system that will be able to go on for years to come. We cannot afford to play politics with this. We cannot afford to let political parties come in here, try to forget about their actions of the past and actually try to put on new governments the mess that they are trying to fix in order to give credibility and sustainability to a welfare system that is truly out of control. We actually have to make sure that we do balance the budget. That is what this government is about: it is about balancing a budget responsibly, not playing politics. This nation needs to move past the politics. The nation wants us to move past the petty politics that you guys are going on with now with this frivolous motion. It is doing nothing for the body politic in Australia. The reality around this whole system is that the letter that is sent out is not a notice of debt. People get three opportunities to declare their innocence, their actual actions, throughout this. This is an automated system that is working through government agencies to ensure that there is credibility in our welfare system, to ensure that we do look after those that are most vulnerable in our country, those that do need a safety net in terms of the welfare system that will provide that ongoing throughout the years to come.

The other piece around this is that those who are the most vulnerable in the community are not part of this. We as a government have understood that there are people within our society that are vulnerable through disability or issues that they have, who we cannot undertake this type of program on. We have done that in a responsible and sensitive way to ensure that we do this in a pragmatic and sensible way to ensure that we have a welfare system that will continue on for years to come.

That is an important piece of it. The other piece is that there will not be a computer system that will determine whether a debt is finally owed to the Australian people, the taxpayer, each and every one of us. It will be a human. It will be a person who will sit there and make a decision predicated on the information that has been provided. It is important that that is a pragmatic sensible way to ensure that the people of Australia, the taxpayers of Australia, get the money that they deserve.

We have to be realistic. With five million people that are recipients of the welfare system, it would be very naive of any of us to think that there are not some people out there trying to defraud the system. We have to have credibility within that system. I think the Labor Party found that out quite quickly after they ran to the media and tried to make an issue out of this frivolous case. One of the examples came from Victoria. It was a recipient receiving Newstart for all of the financial years 2011-12 and 2011-13. During that time she declared less than $11,000 in employment income. The ATO data showed that she had earned more than $50,000 during that time. The customer had debt raised in relation to earnings in those financial years. I ask the question, as the federal government responsible for each and everybody's taxpayer money, why shouldn't we try to ensure that there is credibility, and not run off on some frivolous case of trying to make politics out of something that is quite important for ensuring that the Australian economy is one that has validity and sustainability, not trying to play on people's emotions when the reality does not exist. That again is another example from our friends in the Labor Party, who were quite embarrassed when they came out and made these claims.

A recipient from Queensland was receiving Newstart for all financial years of 2011-12 and 2012-13. During that time he declared less than $22,000 employment income. However, ATO data showed that he had earned more than $52,000 during that time. The customer had a debt of approximately $15,000 raised in relation to that year. Those are the cases that the Labor Party had tried to politicise to try to embarrass the government. We are not embarrassed. This is about us ensuring that every Australian should have a safety net that will support them if times are not with them. That is why I am proud to be part of the government that will ensure that will happen and will ensure the sustainability of that system.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): The time allotted for the debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.