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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1583


Mr CHRISTENSEN (DawsonThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (11:25): It is a privilege to be the government backbencher speaking when, apparently, according to the last member, there are none speaking on this. That is just the first of the falsities that I want to go into here.

The member moving the motion has fallen into the same old Labor trap of following the Maxwell Smart guide to drawing up a motion. Firstly, there is the 'basing your argument on a false premise' trick. It is the fourth time they have fallen for it this week, and it is only Monday morning. The motion wants the House to acknowledge that 'there is a significant, ongoing and growing need for emergency relief.' I have to tell you: it is a false premise. If the member had done a little bit of homework, she would have seen fewer instances of people actually accessing Emergency Relief assistance via the Commonwealth. The figures that have come down from a high of more than a million instances of access for the service, in 2009-10, to just over 900,000, in 2013-14—a decrease in demand for Emergency Relief assistance.

Secondly, they have employed the old 'shot yourself in the foot' trick—the third time Labor has fallen for that this week and we have not even reached question time yet. The member wants to condemn the government for 'cutting core social services to the most vulnerable Australians'. One must assume that the member moving the motion wants the House to condemn her for her role in Labor's cutting of the funding to Emergency Relief. They did it, in 2011-12, by $62. 5; in 2012-13, by $59.9 million; and then, in 2013-14, by $57.4 million. Where were the voices when those cuts were being made? Under the current government, the revised Emergency Relief allocation for 2014-15 is $62.9 million, inclusive of bridging funds for current organisations.

Thirdly, there is the old 'I live under a rock and didn't see it' trick—the first time this week. The member wants to condemn the government for, apparently, 'The covert way in which funding decisions have been made and implemented.' Well, she has a funny definition of covert. The Department of Social Services conducted 13 sessions with 1,800 attendees in Canberra, Hobart, Darwin, Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Townsville, Mildura, and Alice Springs. If we were being covert, we sure had a funny way of doing it. Perhaps the member was at a union rally and missed the notice. But those who cared enough to turn up to the May and June sessions understood the changes under A New Way of Working for Grants and how to prepare organisations for an application process. Sessions in November were to support the sector in understanding how grants were being introduced in new grant agreements and to introduce the new streamlined reporting requirements. In addition to those information sessions, the department began consultations with the sector immediately after the budget on May 13 last year. Information was up on the Treasury website, on the Minister for Social Services' website, through the Department of Social Services Grants Hotline, a central enquiries email, a target email advice to grant recipients, detailed program information documents, fact sheets, engagement with peak bodies and key stakeholders including state government departments, advertisements placed in national and major regional newspapers, and a second round of newspaper advertisements. So, it is a funny way of being covert.

Finally, the member has fallen for the old 'elephant in the room' trick, and they will fall for it about 20 times this week, I guess. The change this government has introduced is to provide more targeted funding to areas in most need. To get the most benefit out of funding, we must know where the areas of need are. When that is determined, we direct funds there instead of blindly throwing dollars to where they always go, ignoring changes in demographics. The government is determined to get value for every dollar the taxpayer gives up, because, frankly, there are no dollars left. The Labor Party, the subscribers to Maxwell Smart economics, spent the lot and then they borrowed. Then they borrowed some more so they could throw it around like it was free—and people thought they were getting it for free. I do not know how much of an emergency it was that $900 was going off in cheque form to pet dogs and dead people. Maybe Rover or Great Grandpa was down on his luck—or British backpackers. How much of an emergency was it when the Labor Party felt the need to hunt down backpackers who had already returned to the UK so that the Australian taxpayer could hand over a $900 cheque? As I said, this money was going to dead people—I think it is way past an emergency by then. No emergency relief, no matter how big the cheque, is going to help you when you are dead.

Every time the Labor Party come in here and mention spending, it has to be more focused. They are ignoring the elephant in the room—that is, their debt. They have given all Australians a debt sentence, and they should be ashamed.