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Thursday, 25 June 1998
Page: 4118

Senator NEAL (3:03 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Newman), to questions without notice asked by Senators Neal and Gibbs today, relating to the youth allowance.

I must say it astonishes me that, despite the obvious concern in the community about the introduction of a youth allowance and the fact that this government has chosen to spend $3.8 million worth of taxpayers money on promoting the benefits of the youth allowance as this government sees it, the government has not seen fit to inform some people. There are some 48,000 young people who will be worse off. The government has not informed these people that they will be adversely affected.

Senator Newman gave me the rather glib response that these people can look it up on the Internet; that they can find out all this information that the government have not bothered to tell them about with their $3.8 million promotional strategy—their TV ads—on the Internet. The difficulty is that the families of young adults who are unemployed and who are adversely affected by this legislation—as I said, 48,000 of them—have incomes as low as $23,400. Some senators in this chamber, who are earning well in excess of four times that figure, may not understand the position. But such a family of two older adults and at least one adult child over the age of 18 years is in pretty dire financial circumstances. They seem to fail to understand that a family earning $23,400 is not only unlikely to own a computer which is connected to the Internet, but almost certainly does not.

These are struggling and battling families. By dismissing them so out of hand with the nod of a head, the minister seems to fail to understand that this is not a flippant issue. This is not something that she should take lightly. The fact is that these struggling families on just over $23,000 cannot afford a computer and certainly would not have access to the Internet to look up and find out that they are going to lose somewhere around $87 a week because of a decision made by this government.

It is all right to spend $3.8 million on telling those people who are better off—and there are some people who are better off, and that is fine. As an opposition, we supported those aspects of the bill. But it is very unfair and we believe a complete shirking of responsibility by this government not to accept that at the same time they must advise people that they will lose out.

Also, it is very important to note that those families who do not lodge their forms by 1 July may well lose benefit. When the matter was raised by Senator Gibbs, once again Senator Newman responded in the sort of glib and offhanded manner that she often does. Senator Newman seems to believe that the dire financial circumstances of families that are not very well off, who are struggling, who are on incomes of less than a quarter of hers—I would say a lot less—as well as their concerns and their troubles, are trivial. But they are not. Just because you are one of those families who is only earning just over $23,000 does not mean that your concerns and your problems are any less important than the important matters that Senator Newman concerns herself with.

It shows that this government have not learnt the lessons of Queensland. They have not learnt that the community are sick and tired of them spending large amounts of public money on self-promotion in anticipation of an election while at the same time failing to be truthful about the negative things they have done, and the negatives are going to be affecting these very low income families that I have already mentioned. There are 48,000 young people who will be worse off because of this legislation, and it is about time that this government came clean and admitted it. (Time expired)