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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 773

Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017


Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (14:17): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, Senator Ryan. The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill was rushed into the House last week. It aims to cut over $5½ billion from our social safety net. Why did the government combine the paid parental leave and childcare measures with cuts to our social safety net that will hurt single parents, families, students, young people and pensioners? Was it to disguise the real purpose of the bill, which is to rip apart our social safety net?


Senator RYAN (VictoriaSpecial Minister of State and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cabinet) (14:17): I thank Senator Siewert for the question. The purposes of this bill have been widely stated and restated by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Social Services, the Treasurer and the finance minister, as well as others, on numerous occasions. There has been a significant savings challenge left to this government, not only to bring the budget back into balance but to fund the legislated spending measures left in place by the previous government. It was issue number one.

The second point is that the government made clear, and stands by, as Senator Birmingham has so effectively outlined, the view that child care in country this country needs to change to support people, primarily women, being able to get back to work. That is something that this government is exceptionally proud of. As a father—many people in this room have young children—I can say that for the people I know who are not as fortunate as me being able to change the child care system to ensure more people can get back to work is a positive for this country.

Thirdly, as was outlined yesterday, this government is committed to the delivery of the NDIS, but, unlike the previous government, we are committed to paying for it. So the savings measures that are being put in place are to leave the billions of dollars of funding gap left in place by the previous Labor government, who printed bumper stickers and named organisations but did not find a way to pay for these critical services.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Siewert, is there a supplementary question?



Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (14:19): When did the government decide to put these savings into the proposed NDIS savings fund? Isn't this a form of blackmail and pressure on the Senate?


Senator RYAN (VictoriaSpecial Minister of State and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cabinet) (14:19): I am tempted to give the one-word answer 'no', but it does require some explanation. I cannot speak to when a determination was made to put it all into one bill, but it is not a matter of blackmail to pay for new government measures. What is a sign of absolute irresponsibility is to make promises and have no way of paying for them or to put them onto future generations of Australians. It is a moral issue that this budget be balanced. It is a moral issue that when we come out with new spending measures we find ways to pay for them. It is not blackmail to say that when I care about something I am going to do something about it rather than just printing more bumper stickers without finding a way to pay for it.

The PRESIDENT: A final supplementary question, Senator Siewert?



Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (14:20): Will the government now admit that their attempts to rip $5.6 billion out of our social safety net are dead in the water and withdraw their omnibus legislation?


Senator RYAN (VictoriaSpecial Minister of State and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cabinet) (14:20): It is not up to me to make a comment on the withdrawal of the bill. That is in the province of another portfolio minister. But I emphasise again that people do not judge politicians or the political class by virtue of what we say we care about. They are going to judge us by what we do. The problem is that that people opposite never find a way to pay for anything. You just want to put it on future Australians as you run up billions and billions of dollars of debt. We spend $10 billion a year on interest. That is more than the cost of the NDIS when it is fully active. That is interest that you and your Labor mates accrued when you ran up the debt when you inherited the most stable set of financial accounts in the western world.