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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 445


Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (12:10): Just to make the Greens' position clear: we will be supporting this motion, understanding that each clause will be put separately. In terms of the ABCC, we referred the ABCC bill amendments to committee through the selection of bills process. As everybody in the chamber is aware, there could not be agreement on the date. We, in fact, wanted it even later than March. But we will agree to the date of 27 March. We believe there are significant issues that do need to be ventilated. We disagree with Senator Xenophon that 15 February—the date that the government wants and as is currently in the selection of bills report—is far too short for these very significant issues. They are important issues to the operation of the ABCC. This legislation is clearly aimed at getting at workers. We think those issues need to be properly ventilated. And a couple of days—let's face it: today is Thursday; they want to report on 15 February. If you take out the weekend, that is very little time to look at the significant issues that arise out of the backflip that has happened here and the impact on Australian workers.

In terms of the omnibus bill—or, as many people now call it, the 'omni-cuts bill'—there are 18 clauses that need to be looked at. They need to be looked at in a cumulative manner in terms of the cumulative impacts on families, on age pensioners, on young people—these need to be looked at. On parents, the government is trying to impose the ordinary waiting period here on parenting payments. These are parents that will need access to this funding very quickly. So what they are saying is: 'You and your kids can go without a payment for a week.' These are parents that, by the very nature of them applying, have very little resources to support their families. It is cruel; it is mean; it is harsh. The government will say there are exemptions. But you have to go through the process of applying for the exemption. In the meantime, if you are in the position where you have to apply for an exemption, you have come out of a situation that is urgent—domestic violence may be involved—and you have to then turn around and go through the bureaucratic process of applying for an exemption in order to get money to feed your kids. It is ridiculous. It is the same with your energy supplement. Again, I will pre-empt the government—'This is an extra payment.' This is the payment that people have come to rely on. One of the other measures in this bill freezes indexation, which means frozen indexation on the income that you can earn. This means fewer and fewer people will be able to access Newstart.

There is a measure called, 'Schedule 11: The automation'—start getting worried folks because it says 'automation'—'of income stream review processes'. Yes—that is right: on the back of the debacle over Christmas of the Centrelink automated debt recovery process the government, under the guise of this bill, wants to ram a new measure through. This measure is a MYEFO measure. It has not been considered before. So let's slip that in to the omnibus amendment where we are talking about childcare and paid parental leave! Let's slip that in and see if we can sneak that through so that we can build on the debacle for which, yesterday, we established a Senate inquiry into! So that needs to be looked at so that we get a thorough understanding about what that means.

And, of course, they have slipped into the omnibus bill the bill that cuts portability for age pensioners when they are going overseas. But, also, they are stopping the payment of the pension supplement after six weeks for pensioners overseas. This bill will have a significant impact on Australians. And, of course, we have the issues around the little bit of extra family tax benefit that people will get, but that is actually a change to the bill that we dealt with previously in this place, and it means that people will still be worse off under these cuts. Then, of course, there are the young people that they want to kick off income support for what will then be five weeks—four weeks on top of the ordinary waiting week. This will have a significant impact on young Australians and comes directly from the Abbott zombie cuts of 2014, where they tried to kick people off for six months. The Senate said, 'No, we're not wearing that,' and the Senate has also said, 'No, we're not going to wear the four weeks.' The Senate needs time to consider this in total again. That is why we will be supporting this. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I remind senators that this amendment has been split into two. We will first be looking at paragraph (a), which has the revised reporting date of 20 March. The question is that that motion, as moved by Senator Gallagher, be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: We now move to the second part of the motion, paragraph (b), which seeks a reporting date of 27 March for the inquiry into the ABCC bill. The question is that the motion moved by Senator Gallagher described as motion (b) be agreed to.