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Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Page: 43


Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (16:34): I strongly agree with the words in this MPI—the government's budget is unfair and it is based on broken promises. 'No, we are not going to have an impact on people with disability.' 'No, we will not reduce pensions.' 'No, we will not make all sorts of cuts to Medicare.' Who was Medicare's best friend? That is right. That was our Prime Minister, back when he was the Leader of the Opposition. He was supposed to be Medicare's best friend. What a load of nonsense!

This budget is unfair. It is based on broken promises and twisted priorities. The priorities are so twisted that they are picking on the most disadvantaged in our community—and they are not doing that unknowingly; they are doing it on purpose. They got the figures that showed that the greatest impact of this budget would be on those who can least afford it. Even if we had not seen those figures, we would know that. You only have to read through the budget and then sit through day after day of Senate committee hearings into these measures to know that they are unfair and that the priorities are twisted.

What sort of government picks on the most vulnerable in its community? An unfair government that has twisted priorities. Why pick on the most vulnerable? Why bring in measures that you know will hurt the most disadvantaged? That is exactly what they are doing. Last week I sat through a day and a half of inquiries into the government's two social security bills. Those two bills bring in over 20 measures that unfairly pick on the most disadvantaged. When you look at that, you have to ask: is the government so bad at policy that they could not work this out? Are there such bad policymakers? Did they not do Politics 101 and look at the impacts of their measures? Or did they know that they were picking on the most disadvantaged? It is probably a combination of both, to be fair, because it is bad policy.

We know now that they know the figures. They know they are picking on the most disadvantaged. It is bad policy because it is going to have the most significant consequences for, and perverse outcomes on, these people—young unemployed people under the age of 30. As somebody said in the inquiry last week, it is 'infantising' 30-year-olds. They are not youth anymore, yet this is the way the government is treating them. The government is perhaps assuming that they will be living at home with mum and dad—but many of them have probably left home and many of them are from disadvantaged backgrounds. Dropping them onto no income support is actually going to make them even more disadvantaged. They are going to lose their rent assistance. So here you have young people who have been struggling to get their life back on track and they are on income support. Some of the people we are talking about have managed to get their life back on track, find accommodation and get rent assistance; but, as soon as they lose income support, they are going to lose that rent assistance. This will dump them into homelessness again, providing another barrier to their employment. This is just one of the measures that the social security bills attack.

Then there is the indexation of pensions for people with a disability, those on the age pension and single parents—because we need to have yet another go at single parents. Twisted priorities, yes! We have already seen single parents dumped onto Newstart by the Howard government and then by the Gillard government. We have seen the pensioner's education supplement taken away and then fortunately given back. But it is going to be taken away again. The pensioner education supplement is also going to be taken away from people with disabilities. These are the people who the government seems to think do not want to work. There are 17,000 people accessing that payment to improve their qualifications so that they can find work—the very thing this government says is one of its priorities. The broken promise that is the lowering of indexation of pensions will have an $80-a-week impact on a pensioner. You go for the most disadvantaged. (Time expired)