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Partial transcript of doorstop: Parliament House, Canberra: Wednesday, 7 December 2005: welfare legislation; Rob Gerard; VSU.

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Penny Wong Labor Senator for South Australia Shadow Minister for Employment and Workforce Participation, Corporate Governance and Responsibility

Wednesday 7 December 2005




Subject: Welfare legislation, Rob Gerard, VSU

WONG: I have not seen a government more arrogant, more smug, than the Howard Government last night when it voted for its extreme welfare changes that will create an American-style working poor in Australia.

Not only did this Howard Government vote to lift money out of the pockets of sole parent families and people with a disability, not only did they vote to make it harder for these people to improve their skills, not only did they vote to make people accept jobs that pay dirt, but the Howard Government also voted to make work less financially rewarding, make work less attractive than welfare.

What greater symbol of the Howard Government’s incompetence could there be than making work less attractive than welfare?

I want to also say something about Rob Gerard. It is extraordinary the night after the welfare reform we reflect on the Government’s hypocrisy. What greater example of the Howard Government’s hypocrisy: voting for changes which rip money out of the pockets of sole parent families and people with a disability, but they protect their mate Rob Gerard.

JOURNALIST: Welfare to work and the counter-terrorism bills have now gone through. How does the Senate go from here? I mean, the Government has got this huge agenda. It is just ploughing on.

WONG: Well the Government’s not simply ploughing on, what the Government is doing is guillotining debate, gagging the debate, truncating debate.

What the Howard Government is doing is arrogantly using the Senate numbers to force through legislation without proper scrutiny, and what we see is this arrogant smug government using its numbers in the Senate to ram through extreme laws. And what we do know after last night’s vote is that John Howard and his mates will live it up this Christmas, but vulnerable Australians will face their future with fear.

JOURNALIST: What about reports this morning that the Government might be implementing (inaudible)?

WONG: That is a matter that relates to the child support arrangements and I am sure one of my colleagues will make comment on that later today.

JOURNALIST: VSU is one of the legislative issues to come up for the Government. Does Labor support Barnaby Joyce’s amendment to allow universities to charge a compulsory amenities fee if you like?

WONG: Labor has already indicated its position on VSU. We propose a sensible arrangement, a practical arrangement, which deals with the issue. I hope the good Senator Joyce will continue to see some sense. We are very disappointed that he chose not to cross the floor against the extreme welfare changes. Really, senators who have a concern for the impact on vulnerable Australians, on people with a disability, it is very unfortunate that the Howard Government senators simply voted to lift money out of their pockets.

JOURNALIST: The amendment the Nationals are calling for seems to be close to what the Labor Party is looking at as well. Would it not make sense to support what he is after if his amendment is something close enough to go through?

WONG: That is a matter for Jenny Macklin to consider as the relevant Shadow Minister. We have taken a very practical approach to this, unlike the Howard Government, which has an extreme approach. We have taken a very practical approach to this, unlike the Howard Government who is insisting on ramming through this extreme Voluntary Student Unionism package.

JOURNALIST: As a Labor senator, is Barnaby’s idea a very practical approach?

WONG: As I said, we have indicated our position on this, and I am sure Jenny Macklin will be continuing to advocate our views on this issue.

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