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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5529

Ms JACKSON (2:14 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. How will the government’s welfare reform fight passive welfare and support children?

Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) —I thank the member for Hasluck for her question because, as she knows, this government is determined to make welfare work. We want to see welfare used as a driver of personal responsibility. We also want to make sure that payments are spent responsibly in the interests of children. Welfare should not be a destination or a way of life. It is also the case that welfare has to be a two-way street. Governments should support individuals and families in tough times, but welfare recipients should also behave responsibly and make sure that they spend their payments in the interests of children.

Our reforms will extend the benefits of income management to vulnerable Australians in the Northern Territory. Under these reforms, income management will be used as a tool to fight passive welfare and to increase personal responsibility. At its core, these reforms are all about human dignity—the dignity of earning your own pay cheque and the dignity of making sure that your children go to school each day and get a better start in life. There have been a number of people in the Northern Territory, particularly women, who have spoken out about the value of income management to them and their families. Bess Nungarrayi Price, originally from Yuendumu, said:

Income quarantining was a good thing that happened for our people saving money in order to have food on the table for their children, have food for themselves and have clothing.

Andrea Mason from the MPY Women’s Council based in Alice Springs said:

Women see it more as a way of taking back control over their finances or their lives.

A teacher in the Tiwi Islands said:

Before it was the case that children were skinny and covered in sores walking around half naked. Today these kids are walking around healthy with food in their tummies.

These are critical reforms to make sure that vulnerable people in the Northern Territory, especially children, get this vital help. The Senate needs to pass these reforms and pass them urgently.