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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5639

Mr HAWKE (11:48 AM) —Thank you for being here today, Minister. I have a serious question in relation to the Human Services portfolio. It has more of a general nature, but it is a question that has taxed my mind for some time, looking at successive budgets and expenditure in the Human Services portfolio in particular. It is the case, of course, that human services are the largest single item of expenditure in the federal budget, and they are the fastest growing area of Commonwealth expenditure since Federation. Does the minister have a view about that growth in human services? Does the government have a view in relation to the ongoing growth in the expenditure in this area, considering that it is the biggest item of Commonwealth government expenditure?

What we are talking about, of course, in one form or another, is welfare payments, many of them legitimate, many of them needed or required. If this particular area continues to grow as it has done since Federation, it will be a significant item of expenditure in ongoing federal budgets. I wonder whether the minister has had an opportunity to reflect on that, whether the government does review how much is spent on human services and whether the growth in this portfolio can be reduced over time. If it does continue to grow, it will be the fastest growing area of Commonwealth expenditure. Certainly we are going to see a different sort of society in the future. I ask the minister to reflect on those matters.