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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5649

Mr CHAMPION (4:09 PM) —Let me start by commending the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs for her efforts in this area—helping pensioners and others in her portfolio. I think she has done a tremendous job in the time that she has been minister. I would also like to point out that the housing trust issue, particularly in South Australia—I think the South Australian government was the first to sign on—has long been a point of contention for housing trust residents. I was very proud of both the Rann government and the Rudd government for fixing that issue in South Australia. It is a perfect example of how, in so many areas, we have resolved the blame game.

I want to talk about the importance of income management in my electorate. I think these are perhaps the most important changes that have been brought about by this government. They are very important for areas which have been terribly afflicted by the curse of poverty and intergenerational welfare dependency. All too often this debate is represented in a reactionary way—‘toughening up’ or ‘cracking down’. But the purpose of these laws, I think, is to give help and assistance to people, to intervene when they need that help and assistance and to give Centrelink and others the ability to intervene.

I came into contact with a young woman who had the care of her children. She was very close to losing her children to the state’s child protection agency and she then received help from a third-party group who established that her problem was not so much that she was not a good person or that she did not want to take care of her kids; her sole problem was that she could not say no to people. When people came to the door selling things, she would naturally sign up. When people rang her—telemarketers and others—she would naturally sign up. They had a look at her budget and, once they eliminated all the money going here, there and everywhere via direct debits, they found that she had more than enough to get by. She had a very simple problem that was soon rectified with the help of outside intervention. That basically put her on the right path, where she could maintain care of her children, pay her rent, buy food and go on with her normal life.

All too often we see these things in a reactionary way. I do not see them that way. I see that these interventions that will be made through the BasicsCard and income management will be of great assistance to people—and sometimes will intervene in their lives when they are in trouble or when they have made bad decisions. All too often in government we assume a basic level of functionality, which is, sometimes, not there. We have to reach out to those people in the community, not leave them hidden away in housing trust estates or suburbs afflicted by terrible problems.

The second important consideration—and the Prime Minister touched on it today in question time—is that these bills introduce the important concept of ‘one law for all’. The previous interventions in the Northern Territory singled out Indigenous people in bush communities. I do not think that is right. I think that, if we are going to have expectations and standards, we should have them for all people.

Mr Oakeshott —In Australia.

Mr CHAMPION —In Australia, of course. My question to the minister is: could you please explain to us what investment is included in the budget that will allow the benefits of the reforms to income management to be sustained into the future?