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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7676


Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (10:15): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

As independents it is our job to put forward solutions to problems that are impacting on our communities, to give an independent voice to the issues that are ignored by the major parties and to suggest effective solutions to these problems.

My primary role as the member for Indi is to represent my electorate. The budget impact survey is one of the tools I use to seek feedback and advice and ask for solutions from my community.

In this year's budget impact survey 24 per cent of respondents rated social services as one of their top three issues and 80 per cent of respondents ranked social services as either very important or fairly important.

So there is good reason for this being high on my electorate's agenda.

Although nationally there has been strong job creation, we still have areas of high unemployment and underemployment.

When the economy slows, it is young people that are first to have their hours reduced, lose their jobs or struggle to enter the workforce.

Nowhere is the challenge of employment security felt more than in regional Australia.

Where people are uncertain about their future they want to know that the social safety net is there to catch them, to look after them and to propel them forward to the next step.

The recent debate around social security payments being akin to a punishment—making recipients feel ashamed, making them feel embarrassed—does not do what we want it to do.

The experience of a loss of independence and self-esteem is an experience that is felt by so many people relying on the government to support them when they are most in need.

I believe the government should not be looking at welfare payments as a short-term cost but, rather, as a long-term investment, particularly when directed towards investment in our young people.

Social security should support people who are unable to work. It should feature fair returns from work, individualised requirements for participation in the workforce and support services that build individual and family capacity. It should give people a sense of security so that they are able to fully participate in our society.

I believe social security recipients should be able to have a standard of living that allows them to live with dignity.

This bill proposes establishing an independent review process to ensure recipients can live with dignity.

Summary of the b ill

This bill will establish a Social Security Commission to provide the parliament with independent advice on the minimum level for social security payments that meet an acceptable contemporary minimum standard of living.

The primary function of the commission is to conduct social security payment reviews.

As part of a review, the commission would determine:

(a) the acceptable standard of living for recipients of the payment;

(b) whether the current level of the payment provides adequate support; and

(c) a recommended increase to the payment level or rate of indexation.

The commission will consider all social security payments made under the Social Security Act 1991, including pensions, Newstart and youth allowance.

Mr Speaker, I have asked my two colleagues from the crossbench to add value to my comments today.

I would particularly like to acknowledge the work of Brian Lawrence, barrister, and Jeremy Mickle, who is in the House today. I thank Catholic Social Services Australia, UnitingCare and Anglicare for their support in developing this bill.

This bill will bring compassion and fairness to a really important system. It will provide independent, expert and evidence based advice on what is fair and adequate.

I call on the government and the opposition to take a serious look at this approach.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?