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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 10257

Welfare Reform

Mrs SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (14:55): My question is to the Minister for Social Services. Will the minister update the House on the government's commitment to create a simpler, fairer welfare system that helps move people from welfare to work? Are there any challenges to this commitment?

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The level of interjections is ridiculously high. I need to hear the question. I would have thought most members in the chamber would want to hear the question, and certainly people in the public gallery want to hear the question. If there's a repeat of those interjections—

Ms Bird interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Cunningham knows better; she's on the Speaker's panel. She can remove herself under 94(a).

The member for Cunningham then left the chamber.

Mr PORTER (PearceMinister for Social Services) (14:56): I thank the member for her question. As the member is aware, this government has reduced spending growth on unemployment benefits down to 3.7 per cent a year. That is down from a whopping average growth of 13.5 per cent each year for six years under Labor. That success in moving Australians from welfare to work has been underpinned by policies like business tax cuts, increasing investment in job growth and welfare reforms designed to activate more people into job preparation and Job Search. The welfare reform bill that passed this House yesterday will see an extra $10 million for rehabilitation and treatment in drug test trials. It will see a $100 million investment to activate more people into job preparation and Job Search.

Of course, I'm asked about alternatives. It is often quite hard to tell what the alternative Labor policy is on a key issue from week to week. The opposition leader once said, and I'll quote him:

… we need to encourage employment participation, not greater welfare dependency.

And yet this week, Labor voted against a $110 million investment to help move people from welfare into work through increased employment participation.

Members, in some good news, we have found a way to work out what Labor policy positions will be. What you do is you apply what public policy analysis will call 'the Costanza method of policy identification'. In the famous Seinfeld episode, the notoriously shifty George Costanza decides that the best way to make decisions is do the precise opposite of what you think to do first. When you apply the Costanza method to the Leader of the Opposition, it is uncannily accurate. Tax cuts to decrease welfare dependency? First, the Leader of the Opposition said, 'Friends, corporate tax cut reforms create jobs right up and down the ladder, including people who might now be on welfare.' Apply the Costanza method, and he now says those same tax cuts are a 'crazy plan'. NDIS funding? First he said anyone who opposed the 0.5 per cent increase was 'dumb'. Apply the Costanza method and now the Leader of the Opposition vigorously opposes the very same funding. The marriage plebiscite? First he said, 'I'd rather the people of Australia could make their view clear on this than leaving the decision to 150 people.' Apply the Costanza method and now the 150 people are the only people who get their say and the Australian people get no say. The cashless welfare card? The Leader of the Opposition had two opposing points of view in the same sentence. He said, 'There are some people who probably will benefit from this scheme.' He then said, 'But also it's a hard measure just to get a headline.' Members, he's the only Leader of the Opposition shiftier than George Costanza. (Time expired)