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Thursday, 30 September 1999
Page: 9273

Senator EGGLESTON (3:20 PM) —If there is anybody you should not believe, I would have to say that it is Senator Murphy, because he really has failed to understand at all what the minister had to say yesterday at the Press Club. The government does not see social welfare as an endpoint; it sees it as a beginning and as a springboard to get people back into a better way of life and back into the work force. That is because we believe that the best kind of welfare is a job, where people are earning money and able to pay their own way. The coalition, may I say, has always had a strong track record on social reform. We have improved family allowances, rent assistance and the automatic indexation of pensions—something Labor could have done if it had really delivered on its so-called social policies, but it never did. It left pensions at an abysmally low level, while we have pegged pensions forever at 25 per cent of the average male weekly earnings so that the pensioners get their money increased as the CPI and wages go up.

Let us have a look at Labor's general record. Labor has never been serious about stopping fraud and non-compliance in the social security system. Labor was quite happy for people to go on rorting the system. Getting two lots of social security under different names and all sorts of other malpractices that went on under the Labor government were never seriously investigated or sought to be prevented. The previous Labor social security minister boasted that he had solved the problem of people cheating the system.

Despite this, the coalition, since it has been in office, has been able to save taxpayers $1.1 billion since 1996 by closing Labor's loop holes and has reduced the benefits of 640,000 people who were receiving too much or who were—in more simple, direct terms—rorting the system. Labor broke its election promise to take all age and service pensioners out of the pension system within days of the 1993 election. Labor opposed the genuine coalition measures aimed at ensuring the social security system is fair and targeted to those most in need.

Labor wasted $2.4 billion in payments to people who were not entitled to benefits. Under Labor, the unemployed could get the dole without putting anything back into the community. We have established the Work for the Dole system, which not only gives people a sense of dignity but means that they are contributing to the community and that they get away from the deadening welfare dependency that the Labor social security system promoted. Let us look generally at what the coalition have done. The coalition have initiated family tax payments covering 1.75 million children in low income families as part of the family tax initiative which delivered $1 billion in tax cuts to families. Our new tax system will deliver $2.4 billion in extra money to low income families. We have implemented a waiting period for migrants before they can receive social security. Most migrants will now have to wait two years before accessing welfare benefits other than family allowance and Medicare.

Labor were quite happy for people to come into this country from overseas to access the social security system because it was so generous and so weakly tested in terms of need. Senator Murphy mentioned child care being reduced under the coalition, but the coalition have allocated more funding to child care than Labor did. We have given $5.3 billion over four years, to 2002-03, to fund 70,000 additional places in each of the coalition's first three budgets. We have a record which Labor cannot in any way claim to equal. (Time expired)