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Thursday, 30 September 1999
Page: 9274

Senator MASON (3:30 PM) —This issue is obviously of concern to the opposition. A couple of weeks ago I gave my first speech on a motion to take note of an answer on this issue.

Senator Murphy —It is of concern to us, but not to you.

Senator MASON —Let me get to that in a minute, Senator Murphy. I want to do two things: I want to outline the facts on child care and then address some of the issues raised by Senator Murphy.

The government's strong commitment to child care is demonstrated by several things. It is demonstrated by spending in the order of about $3 billion over the last three years—which is 20 per cent more than Labor spent in their last three years in office; the introduction of the child-care benefit; and the allocation of around $5.3 billion over four years to 2002-03, including an additional $600 million over three years from 2000-01. Finally, expenditure is expected to reach about $1.5 billion annually by 2002-03. I found Senator Murphy's remarks today on policy reform interesting. It is good to see the Labor Party concentrating on policy reform.

Welfare, as so many other things in politics today, is undergoing reform. Senator Mackay spoke about the Liberal Party in the 1950s. Today, in fact, it is the Liberal Party that is the party of reform—

Senator Crossin —It is still in the 1950s.

Senator MASON —whether, Senator Crossin, it is in industrial relations, taxation or economic policy. It is not enough, in the context of welfare policy, to suggest that welfare should be spent endlessly without a focus on trying to move people off welfare. The mind-set that welfare is simply about endlessly providing an income—admittedly a small income—is blinkered.

Senator Carr interjecting

Senator MASON —There is actually something more important than governments providing welfare.

Senator Carr —What is there?

Senator MASON —Getting them off welfare, Senator—that is the difference between us.


Senator Carr interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Carr, that is enough from you. Will you cease interjecting. Senator Mason, ignore the interjections, direct your comments to chair and do not respond.

Senator Hill interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I do not need any help from you, Senator Hill.

Senator MASON —I will just repeat that message because it is an important one: there is something more important than providing welfare, and that is getting people off welfare. This government has done that through sound economic and social policies that have seen unemployment rates continue to drop over the last decade. As Senator Newman said today, this government has embraced the philosophy of mutual obligation, and that has meant several things: first, that welfare will be provided to the people who need it, in return for something—in return for their commitment to assist themselves, if they are able. Second, in practice, this means that, in the context of benefits paid to people who are unemployed, those people will actively seek employment and actively train for the purpose. The community will provide security, as it should, but the community expects that beneficiaries will help themselves—that is the difference today.

Only in this way can this country enjoy the cultural shift that has occurred in the field of economics and industrial relations, and there will be a cultural shift in welfare. It will be a shift from a culture of dependency to a culture of having a fair go and having a go—a shift from a culture of entitlement to a culture of mutual obligation.

Senator Murphy interjecting

Senator MASON —It is funny that Labor Party senators keep interjecting. This philosophy has been adopted by the Labour Party in Great Britain. They call it reciprocal responsibility. Every single thing that the left faction of the Labor Party believes has been eschewed by Mr Blair, and he is quite right. The Labour Party in Britain believes in reciprocal responsibility in the context of welfare. (Time expired)

Question resolved in the affirmative.