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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7957

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) (6:27 PM) —I would like to briefly make two points. Senator Cherry, I can assure you that my understanding of how events played out in this matter concurs with Senator Bishop's— namely, none of your amendments have been stolen. You may have to come to the frightful realisation that your mind is not individual and special and that you are not the only one in the world who thinks in a certain way. We all come to the realisation eventually that other people do sometimes think the same way as we do and do it at the same time if not before.

The second thing is that I completely and utterly reject your view of Centrelink in describing it as having a culture that is negative towards welfare recipients. I think Centrelink is a tremendous improvement on the old Department of Social Security. We do not have those poky, crummy little offices and people lining up in queues in the demeaning way that used to happen in the past. I think the management and the staff of Centrelink do a tremendous job. There will always be mistakes made in any system. There are mistakes made here, and probably even the Democrats make them every now and then, if you can accommodate that proposition.

The Ombudsman's report refers to a period some time ago. There have been very significant changes since then. I frankly do trust Centrelink. I know the senior management quite well and I know that they are committed to continual improvement and to doing a better job. The concept of Centrelink being staffed by people who somehow want to do the wrong thing or who somehow do not care about welfare recipients is one that I completely and utterly reject.