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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7974

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) (7:29 PM) — We could have quite a long debate on this. I think this a very difficult area, as a lot of welfare is. I will give you two examples. One is when people are in need—obviously, you want to give them more but, obviously, you do not want to give money to people who are not in need. So at some point—and we could always argue about where it is— you start a taper process of taking away the welfare for every extra dollar they earn to ease them back into being in the same situation as anyone else. The trouble is that for every dollar you add on as an extra benefit you actually create a higher hurdle to get back over.

It is one of the great tragedies of this policy area that you cannot have both: you cannot have more help when you are needy and no hurdle to get over. That is what we would all like, but it is impossible—unless you are prepared to keep paying people for ever and ever and discard the principle that people on the same income should be treated the same and you will not give welfare to people who are earning significantly increased amounts of money. That is a terribly difficult area faced by every government.

The other difficult area is this issue of breaching. You are right in saying that people do need money to participate—they need money to live, to pay the rent, to do a whole range of things. No-one could argue with that. But the other argument is also true: if you do not have a breaching regime, if you do not have some sort of penalty for not doing what you are meant to do, you end up with a system that does not have integrity and credibility, and you need that as well. So in the end it is all an argument about balance and where it should lie. We obviously have a disagreement here on where the balance should lie, but presumably we do not disagree with the assertion that welfare should go to the needy and not the greedy and that there should be some form of compliance system. We just have a disagreement at this point about where that balance lies.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Collins)—The question is that opposition amendments (1), (3) to (18), (22) and (24) to (30) be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments; report adopted