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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10148

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (18:15): I do apologise, as I was somewhat distracted earlier in the piece as the marriage equality bill had just passed through the House of Representatives. I think it's a great day for this country, and common sense and equity has prevailed. I'd just like to go through some of these schedules and indicate Labor's position. We oppose schedule 4, items (39) and (54)—the cessation of the bereavement leave. The Xenophon party have basically caved in on this. I don't know what baubles they received in return for selling out some of the poorest people in South Australia. I just cannot for the life of me understand why NXT would support this. That now means that we've got to try and do the best we can to ameliorate the worst aspects of this.

On schedule 4, in terms of the bereavement allowance, it's a short-term payment for people whose partner has died. It's paid for a maximum of 14 weeks at the age pension and subject to the same income and asset tests. For a pregnant woman who's lost a partner, the allowance is paid for 14 weeks. Schedule 4 of this bill will replace bereavement leave as it currently exists with short-term access to jobseeker allowance. This schedule would mean that recipients will receive only the rate of jobseeker payment, which is $535 per fortnight, the same as Newstart allowance. How the Xenophon team can justify that I don't know.

It's easy for the coalition to justify this, because they've got form when it comes to going after the poorest people in this country. This means that a bereaved person in need of income support will receive $1,300 less over the 14-week period than they currently do. The cut is even more pronounced for a pregnant woman. This is a cruel cut to people receiving short-term income support without justification following the loss of a partner.

What is the government's rationale for cutting a short-term income support payment to low-income people who have lost their partner? Have you got no shame?