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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Page: 6091


Mr HALE (2:21 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. How is the government reforming welfare to protect vulnerable Australians?


Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) —I thank the member for Solomon for his question, as he is aware that this landmark legislation to make welfare work for all Australians passed the parliament last night. This legislation delivers on our government’s commitment to the fundamental values of fairness, responsibility and opportunity. It also, very importantly, delivers on the government’s commitment to reinstate the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act. The government knows the importance of this change, particularly for Indigenous Australians. Reinstating the Racial Discrimination Act means that Indigenous people, particularly in the Northern Territory, will now be able to take greater ownership and drive change around all the issues that are so important to them.

These welfare reforms are about making sure we do everything possible to protect vulnerable children. In every single circumstance, we want to make sure that welfare is not a destination, is not a way of life, for people in Australia. These changes will start in the Northern Territory and will extend the benefits of income management. They will also provide strong incentives to encourage people into work or training and to encourage people to be more responsible parents and make sure that their children go to school. Of course, we understand that the vast majority of parents do do the right thing by their children, but we want to help parents who are under pressure, particularly those who need assistance to get better financial structure into their lives, and provide them with more support.

These reforms are about providing additional support to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to make sure that we bring order and dignity to the lives of the most vulnerable and the most disadvantaged in our communities. The reforms will also provide additional funding for financial counselling and money management services so that people get extra help to manage their finances, and there will be a matched savings incentive to encourage people who are on compulsory income management to save. I want to make it very clear that age and disability pensioners will not be automatically income managed. Case-by-case income management will happen only if Centrelink staff identify an individual as vulnerable to coercion or if an individual is recommended by child protection authorities. These are landmark reforms, all designed to both support and protect vulnerable Australians so that every child in our country can grow up expecting to have a job and expecting to go to school so that they can get a better start in life.