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Monday, 2 April 2001
Page: 26130

Mr SWAN (2:38 PM) —My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services, and it relates to the suppressed Youth Pathways Action Plan Taskforce report. Minister, are you aware that this report, like the McClure report before it, condemns your government for imposing marginal tax rates as high as 111 per cent on the families of many youth allowance recipients? Minister, how many reports will it take for you to end the punishment of low and middle income Australian families? Haven't you hidden this report because you and your government refuse to listen to people who disagree with you?

Mr Ross Cameron —That is an imputation of bad faith and it should be withdrawn.

Mr SPEAKER —If the member for Parramatta wants the call, he will seek it, or otherwise remain silent.

Mr Ross Cameron —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I refer to the two standing orders which specifically prohibit argument and the imputation of bad faith. I ask you to consider the scope of standing order 144 in prohibiting the presence of argument in questions, and, furthermore, the imputation of bad faith, which is inherently disorderly and is responsible for much bad conduct in this House.

Mr SPEAKER —I refer the member for Parramatta to the statement I issued on I think the last sitting day of last year. The member for Parramatta is right that there has been an instance in question time today where a question did advance more argument than I ought to have tolerated under that standing order, but I do not believe the question just asked by the member for Lilley exceeds those boundaries.

Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Community Services) —It is extraordinary the crocodile tears that are being cried by the member for Lilley and by the Australian Labor Party. As another minister said in an earlier answer, the greatest travesty that you perpetrated on young people was record youth unemployment, the highest ever seen in this country. The other point, of course, is that you quite conveniently churned people through Working Nation. Apprenticeships were at the lowest level since the war when the ALP was last in government. The thing that we did for youth allowance that you never did was to make it available to many people in rural and remote Australia, and they now have access to rental assistance that they had never had. The previous policy of the Labor Party made it easier for people to go on unemployment benefits than it was to go on Austudy. What we did was introduce youth allowance where, as at the end of last year, there are now over 374,000 young people receiving youth allowance which is substantially more flexible with increased payments than Austudy.

The government has received the report. We received it about a month ago and we will make an assessment of it. As far as the McClure report is concerned, it is this government that is tackling welfare dependency—something that you never ever did, because it was a policy of the Australian Labor Party almost to encourage welfare dependency to become intergenerational. This government wants to provide opportunities, and we have through a far more flexible job network provided opportunity in the sense of providing increased training and assistance, particularly to those people who are vulnerable within the community. As far as youth allowance is concerned, it has been extremely successful. I would just like to mention that 68,000 students are now receiving youth allowance and rental assistance that never would have received it under the previous policies of the Australian Labor Party. That is $52 a fortnight. There are 19,400 people in remote and rural parts of Australia who would never have received rental assistance but for the positive policies that we introduced for youth allowance. I totally reject these pious crocodile tears coming from the member for Lilley, who is the ultimate hypocrite.

Mr SPEAKER —The minister will withdraw that last reference.

Mr ANTHONY —If it offends you, Mr Speaker, I withdraw it.

Mr SPEAKER —The minister will withdraw without condition. It is not a question of whether I am offended; it falls outside the standing orders and guidelines.

Mr ANTHONY —I withdraw.