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Monday, 2 April 2001
Page: 26135

Mr ZAHRA (2:57 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Community Services. Minister, are you aware that Dr Kemp's suppressed Youth Pathways report criticises, and I quote:

... the rigidity of activity testing for young people who have experienced family breakdown, sexual abuse, drug abuse or mental health problems.

In particular, are you aware that these young people, trying to survive in difficult circumstances, are often being fined more than $800 for minor breaches? Minister, why won't you act in response to these findings, or do you prefer the government policy of ignoring people who disagree with you?

Mr Ross Cameron —I raise a point of order under standing order 144. I think there is a great will on this side of the House to do the right thing, but the last part of that question so exceeds the bounds of even your generous tolerance that I ask you to require it to be withdrawn.

Mr SPEAKER —I do not believe that the latter part of the question did anything to enhance the authenticity of the question and it therefore ought to be ignored.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for the Northern Territory is warned.

Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Community Services) —The member raises some interesting questions, particularly about the breaching regime that is currently in place under the coalition government. The interesting thing for young people—indeed, for anybody—under the previous stewardship of the Australian Labor Party was that, if they were in breach, they lost their total entitlement. We introduced a gradual regime to ensure that we did not penalise people unfairly, which is exactly what the Australian Labor Party's policy did through the then Department of Social Security. Of those people who have lost their total payment under this government—and a lot of them could be young people, although we are very mindful of young people who are vulnerable, whether they are homeless, whether they have a disability or whether they are at risk—only 9,500 people lost that total entitlement for breaching. When Labor was in government that figure was around 80,000 to 90,000. It is just outrageous for the Australian Labor Party to show this affected compassion when the breaching regime that they had in place when they were in government was far more severe—indeed, you supported this legislation through the Senate. So what you say and what you do are two different things—and the Australian public knows that.