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Thursday, 23 August 2018
Page: 5640

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:27): I just wanted to, as a Queensland senator, make a very brief contribution. I have a meeting of the Privileges Committee starting shortly, so my contribution will be very short.

Senator Farrell: Tell us where you're really going!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I'm going to a meeting of the Privileges Committee, chaired by your colleague Senator Collins, at 10:30. As a Queensland senator, I do want to express my support for the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018. I know the local member in the area is very keen to see this bill introduced for constituents in his area. I've heard all of the fine words from particularly the Greens political party. They always amuse me!

Senator McKim talks as if only parliamentarians on this side of the chamber get a salary. He forgets, always, to mention that he gets a salary of some $200,000. It's $200,000 for Senator McKim. Not long ago, he was a minister, heaven forbid, in the Tasmanian government. He would have been receiving $350,000 a year. His leader, Senator Di Natale, what's he on as the leader of a tiny political party? He gets an extra $50,000 or so. That's almost $300,000. Whenever Senator McKim talks about these things he gives the impression to anyone who might be foolish enough to listen to Senator McKim that it is only government members who get paid for being here and the Greens come and do it as a matter of charity. That is when he, as a parliamentarian for most of his life, would have been on almost $300,000 a year. Senator McKim, please spare us the hypocrisy and humbug when you speak.

Senator McKim also suggests the Liberals are always from wealthy families and born with a silver spoon in their mouth. I don't know Senator McKim's background, but I challenge him to say that, as a 14-year-old child, he was out picking beans and tobacco to earn a few dollars, as I did. I'm sure he didn't do that. As a schoolkid, I was out there picking tobacco—not an easy task in those days—and picking beans.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Marshall ): Senator Macdonald, resume your seat. Senator McKim, on a point of order?

Senator McKim: On relevance: I make the point that in my first speech I did talk about my fruit-picking experience.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: On relevance, Senator Macdonald is directly addressing your contribution to this debate. It is relevant to the debate.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator McKim always likes to give it out, but he never wants anyone to be heard when they have a view different to his. I was out there as a 14- and 15-year-old picking beans and, as I say, it's not an easy task, down on your knees. As a kid, of course, I guess it was much easier than it would be for me now. Picking tobacco was pretty tough work, because you ended up with tobacco leaf stains all over you.

Unlike Senator McKim, I didn't have parents who could send me to private schools or to universities, and I've got wherever I've got through hard work. Again, as I say, I don't know Senator McKim's background, but I suspect he went to university, thanks to the taxpayer—it didn't cost him a cent, I would suggest. Whereas, in my day, I didn't get a Commonwealth scholarship; I wasn't quite that bright. My parents couldn't afford to send me to university, nor could they send me to a private school, as I suspect Senator McKim went to. I know a lot of his colleagues in the Greens political party went to private schools, as I think did most of the Labor senators as well. Good luck to them; I don't hold that against them, but I just get a bit annoyed when you get people like the Greens accusing Liberals of being born with silver spoons in their mouths when, for many of us who share my background, that's simply not the case. We've achieved whatever we've achieved by hard work, and that's why I sometimes wonder that people who do receive government welfare from other taxpayers are not able to get the work that is available.

At every place I go to around remote Australia, particularly remote Queensland, the only people I run into at service stations, at stores out in the middle of nowhere and at pubs around various towns are Irish, English or German backpackers. I often wonder where the Australians are who claim they can't get work, and it seems very easy for these foreign backpackers to get work—admittedly, it's in places like Normanton or Croydon. On the way to the cape a few years ago—it's very, very remote territory up there—some of the service stations had plenty of work, but it was all being filled by foreign backpackers because Australians, apparently, don't want those jobs.

This proposal for this cashless credit card is not taking away anything. It's not reducing the value of the contribution that the taxpayers are giving to people who need assistance and need welfare. It's just that a certain proportion of it can only be spent on the necessities of life. I cannot understand why anyone objects to that. As for this being a breach of human rights, that's something that I, and I must say most of my constituents in Queensland, cannot understand. How can that be a human right? They are getting a certain value, and they'll continue to get a certain value.

As Senator Leyonhjelm, quite rightly, said, receiving welfare from the government is not a human right; that is something that every other Australian chooses to do to help people who cannot help themselves. That's one of the tenets of the Liberal Party and something we've always been very firm and concentrated on, that our society should help those who cannot help themselves. We do that in many ways, and I'm proud to be in a government that has, not just now but all through history, provided assistance for those who could not help themselves. I repeat, for the benefit of Senator Steele-John and, I think, Senator Hinch, that the best form of welfare is a job. There are jobs available. I don't know the circumstances of individual people. I know there are some people who can't take those jobs, and they are being looked after by every other taxpayer in Australia, as they should be. That's a basic tenet of the Liberal Party.

This cashless debit card gives the recipients the same amount of money. I heard people from the other side saying: 'It makes them second-class citizens. People look down on them for handing across a debit card that has the bulk of their contribution from other taxpayers on it.' People who suggest that are simply being disingenuous. These days, almost everybody pays for everything by tapping a credit card, even a cup of coffee. If you go around the coffee carts even in this building, and certainly around Australia, people buy even something as cheap as a cup of coffee by a tap of their credit card. I'm not sure what the embarrassment of handing across a card is. As I say, everybody does it, and I suspect that those who promote that sort of argument would be the sort of people who buy a cup of coffee, tap their credit card and walk away. I'm sure others around them don't say, 'Aren't they a second-class citizen because they've tapped their credit card?' The arguments being promoted against this bill are simply ludicrous, as was the speech we heard from the previous speaker.

As a Queenslander and as a representative of the area where this further trial is going to be in place, I think it's a good idea. I know the local member of parliament thinks it's a good idea, and, for that reason, I'll certainly be supporting the bill.