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Thursday, 15 October 2015
Page: 7795


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (13:48): Labor is supporting the abolition of the low-income supplement today. The supplement was a payment introduced at the time of the former Labor government's clean energy future package, designed at that time to move Australia to a low-carbon future. The Abbott-Turnbull government promised before the election to keep these payments associated with the clean energy future package, and that was the expectation of the community. Therefore, this is a broken promise from the Abbott-Turnbull government, and it is just one on a list on which I am sure people are keeping a tally. The low-income supplement was paid to around 7,000 low-income households that did not receive the same level of assistance as other families through tax cuts or social security payments introduced to offset the average cost of carbon pricing. You will remember the debates that went on in this place about the range of measures that were going to be offsetting that process. This was one of them, and it was part of the entire package.

Some welfare organisations have also formed the view that this supplement should be ended, and there has been community debate. ACOSS, the Australian Council of Social Service, has stated that it is appropriate that this supplement be abolished. That is within the overall debate. We all know that, over the past year and a half, there have been various debates about where we can find savings within the budget that are appropriate to ensure strong policy is maintained. From the start, the low-income supplement was identified as a saving, as originally it was part of a bigger package. Amidst a range of propositions, some were ones that we could not support, and we made that argument in this place and we made that argument in the community. Whilst we always worry about the impact of cuts, from the start, amidst all the other arguments, we considered that the low-income supplement had served its purpose. As the clean energy process was no longer in place, this seemed to be obsolete, and we looked at how it should operate. ACOSS has argued that the supplement has not been widely taken up since its introduction. Again, we looked at the wider picture of how we could balance things and ensure that we clearly identified the needs of people in the community and provided support.

Labor will not oppose the bill in the Senate. We understand the importance of fiscal repair, and we welcome this as a reasonable savings measure. We will only ever support savings in this area when they are fair and reasonable and when the community are engaged in discussion around the process. Again, it is very important, as always when we are talking about the social welfare system, to remember what the intent of the system was, how we identify need and how we ensure that the people who would be in receipt of payment understand exactly their position and the impact on them. That is the background to our support for the low-income supplement process today.