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Monday, 7 September 2015
Page: 6064


Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (13:55): In the short time I have before question time, I will address a few of the underlying issues relating to the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No.2) Bill 2015 and go into more detail when I resume my remarks. Make no mistake, this is about extending income management. It is not based on evidence, and it cannot be, because the evidence that income management works is not there. The government, with the ALP's support, is extending a process that does not work and that, for some people, could be detrimental. They are expanding income management and changing the measure of the vulnerable person, because, as it says in the explanatory memorandum, it is underutilised. In other words, they are not capturing enough people to apply income management to. It is quite obvious from reading the EM that that is what the government wants to do. Not only does it want to save money—yes, it does off the backs of vulnerable people—but it wants to expand the process of income management, which does not work. I will go into the detail of why it does not work when the debate resumes, because I will need substantial time to outline the evidence that shows income management does not work.

Another change this bill seeks to abolish the match-saving measure, which, quite frankly, will make little difference, because the evidence from estimates was that, after all this time, only 60 people managed to save some money so they could have a matched-savings payment. That fundamentally shows that this government, as well as the previous government, does not understand that you cannot save money when you are living on NewStart because you are already living below the poverty line. It is no wonder at all that the match-saving measure does not work. It would be interesting to see how many people will come off voluntary income management once they realise that they will no longer get the incentive payment, which is supposed to encourage them to stay on voluntary income management.

This bill not only extends income management, but also addresses issues around aged care. We will oppose this bill overall. We are not much concerned about getting rid of the committee, because it has not met since last year, but we do have concerns about aged care payments and the impact it will have on service providers. Let me come back to the changes of income management. In the EM the government says that it is moving away from being able to determine that a person is a vulnerable welfare payment recipient on a case-by-case basis. In other words, we are going to cease treating you as an individual. Even though we strongly disagree with income management and with the vulnerable income management measure, in the past we did at least have a modicum of support for the individual under the previous program. We no longer will have that with this proposed measure. This measure takes the decision making away from this place and moves it into—

Debate interrupted.