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Parliament House, Canberra, 15 March 2000: transcript of doorstop interview [welfare report; nursing homes]

Doorstop Interview


Wayne Swan - Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services


Subjects: Welfare Report, Nursing Homes


Transcript - Parliament House, Canberra - 15 March 2000


E & OE - Proof Only


SWAN: Well, you can tell when this Government is in political trouble. They're in trouble on the GST; they're in trouble on nursing homes. So, what do they do? They go out and pick on the disabled and sole parents. This is the Government's old cost cutting agenda, it's back and they're going to pursue it with vigour. They're using the excuse of the welfare paper to bring back those old proposals that Senator Newman has hidden in the bottom drawer to cut payments to sole parents and to cut payments to disability pensioners.


This is a Government which is weak in controlling the strong and very strong in controlling the weak.


These proposals always resurface when they're in political trouble.


JOURNALIST: The Opposition ended up supporting work for the dole, could the Labor Party embrace any possibility of people on pensions being part of the mutual obligation principle?


SWAN: The Labor Party believes we need to reconstruct the welfare system and reward work over welfare. The reason this Government has a blow-out in the welfare budget is they've created a tax system which has trapping people on welfare. They've abolished labour market programs, which is trapping people on welfare. We believe there needs to be a reconstruction of the system. And that requires an investment of money so people can get access to essential programs so they can move from welfare to work. This Government is going in the opposite direction. They've constructed a tax system with marginal tax rates as high as 90 cents in the dollar, trapped people on welfare. And they have abolished essential capacity building programs that enable sole parents and people on disability pensions who could work to move to work.


JOURNALIST: So, can you categorically rule out Labor's support for making people on pensions work for their money?


SWAN: I can categorically rule out the cost cutting agenda that Senator Newman is talking about. We don't know that that cost cutting agenda is in the welfare paper. I believe she is using the welfare paper to bring back her proposals which are hidden in her bottom drawer to cut payments to sole parents and to cut payments to people on disability support pensions. We do believe in the principle of reciprocal obligation. It must be a two-way street. Under this Government it's just a one-way street.


JOURNALIST: The Government would claim that they've had great success in returning a whole lot of Australians to work, and particularly people that perhaps under the former Government would not have been in work.


SWAN: This Government has created a system which has trapped people on welfare. That is why there is a blow-out in the welfare budget and that is why there is a substantial increase in the numbers of people on disability support pensions and why there has not been a substantial reduction in the number of sole parent pensions. These reductions in expenditure are what is causing the blow-out because they have trapped these people on welfare benefits. This Government has created a social deficit. And now it is trying to solve that problem by cost cutting. Effectively, what they are saying, or Senator Newman is saying that she is going to do is to take payments off sole parents with children aged 12 to 16 and to cut payments made to disability support pensioners. What she should be doing is investing in essential capacity building programs so that those who can work get the capacity to access that work through training and other assistance.


JOURNALIST: Just one thing on Bronwyn Bishop. You're claiming a knock-out punch on her from yesterday's information. Why is that?


SWAN: Because Bronwyn Bishop has misled the Parliament and Bronwyn Bishop created a situation where the residents in that nursing home were there for many days without her taking any substantial action when she knew the state of that nursing home. This is, for those residents, a catastrophe. Essentially, we are seeing some of these stories this morning because the Government has political problems with the GST, political problems with nursing homes, political problems with Telstra. So, what do they do? They bring out their old cost cutting agenda, picking on disability support pensioners and picking on sole parents. It is simply their attempt to deflect attention from the social catastrophe of nursing homes and the GST. Welcome to John Howard's social coalition.




Authorised by Gary Gray, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.