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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 November 2005) . . Page.. 4522 ..


The federal government is playing economics without any reference to the social and emotional impact these changes will have on people’s lives. The same NATSEM report concludes that, under the proposed system, sole parents who are placed on the Newstart allowance will receive much lower incomes than under the current parenting payment system. This means less disposable income for school books, less available resources for family activities and, at the same time, less time spent developing a meaningful relationship between child and parent.

Similarly, the NATSEM report highlights the disdain with which the Howard government treats those who seek to receive a disability support pension. The report includes a graph which compares the disposable income of a person with disabilities who has private earnings of $191 a week, firstly under the current DSP system and then under the proposed Newstart system. This graph concludes that such an individual would be $99 a week worse off under the proposed system.

The federal government is proposing, firstly, to send the most disadvantaged members of our community back to work, regardless of their circumstances, and then to implement a welfare system, which will actually reduce their income on the basis of this return to work. This does not make sense. Perhaps those opposite could make some sense of it and explain it to me.

Even with the concessions we have seen announced recently, the legislation still proposes to target those who, through no fault of their own, find returning to paid work difficult. It still ignores any consideration of personal circumstances and still places the interests of the almighty dollar above the welfare of ordinary Australians. As the Australian Council of Social Service points out, these changes still do not ensure that single parents or persons with disabilities will be protected. Many will be financially worse off as a result.

Mr Andrews needs to take a long, hard look at the effects of this legislation on ordinary Australians and recognise the responsibility he has to the whole community. I am not holding my breath, Mr Speaker. This federal government obviously does not believe in supporting and sustaining the whole community; rather, it believes that it should punish those who are already down—teach them a lesson perhaps; the old “blame the victim” of the old Poor Law days. Perhaps Mr Howard would be happy if all the parents on parenting allowance and all the people with a disability, once forced off their payments, were herded into some kind of workhouse until they had paid their debt to society or perhaps had met their mutual obligation, as Mr Howard is prone to say. What about your mutual obligation, Mr Howard?

The Stanhope government repeatedly expresses its disappointment at the agenda that is being pushed in this fourth term of the Howard government. We have commented in this place on the impending sale of Telstra and its effect on ACT residents. We have debated the detrimental effects on our community of the voluntary student unionism legislation and we have expressed our disgust at the impending damage associated with the so-called reforms to Australia’s industrial relations system.

The welfare-to-work legislation represents the worst of a set of pretty horrid so-called reforms, and those of us who value our society, our community in the ACT, must take


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