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Debate resumed from 1 June 1995, on motion by Mrs Carnell:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (5.07): Mr Speaker, the Labor Party will not be opposing this Bill. The proposal to grant payroll tax exemption for employers who hire long-term unemployed is one which I believe the majority of Canberrans would agree with. My colleagues and I would certainly always support sensible reform that will improve outcomes for Canberrans, especially the more disadvantaged. I sincerely hope that this amendment to the Payroll Tax Act results in people who have been unemployed getting jobs.

There are a couple of matters to which I wish to draw members’ attention. The first of these is the danger - and it is a danger that is perhaps more perceived than real - that employers will attempt to replace existing employees with those who have been unemployed in order to attract the payroll tax advantage. If this were to occur, it would defeat the whole purpose of the proposal, and I trust that both the Commonwealth Employment Service and the ACT Government will monitor this situation very carefully.

The other concern I have relates to what I believe is an inherent bias in the Bill, and I foreshadow that in the detail stage of debate on the Bill I will be moving an amendment to address this problem. My concern is to ensure that all long-term unemployed people are treated equally under this legislation. The amendment I will move deletes from the Government's proposal the requirement that persons must be receiving an allowance in respect of their unemployment under the Social Security Act 1991 of the Commonwealth. I believe that my amendment is required because the Government's proposed clause creates a precondition which many people will simply be unable to satisfy. Any person who is in a relationship with a wage earner will be denied the benefit proposed under this legislation because of the requirement that they must be in receipt of a social security allowance. People who are unemployed and who are living with wage earners simply are not entitled to social security in the overwhelming majority of cases. I believe that the public purse is sufficiently protected here by the requirement that people must have been registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service for at least 12 months.

However, if members do not accept the amendment I have circulated, that would mean that predominantly women and young people would be disadvantaged under this scheme. That is because women and young people are typically restricted in their access to social security benefits. Such benefits are not available where a partner or, in the case of young people, their parents are in receipt of income over a certain level. I urge members to support the amendments I am circulating in order to ensure that women and young people are also able to take the benefits of this payroll tax reform the Government is moving and are treated equally, as I believe they deserve to be.

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