Page 4521 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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However, when requested to do so by one interested party, the Commission also provided copies of these tables.


Mr Speaker presented the following paper:

Study trip–Report by Mr Smyth (Leader of the Opposition)—Meeting of Shadow Health Ministers—Sydney, 14 November 2005.

Welfare reform legislation

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (3.34): I move:

That this Assembly recognises the effect of proposed federal welfare reform legislation on members of the Canberra community.

In the weeks preceding the September sitting I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon to recognise the work of foster carers and kinship carers in our community. In response to the heart-rending and inspirational stories that I heard at this luncheon, I had written and prepared a speech discussing the absolute injustice of the Howard government’s welfare-to-work legislation and, in particular, the effect it would have on the provision of foster care.

However, upon reading the papers that morning, I found that the unthinkable had happened. For perhaps the first time in political memory, the Howard government had come to their senses and made it clear that they were willing to compromise their punishing crusade, at least in part, to soften the impending blow for some of the welfare recipients who were being targeted by the welfare-to-work legislation.

Mr Speaker, you can no doubt realise my surprise upon reading headlines such as “Vision of Welfare-to-Work” and “Foster Carers set free from shackles of Welfare reform”. I was, of course, sceptical at first, given the debates we have had in this place regarding the effects of federal legislation on the Canberra community. I am sure that I need not remind those opposite of the ducking and weaving they have performed when debates have been initiated in this place on industrial relations or on VSU. In all of my time of serving politics, I do not think I have ever seen anyone try to distance themselves from their political party to the degree that those opposite have on the issue of Telstra.

But it seems that in this instance I was right to remain sceptical. As has been pointed out by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, some of the most disadvantaged elements of our society are still being forced off their entitlements in order to achieve meagre saving targets. For example, sole parents who claim income support after 1 July 2006, with the youngest child aged six or more—sorry, eight now, as a result of Howard’s further backdown—will have their parenting payment withdrawn and they will be placed on the Newstart allowance. Joining them on the job-hunting circuit will be those with disabilities who are deemed to be able to work between 15 and 29 hours per week, as they will have their disability support pension withdrawn.

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