Page 4525 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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number—are currently growing up in homes where parents are not fully engaged in any form of work.

There could be no member in this Assembly who would agree that this is a situation that should be allowed to continue. If there is an opinion otherwise, to me it signifies that some members would rather pursue a campaign that seeks to disrupt and not recognise that, in tandem, the WorkChoices and welfare-to-work reforms are designed to complement and combat outdated systems that do not in any way assist our economy to continue to grow and to therefore provide productive jobs for people who wish to participate.

A combination of a feeling of achievement, motivation and imparting of a strong work ethic to children are the key components that the Liberal opposition recognises are at the heart of the federal government’s efforts to rejuvenate an ageing legislation that impedes employment growth. Contrary to efforts by some groups to distort the facts, support will be offered to eligible families faced with difficult circumstances.

Ms Porter’s motion talks about proposed changes. You cannot sort of hypothecate. We can have the debate, and I am happy to do that, but you cannot make assertions that this will happen or that will not happen. I am putting to you a human case. I have talked to stakeholders; I have talked to people with a disability. I watched a program on SBS last evening that talked about young people with a particular disease longing to be in a workplace—not wanting to stay at home, hide away and be on welfare—far from it. In fact, we can often learn a great deal from people who have disabilities and so forth.

Why would any fair-minded human being consider it unreasonable to view the welfare-to-work reforms as an effort to actively encourage people to seek employment that matches their capacity to contribute effectively in the work force? A balance can be achieved in this sense and this reflects a wider community sentiment that cannot be disputed: whenever you require legitimate government support, it should be there, always. But, on the other hand, all of us should be contributing productively in the spirit of building our community and strengthening our economy.

As recently as yesterday, the federal Minister for Workforce Participation, Peter Dutton MP, indicated that he had concerns that the federal Labor Party was entering into what might be called a surreal world, claiming there would be no flexibility in guidelines that put into effect the legislation surrounding the welfare-to-work program. An official from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations explained, in essence, in a committee hearing on 21 November 2005 that vulnerable groups would be protected by way of exemption from certain portions of the legislation that would see them shift from some form of support payment on to Newstart. The federal government is aware that, due to complexities and personal circumstances, rather than seek to legislate on such complexities, regulations and guidelines are far more useful in offering flexibilities to families. The department official clarified this by saying:

The legislation does cater to the key groups of people for whom an exemption may be required. For example, it makes it very clear that there will be automatic exemptions for parents who are active and registered foster parents, for parents who are home schooling or for parents who are facilitating distance education for their children. … for parents who have children with disabilities … for parents who are

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