Page 4526 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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escaping domestic violence … there is a whole range of categories there which are actually in the legislation …

In addition, there are provisions that protect people who are homeless, who face some form of mental illness or have a disability that would not require them to undertake active participation requirements. There is definitely a lot of scaremongering going on about what groups are in and what groups are out, yet clearly here we can see that for many of these people this fear is being spread in our community quite wrongly. It is quite wrong to assert that some of these cases will be shoved out and forced to get jobs. It is clear that they are not going to be.

Guidelines allow the relevant government departments a degree of flexibility in dealing with job seekers experiencing a broad range of life circumstances that would not be possible if everything were set in concrete by way of legislation. So here again we see a more flexible world. We need to live in a flexible society where people can make choices, where people are given options that they have never had before to do something. Of course it is going to be hard to turn this whole welfare system around. I do not deny that.

Any political party that does not support the notion that we, as responsible members of our community, should participate in the work force wherever it is possible is acting in an irresponsible manner and patently displays that it does not seek to foster growth in the economy nor does it wish to elevate a sector of the population that deserves the same right to enjoy the financial, social and personal benefits that naturally come with participating in any form of gainful employment. I think historically people have thought, “Well, the only thing I can do is take welfare.” We need businesses—big businesses, small businesses, medium-sized businesses—to come on board and to offer options to people that will make it easier for them to go back into the workplace, to employ people with a disability.

I think we have got into a pattern where we just hand out money, but we should be giving people a hand up. I am surprised this motion really has been brought forward by Ms Porter, as I know she is an active supporter of the social services sector and would know first hand of the benefits that are realised when a person who has never been actively encouraged to seek employment experiences the elation and personal satisfaction that come when they receive a pay cheque or a pat on the back, or both, from an employer for a job well done.

What the Labor Party may not recognise, nor seek to address over the medium term, is the fact that the demographics of our nation are shifting and that action is required to match the increasing costs that are imposed upon our health systems: pharmaceutical benefits, aged care and the cost of continuing to offer all forms of pensions. There is a bigger debate to be had on that for another day. It is true that we are keeping people alive longer, but we need to make sure too that at every level we give people who have never worked before, be they able-bodied or with a disability, an opportunity to do so now. It does not mean that they cannot work; often it just means that they have never been given an opportunity to do so.

Of course there is going to be some fear about this, of course there is going to be some uncertainty, but at least do not let us knock this until we ask truly those people with

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