Page 4535 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, Ms Gallagher has the call.

Mrs Burke: Read the report, Katy.

MS GALLAGHER: I have read the report.

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: Can we have one speaker at a time. I call Ms Porter.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (4.29), in reply: I would like to thank all members who have spoken in support of this motion—Dr Foskey, Ms Gallagher. I am, of course, disappointed by those opposite who do not support the motion but I am not surprised. As Dr Foskey pointed out, people want to work. According to the Canberra Times today, the Anglicare submission to the Senate inquiry says that policies to remove barriers would be more effective in helping to get jobs than imposing extra requirements on recipients of welfare.

Mrs Burke spouts the benefits of getting people off benefits and back to work. As I have already said, Mrs Burke, we on this side have never said that returning to work is necessarily bad. It is the manner by which this is achieved, the timing of a person’s return to work and what kind of work, as Ms Gallagher has just said, that we are talking about. As Dr Foskey said, it is definitely a stick approach rather than a carrot approach. By the way, Mrs Burke, I must say that to say that a person who is not in paid work is not engaged in any form of work—and those were your words—is an insult to many people in our community. Many people are engaged in voluntary work. However, the greatest insult is to maintain that caring for children and running a home is not work. Mrs Burke cannot be serious.

As we have heard in the media and seen demonstrated over and over by research, the family is essential in nurturing the young child. If a parent of such children is made to return to unsuitable part-time work too early, without adequate affordable childcare and without substantial support from, say, extended family, then the children can suffer considerably. They can suffer developmental delays; they can experience problems with their peer groups and at school. Moreover, women returning to work under Howard’s welfare-to-work regime are more likely to be working in low skilled, part-time and insecure positions which, under the new IR legislation, will cause them to work possibly very long and unfriendly child-rearing hours.

How do you expect people to be able to look after small children—and an eight-year-old is still a small child—if they are working maybe in the evening or working hours when they cannot necessarily get childcare? I heard only this week at the NAPCAN breakfast how important it is that we acknowledge that the parent and the child are better viewed as a unit rather than as two separate units. This sounds logical, I know, but it has not always been the case. Not so long ago, some agencies working with adults might not even have known whether they had children or not.

The Howard government’s welfare-to-work legislation acknowledges the child all right but it actually punishes—yes, punishes, Mrs Dunne—the woman for having a child who turns eight. After they acknowledge that that child has turned eight, that child and its welfare is forgotten by the Howard government in its push to force everyone off benefits

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