Page 4814 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 14 December 2005

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so-called welfare-to-work legislation, which I would more realistically name welfare-to-poverty legislation, which will intersect with the industrial relations regime to condemn the most sick and the most vulnerable in our society to poorly paid and meaningless employment when they are lucky and intermittent benefits when they are not.

Mr Gentleman has not moved a motion in relation to which I can closely argue the impact of this shameful legislation. Nonetheless, the point must be made that this package is not about providing work for people and that the welfare-to-work legislation has a strong link with WorkChoices and the ALP has failed to fight the so-called welfare-to-work package.

I am pleased that Mr Gentleman did refer to it in his last sentence and I am pleased that he thinks that if and when—for this reason alone we would prefer it to be when—the ALP takes power in the federal government, it will roll back the so-called WorkChoices legislation and then it might look at rolling back the welfare-to-work legislation. I hope so.

Without a doubt, there are an extraordinary number of single parents and disability pensioners who would love to be employed, but many of them do not have the education and many of them are not acceptable to employers who in many labour markets do have a lot of choice, although Mr Mulcahy did, rightly, point out that there are certainly scarcities of some skills. But these are not the people who are going to provide those skills. They do not have the resilience and they do not have the capacity to pick up employment. They do not have the finance, the money to pay for the expensive childcare that is expected, that is required.

The welfare-to-work proposal—I always need to say “sic” after that—is not about giving work to people. It is about shifting people off the disability support pensions and single parent pensions that were put in place as a safety net in an earlier, perhaps more enlightened, time. The federal government’s own costings have demonstrated that it is more about saving money for the government.

Under the new regime, people who no longer qualify for a pension will be $150 a week worse off if they try to retrain to make themselves job ready. People barely capable of 15 hours a week of employment, or even those deemed liable to be employable for 15 hours a week after two years of assistance, will find themselves living on $200 a week rather than $240 a week.

Mr Mulcahy: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: standing order 58 requires the member not to digress from the subject matter under question. We are not debating the welfare-to-work arrangements. We are debating a motion from Mr Gentleman that deals with the WorkChoices changes announced by the federal government.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Gentleman referred to the welfare-to-work legislation in his speech and also drew a connection, I think, with the possible effects on poverty arising from the WorkChoices legislation. This is a wide-ranging debate and, now that it has been mentioned by at least one member without challenge, I think that other members ought to be able to contribute at that level as well.

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