Page 4815 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 14 December 2005

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DR FOSKEY: I would be interested to hear Mr Mulcahy, now that it has been declared a legitimate part of the debate, respond to it at another time. The people who have introduced this regime have no idea what it is like to live on $200 a week. Yet the presumption is that, by requiring pensioners to work at night, with split shifts, without penalty rates on weekends, their quality of life will be improved. Tell me, Mr Mulcahy, how this is not related to the industrial relations legislation. No, do not tell me.

If not or if they do not gain employment and then do not satisfy the work test—in the American tradition, which we are adopting, it is three strikes and you are out—there will be no income for eight weeks. Making people homeless and causing them to rely on charities to eat hardly qualifies as welfare to work. So it is all about the deserving and the undeserving poor. The government has abandoned the communitarian tradition of looking out for those in difficulties and it has done what it can to separate the individual from his or her community.

The frightening thing here is that the Labor Party has not made any public commitment at the federal level to unpick the extraordinary inequities of this scheme. It has been prepared to buy the philosophical underpinning. Maybe that is because the welfare-to-work provisions will affect fewer people than the industrial relations legislation. It does not seem right to fight unfair legislation only when it affects a large percentage of the population. We should fight all unfair legislation, no matter who it affects.

Finally, as I am running out of time, I am happy to stand up here and talk about this subject but it does concern me that week after week on private members’ business days we do end up debating these things. I would like to hear more about how the Labor Party backbenchers plan to push their government towards the mitigation of the effects of legislation such as WorkChoices. I was very glad to hear Mr Hargreaves say that his government would try to mitigate the effects of WorkChoices. It also does have a responsibility to mitigate the effects of the so-called welfare-to-work program. I would like to be debating those things we can effect here rather than just conducting a territory Labor versus Liberals on the hill battle in this house. The same goes for the opposition members defending their people up on the hill, rather than speaking as an opposition in this house.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (12.24): Mr Speaker, there is a raft of stuff that I could talk about today. I do not know how Mr Gentleman can stand in this place as chair of a select committee looking into this matter and, with all honesty, be able to say that he will be able to give an impartial report as chair. I await that. I think it is a disgrace that this matter is before a select committee. I will be on the public record time and again in saying that. There is no problem with debating this issue in this place, but to have the audacity to have a select committee is an absolutely disgraceful use of the taxpayers’ money.

Mr Corbell: I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that Mrs Burke is reflecting on a vote of the Assembly. The Assembly has decided to establish a select committee on working families.

MR SPEAKER: I think that that is a fair point.

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