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representatives vote 2017-03-29#2

Edited by mackay

on 2017-04-21 03:37:36


  • Bills — Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2017; Second Reading
  • Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 - Second Reading - Don't agree with bill's main idea


  • <p class="speaker">Mark Coulton</p>
  • <p>The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Jagajaga has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. If it suits the House, I will state the question in the form 'that the amendment be agreed to'. The question now is that the amendment be agreed to.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Matt Thistlethwaite</p>
  • The majority voted against a [motion]( introduced by Labor MP [Jenny Macklin]( against the bill, which means it failed.
  • The motion effectively asked the House of Representatives to reject the bill's main idea. In parliamentary jargon, it asked the House to refuse to give the bill a [second reading](
  • ### What is the bill's main idea?
  • The purpose of this bill is to make savings for the government in the social services sector (social welfare etc).
  • According to the [bill's homepage](;query=Id:legislation/billhome/s1064), it was introduced to:
  • * *pause for three years the indexation of various income thresholds that apply to certain social security benefits and allowances and the income test free area for parenting payment single*
  • * *extend the ordinary waiting period to youth allowance (other) and parenting payment*
  • * *include additional evidentiary requirements for the ‘severe financial hardship’ exemption from the ordinary waiting period*
  • * *remove the ability for claimants to serve the ordinary waiting period concurrently with other waiting periods*
  • * *enable automation of the regular income stream review process; and*
  • * *maintain the standard family tax benefit (FTB) child rates for two years, from 1 July 2017, in the maximum and base rate of FTB Part A and the maximum rate of FTB Part B.*
  • ### Motion text
  • > *That all the words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:*
  • > *"The House:*
  • > *(1) declines to give the bill a [second reading]( because it includes cuts to Family Tax Benefit that will leave 1.5 million families worse off, freezes income free areas for 264,500 recipients of income support and student payments, and forces young people and single parents to wait one week to access income support; and*
  • > *(2) calls on the government to drop their unfair cuts to families and vulnerable Australians on very low incomes.*
  • <p>As I was saying before the break, I do support the amendment, and Labor will vote against this bill, because it will increase poverty in Australia. By freezing family tax benefits you are making the most vulnerable in our community worse off.</p>
  • <p>Schedule 1 of this bill freezes for three years the income-free areas for working-age and student payments, Newstart, youth allowance, the parenting payment and the carer payment. This means that for these people their payments will not keep pace with the cost of living. This will impact 204,000 Australians on the lowest incomes. These people have no wiggle room in their household incomes. When their car breaks down, they struggle to find money to fix it. They do not holiday, and a night out at a restaurant or a movie is really a luxury for people in these circumstances. The threshold after which the parenting payment is reduced is $188 per fortnight. For Newstart it is $102 per fortnight. There is no rationale for this three-year freeze. In my community not one week goes by where people do not talk to me about housing affordability and whether or not their kids are going to be able to afford to live in the community that they grew up in. House prices are going through the roof, and rents are doing the same, so the cost of living for people in our community is increasing at a dramatic rate, yet the approach of this government through this bill is to freeze the incomes of the weakest, most vulnerable and poorest in our community. This bill will make life difficult for many more of those.</p>
  • <p>Schedule 3 extends the waiting periods for those people accessing the parenting payment and youth allowance by one week while amending the current severe financial hardship provisions to a 'personal financial crisis' exemption. This is a truly harsh and heartless change with no discernible policy rationale at all. Schedule 4 of the bill freezes the indexation rate for family tax benefits part A and part B for two years from 1 July 2017. The impact will be significant on those families that rely on family tax benefits to get by. A family on $60,000 with two primary-school-age children will be around $440 worse off in 2018-19. A single parent on $50,000 with two high-school children will be around $540 worse off in 2018-19. A single-income couple on $60,000 with three children under the age of 12 will be $600 worse off in 2018-19. It affects about 1.5 million families in Australia that will be worse off, and 600,000 of these families are on the maximum rate of FTB-A, which means their household income is less than $52,000 a year.</p>
  • <p>But, as I said earlier, at the same time, the government is proposing a five per cent tax cut over the course of the decade for the largest multinational businesses in Australia, with turnovers of over $1 billion, and they include the big four banks. It completely represents just how out of touch this government are and the fact that they have their priorities all wrong when it comes to this budget and this legislation. Even when indexation resumes, this cut will mean that, into the future, families will be receiving less each year than they would have been. This reform puts them behind the eight ball, and they can never catch up, particularly as, as the Reserve Bank of Australia and the government's own Treasury have been forecasting, inflation is set to increase in Australia over the course of this year. It is astonishing to note that this bill is actually a 2014 budget measure. This is something that was chewed up and spat out by the Australian public the first time, and yet the government keeps bringing it back. They keep bringing these dodgy 2014 budget measures back, and this is further proof that Malcolm Turnbull is just Tony Abbott in a more expensive suit.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Mark Coulton</p>
  • <p>The member will refer&#8212;</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Matt Thistlethwaite</p>
  • <p>The Prime Minister is just the member for Warringah in a more expensive suit&#8212;thank you, Deputy Speaker.</p>
  • <p>Schedule 2 of the bill relates to the automation of income stream review processes. This is a measure that we welcome, and one that will improve the accuracy and efficiency of the social security system and reduce the regulatory burden on income stream providers and recipients of social security payments. From 1 January 2018 a six-monthly electronic data collection process will be introduced for income stream information from financial service providers. Recently we have seen just how disastrous things can be when the social security system is not running at its best. Many in my community that I represent&#8212;as I am sure is the case for many other MPs in this place&#8212;got in touch with me to express their worry, concern and dismay at the letters that they had received from Centrelink which claimed that they owed money, but the debts that were owed were actually inaccurate and grossly overestimated. This proved deeply upsetting for many, and it is something that this government should do all it can to ensure never happens again. A more regular and accurate reporting system is a good place to start. The bulk of the measures in this bill, unfortunately, will leave many hundreds of thousands of Australians worse off, particularly through the family tax benefit freezes.</p>
  • <p>It is hard to believe that the government would resurrect measures from their disastrous first budget, which really, in retrospect, led to the member for Warringah being deposed by the current Prime Minister on the basis of poor economic management. But here we are, with these unfair cuts coming up again and again. This government's priorities are enshrined in this bill. They are the wrong priorities. They attack the weak, the vulnerable and the poorest in our community, yet at the same time the government offers tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals in Australia and the largest businesses, with turnovers of more than a billion dollars. That tells you everything about this government's twisted budget priorities, and that is why I and my Labor colleagues are opposed to this reform.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Emma Husar</p>
  • <p>I rise to speak on the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, which, quite frankly, is a rotten piece of legislation that attacks Australian families and those already struggling to get by, especially in my electorate of Lindsay. I note that it was only last week that I spoke in this place about the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill, which has been reworked into the bill presented without notice, all thanks to and courtesy of a dirty deal with the crossbenchers in the Senate, namely the Nick Xenophon Team, One Nation and Derryn Hinch&#8212;apparently the people who were elected to this place to stand up against the major parties like us for everyday Australians. Well, I am not sure how they define sticking up for people, but this certainly is not it. And I must say honourable mention goes to Jacqui Lambie for her personal account of what it is like to live in the real world and rely on support. As someone who, as a parliamentarian, has given a personal account of life in reality, I commend her on her brave contribution.</p>
  • <p>What this bill proves yet again is that this unfair Liberal government is incapable of standing up for ordinary Australians. In this bill, we see $1.4 billion being ripped away from Australian families who are already doing it tough&#8212;leaving 1.5 million families worse off.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Peter Khalil</p>
  • <p>Shameful!</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Emma Husar</p>
  • <p>It freezes the rates of family tax benefit A and B for two years&#8212;and, when you consider the rising cost of living around this country, the fact is this measure will hurt families who can least afford it. It is not right and it should not be happening, and those responsible for it should absolutely hang their heads in shame.</p>
  • <p>Labor has time and time again stood up for Australian families against the Liberal government's attacks, ever since the shocking 2014 budget. The government prove day after day that they have an ideological obsession with taking money from people who are struggling so that they can hand huge sums of money to their big business mates. The family tax benefit measures contained within the bill are actually from the 2014 budget. It is unbelievable to think that this government is still trying to pass elements of that unpopular and unfair failure of a budget&#8212;a budget that was so unjust that it led to the downfall of a Prime Minister and his Treasurer. And, with the credit ratings agencies circling, the pressure for this government to be responsible could not be more urgent.</p>
  • <p class="italic">Mr Khalil interjecting&#8212;</p>
  • <p class="italic">Mr Pasin interjecting&#8212;</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Mark Coulton</p>
  • <p>The member for Wills and the member for Barker!</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Emma Husar</p>
  • <p>I might remind the member for Barker that no government members are speaking on this, and he had ample opportunity, if he had something to say, to add himself to the speakers list.</p>
  • <p>But here we are again&#8212;and every single Liberal and National Party member is about to vote to cut $1.4 billion from 1.5 million families. This is not fiscal responsibility; this is lazy policy from an incompetent mob who would rather see people go without than solve the real problems. There are 600,000 families who are currently receiving the maximum rate of family tax benefit part A, which means their entire household income is less than $52,000 each year. These are real people struggling to get by as it is, and this unfair Liberal government is reaching into their pocket and making them worse off. They are pitting vulnerable people against other vulnerable people. It is unconscionable and unAustralian. And it goes to show that those opposite do not understand how hard it can be for low-income families.</p>
  • <p>As the shadow minister for families and social services mentioned earlier, this measure was originally opposed by Labor following the 2014 budget, so the Liberals withdrew the legislation and took it out of their next budget. Now, without notice, and following the dirty deal I mentioned earlier with the Senate crossbench, here we are again, fighting to protect low-income families from this unfair government, fighting to stop unfair cuts that will make life harder for families that are already doing it tough. And, looking at the speakers list today, it is absolutely unsurprising to see that not a single government member is willing to get up and defend these changes&#8212;not one single one.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Peter Khalil</p>
  • <p>Gutless! Shameful!</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Emma Husar</p>
  • <p>They are happy to vote for the changes, but not one of them is prepared to defend them, because they know they are simply unfair. Well, I think that if you are happy to vote to rip away $1.4 billion from low-income families, have the guts to stand up and say why. And, if you cannot defend it, do not support it. Stand up for the families in your own electorates and vote no.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Mark Coulton</p>
  • <p>The member for Lindsay will resume her seat. The member for Barker?</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Tony Pasin</p>
  • <p>I would ask the member opposite to withdraw the reference reflecting on a member. I think you should withdraw the word 'gutless'. You might have to move back to your seat to do it.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Mark Coulton</p>
  • <p>The member for Barker raises a good point. I heard that. The member for Wills is very lucky that he has not been asked to leave, because he is out of his place. I request that he remain silent and, if he does not, he will be leaving under 94(a). I call the member for Lindsay.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Emma Husar</p>
  • <p>If you cannot defend it&#8212;and we just had a pathetic showing from the member for Barker&#8212;do not support it. Stand up for families in your own electorate and vote no. Recognise and understand that these families deserve more support, not less. You do not fix the problems that stem from poverty by taking more money away from people who actually need it. It is not rocket science.</p>
  • <p class="italic">Mr Pasin interjecting&#8212;</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Mark Coulton</p>
  • <p>The member for Barker will be silent.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>