Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

BILLS: Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 6) Bill 2014 (Second Reading)

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (12:54): As I was saying, in terms of what Labor is prepared to accept in this bill: 12 elements to a total saving of $2,698 million. Mr Acting Deputy President Bernardi, you may remember that yesterday in this place the Assistant Treasurer made comments about the ALP's 'bloody-mindedness' in not moving forward to accept legislation that was before us and actually restraining the process over some technical issue. That is not true. We were clear from the start that we would not vote for elements that affected those changes to which we objected. We suggested earlier that new legislation be brought forward. That new legislation has been brought forward. We will support that.

But just on one other point: when we had the discussion about the previous bills, I and a couple of other contributors on this side made reference to part of the human rights committee report that commented on only two elements that did not meet the requirements of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. A contribution was made that said we had not understood the process, that we were not doing the right thing by drawing attention to those elements. I think it is important to put on record that certainly in my contribution and in the others that I heard there was not any claim that the whole legislation was not accepted by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. We actually focused on one element-the proposals I had already mentioned around young people who were unemployed and the impact of significant periods of lack of any social welfare support.

So, I really want to make it clear that I have absolute respect for the very important work the Joint Committee on Human Rights does for this parliament and did for the previous parliament. I also put on record that sometimes things that come through that process do not find favour with government, either the current government or indeed the previous government. But I am very keen to put on record that there was no way that I attempted to misreport the report of the human rights committee. It was very clear from my perspective that I had read the report and also the tabling statement and that it was only the elements of the unemployment changes that I drew attention to in my contribution-that I felt that the human rights committee had said that some of the proposal did not meet the human rights standards that we would hope it would. That has also been put forward by the range of people in the community who spoke so strongly against that change, and we would never support that change.

It is important to see that there has been fulsome discussion and debate around the issues that were in the previous legislation and that are now in this legislation. We take our job very seriously in critically looking at any proposal brought to this chamber on consideration for changes in legislation and around budget. We scrutinise carefully-which, indeed, is our job. In this case there were some proposals in the legislation that we accepted and many that we did not. We did not hide our position; we made it public, both to the government and to the community. So, the legislation we have before us is a response from government to requests we had made over a period of time. It is interesting that now, finally, we do have a result, which will make savings. We believe that is the way the system should operate-that you actually negotiate change. Just bullying and yelling at people who disagree with you will not come up with an effective result. Rather, you negotiate and you come forward with what you can agree on, and you are very clear about what the impact of any proposed changes will be.

We support the changes that are in there. Some of those are difficult, and I put it on record for all the people who have contacted us about their concerns, particularly around the area of the disability support pension. We need to continue to work with the people who are in receipt of those payments, their families, and those organisations that support them to ensure that there is an equitable response and an understanding of special needs. Regarding the change for people under 35 who are on the disability support pension, to have a greater interaction between those claiming payment and the wider community, particularly in employment, to see that there is engagement in the process, we know that these things need to have continued scrutiny. There is no change in our system that should be just put in and forgotten.

It is absolutely critical that any change to our social welfare system have an ongoing review process, ongoing scrutiny, to see that it meets the intent for which it was designed. For the 12 changes that we do support, we expect that they will continue to be scrutinised to see that they do not in any way have a negative impact on people who are relying on the social welfare system and that they are helping people engage with the workforce rather than just providing some punitive aspect. We need to understand with family payments that the impact of changes to indexing arrangements and augmenting processes is taken into account, taking into consideration any other change that may come into place as a result of the budget.

As our shadow minister Jenny Macklin said this morning, we support the bill that is now before us. We would have supported a similar bill if it had come forward earlier. We have made it very clear, in respect of the two previous pieces of legislation that have been before us since the budget, that it is only the only the 12 changes in the current bill that we were ever going to support. We hope that in future the system will have greater consultative processes so that we will not be in the situation of having the government have to close down some form of legislation and bring in new bills in some response that could have been brought forward much more quickly.