Thursday, 29 November 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, as the rest of us looked forward to a break over Christmas, on 1 January up to 150,000 single parents are due to be pushed onto the dole, the majority of whom are women. Given the findings of the Senate report tabled today that Newstart is inadequate, will the government now reconsider dumping single parents and their families onto Newstart, which is more than $130 below the poverty line, or will Labor allow inequality to continue to grow?
I thank the member for Melbourne for his question. Whilst I understand he and I do not agree on the policy here, at least he is prepared to ask a question about policy and about something that has an implication for members of the Australian community. The reason, I think, the member for Melbourne and I do not agree about this policy is (1) I have a view that people who are in comparable circumstances in relation to parenting payment should be treated the same.
I remind the member for Melbourne that the reform we have engaged in is for a class of people who were being treated differently under earlier rules, to be brought into compliance with the way in which others are being treated by the parenting payment system. The focus of our reforms and the reason for that is that we actually believe it is very, very important for kids in single parent families to see that their parent, who is very often a woman, the mother, as the member for Melbourne indicated in his question, is a person who has a job and goes to work. Now, of course, when children are very small, there are all of the stresses and strains that people usually find with trying to balance having very young children and maintaining an attachment to a job—and usually with very young children, this is a part-time job. We certainly know from all of the analysis that there is about disadvantage, that if a child grows up in a family where no-one works, and that is their experience year after year as they go through primary school and then secondary school, that will be an indicator that that child has been marked for a lifetime of disadvantage. We do not want to see that.
So our aim here is to get more single parents off income support and into work once their children are at school. Many of these parents will be eligible for additional support, including the childcare benefit, childcare rebate and the jobs, education and training childcare fee assistance subsidy. The number of people accessing jobs, education and training childcare fee assistance has increased by more than 10,000 people to almost 31,500 people as a result of our continuing reforms, and this year the figure is expected to rise again to around 35,000. What is more, spending on this program has doubled because parents are accessing child care for longer hours, meaning that they are in training, studying or working longer hours. Then, of course, we are investing in skills development and training and new career advice—an investment of $100 million to support people on their journey to work.
The member for Melbourne and I will continue to have a different view, but I thank him for a policy question.