Monday, 3 June 2013
I rise to speak on this consideration of detail stage in relation to the Human Services portfolio. I begin my questions, Parliamentary Secretary, by giving a short preamble to them.
This is obviously an extremely important arm of government. It includes agencies such as Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support Agency, Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service Australia and Australian Hearing. It is expected to make over $157 billion worth of payments in the next financial year that this budget concerns itself with. In that respect, it is an extremely important agency of government to Australians who rely on receiving their pension, Newstart allowances and Medicare rebates. Whatever the payment relates to, it is very important that this agency be managed properly and not cause too much inconvenience for people if they have interaction with the government payment system.
The former government was committed to some reform and I note the current government has introduced some additional reform in this area to ensure that payments are more effective and more efficient in their delivery. Times have changed since the Commonwealth government first involved itself in making payments. Technologies have changed quite substantially and we now have a range of ways, particularly electronically, of making payments. There will be efficiencies in the future where we can improve the way we make payments and ensure that the Australian taxpayer is not paying more than they need to make. In that sense, this is a very important area.
It is for this reason I was concerned this morning to see that the latest minister Senator McLucas, has not yet received her charter letter. I note she is the sixth minister in six years in this portfolio—we have had four since Prime Minister Gillard came to office. I would have thought that for a minister to not yet have her riding instructions for a portfolio that makes payments worth $157 billion in this budget is a pretty substantial issue.
Parliamentary Secretary, can you confirm that each of the previous ministers received a charter letter and can you advise when the Prime Minister will be delivering the charter letter to the current minister, and will it be any time soon, given that we are 102 days away from an election and a shorter period, some 80 days, away from entering the caretaker period? Is this just another example of a government that is in chaos and has no idea what one hand of government is doing compared with the other?