Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 1) Bill 2014, Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014; Second Reading
As you may have already observed, very rarely do I put my name on the list to speak on something, unless it is something I can add value to in the debate—things I can try to defend and talk about. This is a fairly significant piece of legislation that we are talking about here today. It has some major challenges and I have listened for the last half hour about what some of those challenges are. But I have a strong belief in the future. Australians work hard and I think Australians understand that sometimes we have to make difficult choices in order to put our country back on sound footing.
I have a strong belief in the common sense of Australians and I think that will ultimately lead us through. But what we have right across Australia are victims of bad financial management. We have had a very difficult number of years where the country, in my opinion, has not been run well. We have moved private debt into public debt, and now the day of reckoning is upon us and we have to address that debt and make some changes. We cannot do that without tackling some of our social security measures. Social security is a third of our total budget, after all. If we are going to address the future and set ourselves up for prosperity, we have to make some reforms. The reforms in the legislation before the House are difficult reforms. We do not make light of those reforms and we do not joke about those reforms, but, frankly, we have not been elected to this place to turn up and be the people who throw away money and want to be everyone's heroes. We have been elected to make difficult decisions. What defines us as human beings is how we make those difficult decisions and how we head forward. Many of those decisions will affect people in my electorate significantly, but I believe that if we tighten our belts and walk together we will have prosperity out the other side.
I want to talk about one particular reform in this package that I believe needs to be re-looked at. It is not an issue that has any impact on the forward estimates, and for this reason I can talk about it with some level of clarity. I am a strong believer that a robust democracy welcomes diversity of thought. I do not think that one party or one coalition always has to think the same on every issue. I think that we are mature enough—hopefully in the media—and mature enough as a country to be able to have a diversity of views and not see it as disunity.
What worries me about this legislation is the pension age increase from 67 to 70. Frankly, I believe this is a fairly blunt tool to address what is a significant structural problem right across our country. I want to lead into this.
Mr Brendan O'Connor interjecting—
Mr Butler interjecting—