House debates

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

8:13 pm

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 1) Bill 2014 and the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014, and to talk about how the changes to family tax benefits are going to have disastrous effects on families right across Australia, especially in the electorate of McEwen. In McEwen we have 16,139 families who receive family tax benefit A. We have 13,856 families receiving the important assistance of family tax benefit B. In total, that is 29,995 families who are going to be worse off because of the cruel and heartless cuts in this budget. That is almost 30,000 families who are now going to be struggling even harder to make ends meet and provide for their families.

I would like to pay particular attention to family tax benefit B because it is a direct assault on those families who have either made a decision to raise their family with one parent working and one parent remaining at home to look after the kids or those from single parent families. Either way, the Abbott government's cut to this payment is a direct assault on their livelihoods.

I was contacted by a constituent—a chaplain—from Puckapunyal, which is part of my electorate. This constituent, regrettably, openly states he votes for the Liberal Party. He states:

We are a single income household. My wife provides support to the community, through the school and church—all volunteered. We do this as a sacrifice as she could work as a high school teacher, but feels it is better for our children and our community to volunteer her time to teach children resilience, to read and provide support to single parents (particularly supporting families where members are deployed on operations overseas).

The reduction of the family tax benefit is going to really...hurt families in our area and community groups as we are forced to move into paid work. A better solution would be tax concessions to single income families where they participate in volunteer community work at least recognise how they reduce the cost to our government.

So there you have it. Even staunch Liberal supporters can see how unfair and detrimental these cuts to family benefits are going to be.

Single-parent families, who struggle hard enough on one income while striving to raise their kids in the best environment possible, are going to suffer immensely with these cuts. Another constituent in McEwen, Mr Edwards from Riddells Creek, is a single father of four who works full time, as well as studying part time. He states:

Under this budget, I will lose Family Tax Benefit B and my education expenses will significantly rise. I don't know how I'm going to be able to send my kids to uni if these changes happen. No one offered my daughter a free scholarship.

I would also like to highlight the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister when he is trying to make these callous changes to the family tax benefit. Earlier this year, the Prime Minister said that families on $100,000 a year should no longer get social security. This a bit of a 180-degree turn by the now Prime Minister, because, back in May 2011, he said the Labor government was punishing aspiration and hardworking families earning $150,000 a year. The now Prime Minister said, 'These are class-war cuts that the government is inflicting on people.' So it is class warfare when families on $150,000 a year lose benefits but not when a single parent on a part-time salary cannot afford to take his or her kids to the doctor? This is an important point. The Abbott government is slashing vital assistance and payments from families right across Australia and is simultaneously taxing products and services that families rely on every day—in particular, the heartless $7 GP tax and, of course, the broken promise of the fuel tax increase.

The senior supplement is another important payment offered to our senior citizens to help them pay for bills such as energy, rates, phone and motor vehicle registration. The supplement is offered to those who are self-funded retirees or those who have a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. These are men and women who have fought hard all their lives and saved their hard-earned pennies so that they would be able to have a nice, quiet, relaxed retirement. The seniors supplement helps these Australians pay for regular bills—which, which most people here know, usually come all at once.

Michael O'Neill represents National Seniors Australia. Regarding the cuts to the supplement, along with all the other cruel cuts to senior payments, he states:

You don't have the luxury of folk who are still in the workplace and able to build up surplus, build up that cash in the bank to help overcome the rainy day when you get a run of health bills, for example, coinciding with your electricity or gas bill or whatever else.

What Mr O'Neill highlights is that pensioners, especially those on a strict income for retirement, do not have the cash flow when the bills come in. In cases where all bills come up at once, it may be the difference between paying the bill and putting food on the table. In this day and age, this is just unacceptable. It is unacceptable that a retiree who has worked hard and paid taxes their entire life should have their $870 a year—or $1,300 for a couple—slashed by this cruel budget. But Tony Abbott is happy to pay wealthy women $50,000 to have a baby. So you take $870 from pensioners earning $20,000 a year but give $50,000 to people who earn $200,000 a year.

Even those who are trying to get their start in the workforce, or those re-entering the workforce, are being punished by these harsh Abbott cuts. With these changes, those job seekers under 30 are going to have to suffer through six months of no income unless they are undertaking some form of study. That is not always practical or reasonable in rural and regional areas where jobs are short and distances are long. That is six months of mortgage payments for young people starting a family or buying a home. It is their rent, groceries, fuel and medical expenses gone. Six months. It just shows how out of touch this government is to think that someone can just go without any money to pay for all of these essential day-to-day expenses.

These are the people who are already living pay to pay, working to a tight budget and even then struggling to make ends meet. How are they going to be able to support themselves or their families? Tony Abbott is stripping money away from those who are least able to afford it. The Abbott government's changes to social security are going to have a disastrous impact on the lives of the majority of Australians.

In closing, I and Labor will continue to fight to ensure all that Australians are given a fair go, regardless of their pay packet and regardless of their postcode.


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