House debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020


Services Australia Governance Amendment Bill 2020; Second Reading

5:23 pm

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I can't see who's interjecting. I am connecting remotely from St Kilda, proudly so, but I am not in the chamber, because Victorians have faced probably some of the most difficult months that we have ever had to face. I want to thank every single Victorian who has done the right thing and helped us to overcome what most countries around the world have not been able to do, which is to bring down their coronavirus cases.

Despite this, despite Victorians still not being able to have their family members over, to see their friends, to open their businesses, despite the fact that we are still asking Victorians to try to save other Victorians' lives and get us into a stage where we can come out of the current restrictions, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and this minister are happy with reducing both the JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments to Victorians. Victorian restaurants and businesses are absolutely on their last legs. They have done it tough. People on JobSeeker and on the unemployment queues are not there because they have done something wrong. They were working. People in this pandemic have found themselves in this position where they have had to join an unemployment queue that is so unfamiliar that they had to line up and try to access a CRN in the first place.

The Prime Minister and the Treasurer like to say that this budget is about saying to Australians, 'We've got your back.' They haven't got Victorians' backs. I'll tell you what they are doing. They have their hands in their back pockets, taking away supplement payments from Victorians during this pandemic. They have their hands in the savings and in the support payments for Victorians during this pandemic. This government doesn't have Victorians' backs. This government is taking funds and support away from Victorians in their hour of need, just at the very end of months and months of Victorians doing the right thing. It is hardly surprising, because the very people who are overseeing this clawback of support, the clawback of the JobSeeker payment, right at the time when Victorians cannot afford it, is the minister who spent more on his home internet than people who were receiving this payment receive in a month.

In this country, we have set up over years and years a social welfare system that is designed to be a safety net for Australians. It is there to try to support people. This government's record is to trash it, to reduce staffing, to send vulnerable people debt collection notices, and persist with the scheme, to be advised that it was illegal, and then to continue sending debt collection notices to vulnerable Australians. I know that many members have spoken of the absolutely heartbreaking cases of people who have received these debt notices, only to be told that they don't have to pay and this whole scheme was illegal.

Australians have gone through some of the most difficult periods in our country's history, especially in Victoria. We need to thank our Centrelink staff and work with them. We need more Centrelink staff. We don't need to be privatising Centrelink, we don't need to be privatising Centrelink offices, we don't need to be dismissing the needs of people who are in our social safety net. Australia is a fantastic country because we look after Australians, except this government doesn't. This government is slowly clawing back support from the very people who rely on it at the very time when they rely on it most. We can do better than cutting payments from Victorians in our hour of need but, unfortunately, with this minister and his track record of scandal and ugly ministerial behaviour, I don't hold out much. But we must do better than his hapless efforts.


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