House debates

Monday, 8 February 2016


Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2015; Second Reading

8:09 pm

Photo of Jill HallJill Hall (Shortland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very keen to give this speech on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2015. I jumped to my feet as soon as I could. Mr Deputy Speaker, thank you for calling me. I did not mind waiting a couple of minutes.

It was interesting to sit in here when the member for Hughes was making his contribution to the debate. I felt as if I existed in an alternate universe to him. He talked about the damage that is being done to the future and the only way that you can stop this damage is by harshly attacking people who are the most vulnerable within our society. He gave the speech of a zealot. He failed to recognise in his contribution to the debate that by causing hardship and damage to families he is actually damaging the future prospects of this country. For us to have a secure future we are relying on families being able to afford to bring up their children, ensure they have an education and provide for them. It is those families and children that are the key to the success of our country in the future. Australia relies on them.

I could not help but make a comparison to the former member for Hughes, Danna Vale. I saw her a couple of weeks ago and it was very pleasant to catch up with her. She is a very different type of person. She understands the value of families and the value of communities. Unfortunately, the current member for Hughes just does not get it. Because he does not get it he cannot understand how important it is to support families. He talked about demographics and blamed Labor for the problems that he sees exist now. He did not talk about the fact that the budget deficit has tripled since this government has been in power. He talked about the challenge of cutting spending and said that the only solution is to cut spending—and for him cutting spending means attacking the most vulnerable in our society.

At no time did he highlight the fact that there is a need to crack down on multinational companies. At no time did he talk about the need to close the superannuation loopholes. Rather he had one focus to bring the budget back into balance and that was to attack the most vulnerable people in our country and to attack families, who are taking care of the future generation of Australians.

I spoke earlier today on another piece of social security legislation. That legislation was taking away conditions of pensioners. It looked at pensioners who were going overseas and it reduced their pension. Tonight we are looking at the other end of the spectrum, and that is families. Once again we are looking at taking away from families.

I will go through this legislation because there is quite a bit of detail in it. There is an increase in the standard rate of FTB A of $10 per fortnight for all families receiving more than the base rate. There is the introduction of a new rate of payment for family tax benefit B families with children under the age of one. There is a reduction of family tax benefit B for single parent families with children between the age of 13 and 16. This is a reduction at a time when young people, young students, are actually at their most expensive. It is when they need the most support. You need to ensure that they have the resources they need to learn and the resources they need to prepare themselves for work and for a career. Also there is the abolition of payments for single parent families whose youngest child is aged between 17 and 19 and in full-time secondary school. I will repeat that: single parent families whose youngest child is between 17 and 19 attending full-time secondary school will lose their family tax benefit B payment. That is so short-sighted. This government does not understand that by providing that support to families it is ensuring that those students, those families, can go on to a better, brighter future rather than have to scrape and miss out on things and not be able to get the resources they need for schooling.

What it demonstrates is that those on the other side of this House do not understand what it is like to be on a fixed low to middle income and have to provide support for children attending school. It really saddens me to think that we have members of parliament who are so out of touch with their communities that they cannot understand this simple, basic fact.

It is also, in this legislation, agreed—after much effort from the Labor Party—to maintain the payment to single parents who are, at least, 60 years of age. In other words, the Turnbull-Abbott government was going to rip the family tax benefit away from grandparents. Grandparents do it very hard, and there are many grandparents in Australia who are responsible for looking after and raising their grandchildren. It is a sad fact that this has increased enormously in recent years. I work very closely with a number of grandparent groups within the Shortland electorate and on the Central Coast. During the time that I have been associated with them this government has defunded these groups. Some of them are working voluntarily. I provide whatever support I can, to them, as do other community organisations.

Once again, this demonstrates that members of the government do not understand the basic fact that if you are 60 years of age or over and you are caring for your grandchild the impost is very great. The government does not understand the support that child needs and the support the grandparents need. It was only because of the efforts of the opposition that the government will maintain the current rate of payment. I would, particularly, like to pay credit to the member for Jagajaga. She was very tenacious in arguing in favour of grandparents.

This legislation is phasing out family tax benefit A and B end-of-year supplements over two years. Families relied on that. If there was an overpayment, that supplement was used to adjust the overpayment, and that was the rationale behind it when it was introduced. This government is, once again, getting rid of it. The family tax benefit A supplement will be reduced to $602.25 from July 2016 and $302.95 from July 2017 and will be totally abolished from 2018. The family tax B supplement will also be reduced and finally abolished in 2018.

This package will impact on families in a very draconian way. There will be 140,000 families with children under the age of one who will receive an increase of $1,000. That is, basically, bringing back the baby bonus in a different form. It is the Liberal Party's appeasement of the National Party. Whilst they are giving $1,000 a year to families with children under the age of one, they are ripping money out of families with children over the age of one. I heard the member for Jagajaga point out how some of the poorest families live in National Party electorates. National Party members should be in here arguing for all families of Australia—not just for the baby bonus to be brought back in a different format for 140 families.

There are 136,000 single parents with children aged 13 to 16 who have had their family tax benefit reduced. That reduction works out at about $1,700. Single parents with children aged 16 will suffer a cut of almost $3,100. There will be 1.2 million families who will receive an increase in family tax benefit A but 1.5 million families will lose the family tax benefit A supplement of $726 per child. In other words, they will be much worse off. On the one hand this government makes things look glossy but on the other hand it is taking. Up-front it looks like they are giving, but when you look at the details you find that what they are putting forward as a bonus is, actually, a loss.

This legislation fails the fairness test, a test that every piece of legislation should be based on. Since the draconian budget of 2014, the Abbott and then Turnbull governments have been fiddling around the edges. They really needed to go back to the drawing board and come back with a package that was fair. The latest version is still not good enough and will still create a lot of hurt for a number of families. The fact that 1.5 million families are going to lose their family tax benefit A will have a significant impact. The fact that 1.3 million families will lose their family tax benefit part B supplement will also have a significant impact.

When we look at fairness, we can say that the new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is no better than the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. People embraced him because they thought that there was going to be a kinder, fairer government, one that would actually connect to the community and listen to the issues that were concerning families. Instead, we have just got a smoother version of the former Prime Minister. His agenda is the same. His policies are the same. He is still hurting families. My message to Australians is that the only way that we can bring fairness back into Australia is to get rid of the Liberal government. A Liberal-National Party government—I will not leave the National Party out of this—be it a Turnbull led government or an Abbott led government, is still the same.

When it comes to fairness, they just do not understand. On one hand, as I mentioned earlier, they are refusing to make multinationals pay their fair share of tax. They are refusing to curb the generous tax concessions for wealthy superannuants. Instead of taking money and looking at adjusting the budget in those areas, what this government is doing is targeting ordinary Australians on low and middle incomes. Instead of taking money from those people who are seeking to evade taxation, they are taking it out of the pockets of struggling Australian families. With one piece of legislation they are attacking pensioners. In this legislation we have before us they are attacking families. This government stands condemned for its vendetta against Australian people.

8:24 pm

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I stand to speak on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2015. I often hear talk about sustainability, especially from the other side of politics—and I think it is relevant too. They will talk about sustainability in relation to environmental and ecological measures, which are very important. We need to maintain sustainability in all things, the environment being one of those, and it is a very important facet of our community and our life.

Unfortunately, not as commonly do I hear the other side talk about sustainability when it comes to financial measures. Often we will hear them saying that we are just custodians of our land and our water for our children and our grandchildren—and so we are. But we are also custodians in regard to finance for our children and our grandchildren. We are borrowing from our children and our grandchildren right now, and governments need to be very prudent in the management of financial resources as well as of other resources.

This legislation, in particular, is about making sure that the government does provide for the vulnerable in our community. We all know that, for many reasons, some people may be doing it tough or may have reached tough times, and a government and a society is always judged by how it looks after the vulnerable. We need to continue to look after people who need help in our community, and this bill is about two things: targeting those who are most vulnerable and making sure that they are still helped, and ensuring that the system that we have is sustainable so that the help and the things that we are doing for those who are vulnerable in our community will be funded into the future.

There are three basic measures in this bill. One is that the family tax benefit part A fortnightly rates will be increased by around $10 for each child aged up to 19 in the family. It will also amend the rules and introduce a new rate structure for the family tax benefit part B, and there will be a phasing out of the family tax benefit part A and part B supplements. The family payments reform package brings forward a set of measures which aim to achieve long-term sustainability of the family payments system—as I mentioned earlier, one of the key targets of this—while continuing to deliver help to families who need it the most, now and into the future. The family payment reform package will support the important task of budget repair and help to pay for the government's $3 billion Jobs for Families childcare package, because, as we know, we have a budget that does need to be sustainable in the future and, at the moment, changes need to be made to make sure that it is.

The government is also proposing to increase the FTB part A fortnightly rates from 1 July 2018 and increase the fortnightly rates of the youth allowance and the disability support pension to align with the new FTB part A fortnightly rates. Around 1.2 million families, including those on income support, will receive the fortnightly increase which will assist them with day-to-day living expenses. They are the most vulnerable.

The FTB part B payment structures will also be reformed to provide more support to families when their children are born and better encourage workforce participation when their youngest child is older and their ability to participate in the workforce is enhanced. From 1 July 2016 the standard rate of the family tax benefit part B will be increased by $1,000 per year for families with a youngest child aged under one. This measure will help around 142,000 of the more vulnerable families as well. The current standard rates will be maintained for families with a youngest child aged between one and 13. Standard rates will also be maintained for single parents who are at least 60 years of age and for grandparent and great-grandparent carers with a youngest child aged between 13 and 18. A reduced standard rate of $1,000 will apply to single-parent families where the parent is under 60 and the youngest child is aged between 13 and 16.

We acknowledge, as a government should, the important role of parents in the primary care of their children and maintain a range of programs and payments to support them. Currently, the government spends a substantial amount of money in three main areas of family support each year: around $20 billion in the family tax benefit, $6 billion in the childcare benefit and the childcare rebate and around $2 billion in paid parental leave.

The government's commitment to supporting parents in caring for their children also needs to be balanced with the responsibility to ensure that family assistance and social security payments are targeted to those who are most vulnerable and, as I said earlier, are sustainable into the future so that the programs can be maintained. The government believes these sensible changes will ensure the sustainability of family payments and that the system provides support to families who need it most, now and into the future. This is a sensible package of measures that contain the required savings from family payments to offset the additional investment in the childcare package, which will help families and encourage workforce participation.

As I said at the start, the role of government is to look after those who are most vulnerable, and this set of measures targets increased assistance to those families who we believe to be the most vulnerable, and it also addresses the sustainability of all these programs. The savings in the package are designed to do that. The easy thing in government is to spend money. Every politician would like to hand out as much money as they can to people in a range of circumstances, but we need to do it with prudence, in a way that is sustainable and in a way that is targeted. As I said earlier, it is proper that we talk about sustainability as far as the environment goes—it is proper that we talk about sustainability when it comes to ecology and borrowing resources from our children. It is all true, but the other thing that we need to always recognise is that we are going to pass the functioning of our economy to our children and our grandchildren, and it is very important that we do not borrow heavily from them as well.

I commend this bill to the House.

8:31 pm

Photo of Alan TudgeAlan Tudge (Aston, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Everybody in this country understands that we have a fiscal problem—that the expenditure of the government is still well in excess of the revenue generated. Everybody understands that, it seems, except for the Labor Party. They understand that, despite all the work that we have done, our expenditure is still about 10 per cent higher than the revenue we earn. They understand that and they know it is not a sustainable position. The Australian public know that you cannot continue to have long-term budget deficits forever and a day and that, ultimately, if you continue down that path you will follow the path some European countries such as Greece have gone down. Everybody knows that, it seems, apart from the Labor Party.

This is the context of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2015, because it presents to us another set of reasonable savings measures that we are putting forward. In some respects, they are savings measures which are difficult. They are difficult-to-put-forward measures, which inevitably means that some of the benefits to some people will not be as great as they were receiving last year. But the bottom line here is that, if you are a responsible government, you cannot continue to spend more than you earn. It is a very common-sense proposition. If they do not believe me, perhaps the Labor Party would listen to one of their supposed greats in Paul Keating. Paul Keating himself said that we have to get control of the expenditure side of the budget—that is what he said and that is what this bill is aimed towards.

Of course, the Australian public also know that, yes, we have a fiscal problem and they know, deep in their veins, that the Labor Party created this fiscal problem and are creating obstacles to us fixing this problem today. When the Labor Party took over the government benches in 2007, the budget surplus was $20 billion, and, when they left, the budget was in deep deficit, with deficits as far as the eye could see. In their very short time in government, they had clocked up $191 billion worth of budget deficits. The five largest budget deficits in Australian political history occurred during the six-year reign of the Rudd-Gillard government. What sort of record is that? I do not know if the member for Chifley, who is sitting at the table, is proud of that record. I think something that he, maybe, is ashamed about is that Labor oversaw the five largest budget deficits in Australian political history—and that is the issue that we have to grapple with now. When they left office, they not only left enormous budget deficits as far as the eye could see; they had locked in government expenditure at 3.7 per cent per annum real growth, year on year. Of course, if your expenditure is growing at that rate and your GDP is only growing at perhaps two to three per cent, it means that, overall, you are going to have a fiscal problem. You cannot grow government more than the growth of the economy; otherwise you end up with very big fiscal problems. They were the challenges that we had to face and we continually have to face as a responsible government now, after those six dreadful years of Labor government.

I would like to refer to the Treasury secretary, who really makes these points very clearly. He did so just recently in a speech that he made at the Sydney Institute, where he went through the overall global economic challenges and some of the challenges which Australia has to face. He said, very squarely:

Why should the living standards of future generations be compromised just because we were not willing to make sacrifices to address the unsustainable growth of government expenditure?

That is what the Treasury secretary said. He put this down very squarely by saying that not only is there an economic challenge to us but, at the heart of it, there is actually a moral challenge as well.

This is a moral issue because in essence, if we rack up very large budget deficits today, we are stealing from the future and we will cause the living standards of our children to be lower. That is what is at stake. Yes, there is a deep economic challenge of running large budget deficits indefinitely, but it is also a moral challenge and it is something the Labor Party will just refuse to face up to. If they continually block our savings measures if and they continually ensure that there are budget deficits for as far as the eye can see, they are actually stealing from our children's future because they are the ones that will have to pay it back. It means that they will have a lower standard of living, as the Treasury secretary himself said, if we continue down this path. It is a moral issue as much as it is an economic issue. The correct moral course of action is to live within our means. That is the correct moral course of action, so that we are not leaving these huge budget deficits for future generations to pay for.

There are a number of ways we can think about this budgetary challenge that we have. First, you can almost put your head in the sand, as it seems the Labor Party wants to do, and just not even accept that we have a fiscal challenge. The second way is to raise taxes and just continually raise taxes to follow the ever-increasing expenditure. Some members of the Labor Party want to follow that strategy. The third strategy is actually to reduce your expenditure and at the same time grow your economy. Out of those three strategies—put your head in the sand or raise taxes to follow expenditure or get control of your expenditure—the Labor Party are firmly in option 1 or option 2. We on the other hand are in option 3. We firmly believe that in order to get control of the budget we should be restraining expenditure, and that is exactly what we have been doing.

Already, in terms of some of the budget measures we have put through, we have now reduced the real growth of government expenditure from 3.7 per cent down to below two per cent. That means that it is now below the rate of GDP growth and, if the GDP is growing faster than your expenditure growth, then over time our deficits as a percentage of GDP and our debt as a percentage of GDP will start to decline. In essence that is the core of our fiscal repair strategy: (1) get expenditure under control, (2) grow the economy more rapidly. Everybody knows the expenditure repair jobs we have already done, including in the 2014 budget. They know that hard work has already been done. It needs to continue.

I think they are also aware of the efforts we are undertaking to grow the economy more rapidly so that there is more wealth generated—so that there are more jobs generated and that contributes to the overall budget repair effort. So that is our approach: restrain expenditure and grow the economy. The Labor approach is a very different one: increase taxes to chase the tail of the ever-increasing expenditure or, if they do not follow that, to literally put their heads in the sand and not even face up to the fact that there is a budgetary problem.

It is fascinating. We have had a number of bills in recent days which have sought to restrain expenditure, and I cannot think of a single contribution on the other side where a member has said that there is a fiscal challenge and that there is a rationale for putting forward a bill that seeks to restrain expenditure further. I cannot think of a single member. I know the member for Fowler is going to be speaking after me. Perhaps he will be the first member to make such a contribution, to acknowledge that we do have a fiscal problem in this country that does need to be addressed. Perhaps he will be the first Labor member in many days to acknowledge that. I hope he is, because he is a good member. And he may well make that contribution today.

Getting to this particular bill, it concerns—like a number of bills have over the last few days—several measures which contribute to the restraining of our overall social security legislation. It is of course vital for us to have some expenditure restraint, because it represents about one-third of the budget. The social security area—and I am standing next to the Minister for Human Services who oversees many of these payments—represents about one-third of the overall budget and it has been growing by 5.7 per cent per annum. Again: that is an unsustainable growth rate, clearly. One-third of the budget growing at 5.7 per cent per annum is clearly unsustainable. You cannot continue to grow at that rate; it would eat up the entire budget. Already, eight out of 10 taxpayers have to use all of their income tax to effectively pay for those social security expenditures.

So this bill before us the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill is a further effort to restrain expenditure in the social services portfolio. They are difficult measures. They phase out some supplements. They amend the rules and introduce a new rate structure for family tax benefit part B. But they also have some additional increases as well for certain payments in family tax benefit part A. But collectively they add significant savings to the forward estimates and contribute, like many of our other budget measures, to that overall effort of repairing the fiscal deficit and getting our budget back on track.

Let me just touch on a few of the specific measures. I mentioned that we would be phasing out through this bill family tax benefit part A and part B supplements. Again these are difficult decisions we have to make but we think that phasing out those supplements is a reasonable decision in the current fiscal climate.

It is reasonable because, in essence, those supplements were introduced, in the first instance, to take account of the fact that sometimes people did not estimate their income particularly well in advance and therefore had a larger payment owing at the end of the year. That problem has been resolved largely because we are better able to connect people's weekly income to the welfare payment system, so they do not tend to have those problems at the end of the year. Therefore, we do think that this is a reasonable measure—not an easy measure, but a reasonable measure in the context. We also think that amending the rules and introducing a new rate structure for family tax benefit part B is, again, a reasonable measure. Not only do those measures go towards the fiscal repair effort but also the savings which are made from that will go into our overall childcare package as well. There is also a small expenditure measure in here, which is that the family tax benefit part A fortnightly rates will be increased by about $10 for each family tax benefit child in the family aged up to 19.

That series of measures represents several hundred million dollars worth of savings. As I said, they are tough measures for us to do. We realise that they will not always be popular with some people but, as a responsible government, we think that it is the right thing to do to find what are reasonable savings in the overall social services space and we think that these are, indeed, reasonable savings and will contribute to that budget repair effort.

Let me finish where I started, and that is: our budget fiscal problem is an economic problem. It is. People know that. But it is also a moral problem. It is a moral problem which this side of the parliament is willing to face up to. We do not want to leave enormous debt and deficit to our children of the future who will have to suffer lower living standards if we do not get on top of our fiscal challenges today.

8:47 pm

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would also like to make a contribution to the debate on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2015. I thank the member for Aston for his warm-up act and for acknowledging that I would be following him. I hope he is going to wait around for my contribution, because I listened intently to what he had to say and I have to say: it was very similar to what I have heard from many, many members on their side.

One thing that I am still grappling to come to terms with is that the lecture we are getting on fiscal rectitude is coming from the same people who advocated—back in the 2014 budget, where this had its genesis—as to why it was essential that we had a rolled-gold Paid Parental Leave scheme to accommodate Macquarie Street solicitors. As to all the arguments being made at that stage, we asked: why would you have a Paid Parental Leave scheme geared to people earning $150,000 a year? 'Because we can,' was the answer.

It was in that 2014 budget that they advocated all that. They went on to try to take it out of pensioners and people on family tax benefit A and family tax benefit B. I think what that showed was that it was not a structural realignment; it was a structural divide, for many of us, as to the communities that we represent.

The National Party should maybe have had a closer look at this because many of their electorates actually resemble mine. My electorate, apart from being the most multicultural electorate in the country, is the second most disadvantaged. In my electorate, the average income per household is $53,000. I would imagine that maybe many of those sitting around in Cockies Corner over here would probably have similar statistics reflected in their areas.

What this bill does is to attack those who are least able to afford it. I know there is lots of discussion going on in the media—though everyone is denying it when it is in the House—about raising by 50 per cent the goods and services tax. They are for it; they are against it—who knows where they will be on it tomorrow. We have that endless argument here about: 'We're going to do something to make sure the multinationals pay tax.' I have not read that in Rupert Murdoch's magazines either. But when it comes down to attacking those most vulnerable in our communities, they just cannot wait to get into their pockets. They cannot wait.

For all the colour and the vibrancy that we enjoy in my electorate, such as the culinary delights of having a high Asian population, I know what it is like for these families. They do it tough. Mums and dads there work pretty hard to raise a family and to get their kids a proper education. Certainly they aspire much for their children, which is a good thing. But they have to work hard to do that. And if the average family income in my electorate is $53,000, then clearly there are going to be many, many people who struggle.

One other statistic is worthwhile looking at before we get into the actual basics of this legislation. My electorate, as I say, has large pockets of disadvantage, but, when it comes to families living with disabilities—and let us just take one of them: autism—within a radius of 20 kilometres of the Liverpool CBD live 52 per cent of all families in New South Wales living with autism. I assure you that it is not the water or the air out there; it is probably the fact that land prices are a little cheaper than they are elsewhere in Sydney, and we have a lot of public housing. Regrettably, 80 per cent of families that live with autism are single-parent families. The very families that are being attacked by these cuts to family tax benefits A and B, and the ones who are most vulnerable, are the ones, quite frankly, who are doing it very, very tough. They are not after handouts; they are after support. I would have thought that is generally why we become members of this place: not to necessarily be a champion to get a vote for another election; we are supposed to be here to try to make a difference for the better for our communities. That must be the motivation, otherwise it is a lie to seek preselection, seek to be elected and everything else to come to this great place.

I accept there are going to be issues of fiscal responsibility and we will discuss plenty of that, and I am happy to discuss that, but, when it comes to issues of fairness and decency, when it comes to caring about people who are the most vulnerable, I think that buck really stops with all of us. I again make the comparison of the spirit that was around in 2014 to have paid parental leave for a Macquarie Street solicitor on $150,000 a year because it was the right thing to do, according to the government—'No means test; we will have it there'—and in the same budget trying to bring down cuts to family tax benefit part A and part B, trying to peg pension entitlements and also trying to peg the pension for disability support. This is just the wrong way of going about our responsibilities to the community. I do not care how many times they want to try to give us lectures on fiscal responsibility. Remember, these are real people that we are talking about.

In many instances the people we are talking about do not have the option of working another shift and do not have the option of working overtime. The people we are talking about are dependent on these payments. These cuts should not be designed with people saying, 'We're going to cut this, so therefore they'll go and get jobs.' Where they can, those people are already in employment. Under the legislation before us, the single mum with two kids—and she may be on disability support or does not get the schoolkids bonus—could be up to $5,000 per year worse off. I do not think it behoves any of those on the other side to take credit for that—unless they want to; then well and good. I do not think it shows any maturity for people in this place who occupy seats of privilege to bring down legislation that does exactly that.

There is the issue of family tax benefit B for single-parent families with kids between the ages of 13 and 16. The aim is to see that abolished under this legislation. It will happen in a staged form, but it is being abolished. Family tax benefit B, the supplement that is currently worth $354 a year, will be cut to $303 in 2016, $153 in 2017 and wiped out in 2018. I am sure that is something people should be very proud of on that side when they think about the people we are talking about! Combined with cutting the family tax benefit A supplement, I understand from the memorandum accompanying the bill that there is going to be a budget save worth $4.06 billion—a budget save on the back of those most vulnerable in our community. Well done, fellows, well done! The truth is that 1.3 million families will lose their family tax benefit B supplement of $354 per family—1.3 million families. With respect to family tax benefit A, the supplement will be reduced from $602 from July this year to half of that in 2017 and abolished in 2018.

I heard members opposite trying to crow about the fact that there will be an added $10 every fortnight for each child up to the age of 19. That is hardly going to offset what these families are already going through. There is no way that those opposite can say that this is kindred to that. This is just a slap in the face for people who are the most vulnerable in our community. The fact is that 1.5 million families will lose the family tax benefit A supplement, which is $726 per child. You need to realise that we are talking about 650,000 families who are on single-parent benefits and around 500,000 of those families are on the maximum rate. That means that their combined household income is less than $51,000 a year. Members sitting around navel gazing and making grand decisions about what is good for people on benefits might think about parliamentarians. I understand how hard parliamentarians work and what is required of us, but think about raising a family on $51,000 a year. Do not lecture them on fiscal responsibility and say, 'We need to examine those cuts for the future.' Think about how that is going to mature this country and make it something that we are not. The country we grew up in was a country that valued fairness and decency. It valued caring for people who are the most vulnerable.

Those opposite have really taken leave of their senses if they think that they can try to hoodwink our community by saying this is good for them. This is not good for the mums and dads in my community. It is not good for the average household that is on a household income of $53,000. It is certainly not good for the single parents out there trying to raise a family.

Debate interrupted.