House debates

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Questions without Notice

Pensions and Benefits

2:54 pm

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Families and Social Services. Will the minister outline to the House why it's important for the Morrison government to provide a stable and certain approach to the provision of social services income support payments? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies?

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

I do thank the member for Berowra, who, like everybody on this side of the House, recognises the importance of a stable and certain approach when it comes to social services. Of course, he knows that every dollar that is paid in income support payments has to come from the money raised from taxpayers. We need to have a sustainable system of funding our social services payments. Social services and welfare will be $180 billion this year—that's over one-third of the entire Commonwealth budget. If you lose control of spending on social services and welfare, you lose control of the entire budget.

The member for Berowra knows that it so important that we have a clear plan and we execute methodically that plan for people who need support. Our plan is to grow the economy, to grow jobs and to move people from welfare to work. That plan is succeeding. There were 230,000 fewer working-age Australians on income support payments as at June 2018, compared to four years earlier.

I was asked if there is an alternative policy, and there is. There's the approach we saw from the previous Labor government of paying lip-service to fiscal prudence but starting to panic and spend without restraint at the first opportunity. We all remember the 2007 ad featuring Kevin Rudd. 'People have described me as an economic conservative. It's a badge I wear with pride,' said Kevin Rudd. Come early 2009 he couldn't wait to rip that badge off. He ripped that badge off very quickly when it came to the $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan. There were $950 one-off cash payments to eligible families and, of course, to people who were dead. There were $950 cash payments to people who were dead. Paying $950 cheques to people who are dead requires a whole new faith in the capacity of government stimulus. Cheques went to 27,000 people who no longer lived in Australia.

That is a different approach—where you completely lose control of the budget, where you end up accumulating $191 billion of budget deficits over five years—from the previous Labor government. That's a different approach, and it's in very stark contrast to the stability and certainty that our government is delivering.