Wednesday, 2 December 2020
Questions without Notice
Pensions and Benefits
My question is to the Minister for Government Services. I refer to threats by the then human services minister in 2016 to victims of the Prime Minister's illegal robodebt scheme: 'We'll find you, we'll track you down, you will have to repay those debts and you may end up in prison.' Why was the government threatening victims with prison when it was its own ministers that were breaking the law?
I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. On 9 May last year, the member for Maribyrnong gave a press conference at the front of Redcliffe Hospital. When asked a question, he said: 'We want to make sure that people aren't receiving welfare to which they're not entitled, and no-one gets a leave pass on that.'
The minister will resume his seat. I won't call the Manager of Opposition Business. The minister has to be relevant to the answer. I've allowed him latitude, as I do, to compare and contrast, but you cannot start your answer with material that isn't relevant to the question. The minister has the call.
The government has a lawful requirement, as we all know, to ensure the appropriate collection of debts. That's something the member for Maribyrnong made clear on 9 May last year when he said that, where people are receiving welfare that they are not entitled to, no-one gets a leave pass on it. The member for Sydney in 2010 said, 'If people fail to come to an arrangement to settle their debts, the government has a responsibility to taxpayers to recover that money.' Labor's own words make it very clear that the responsibility to recover debts has always been—
Opposition members interjecting—
On direct relevance. The minister should be able to give a direct answer to an issue where people died, ministers broke the law and that minister threatened people with prison while he was breaking the law.
The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. I'm going to remind the minister again that there wasn't a preamble to the question; it was a specific question. He needs to be directly relevant in his answer. In doing that, he needs to address the question that was asked, not just deal with material that is on the policy topic but not having dealt with the question itself. The minister has concluded his answer.