Thursday, 4 December 2008
Social Security Legislation Amendment (Employment Services Reform) Bill 2008
I will be brief. I can indicate that I will not be supporting the second reading of the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Employment Services Reform) Bill 2008, not because I am not sympathetic to a number of the measures that the government is proposing but because it is not reasonable for me to consider amendments at this stage for several reasons. Firstly, I think it is well known that all of my staff have been working around the clock on other legislation. We simply have not had the time to consult with the stakeholders—both with the welfare groups and employment services organisations that want to speak to us about their concerns and with a number of constituents who have expressed concerns about the current legislation or the existing regime in respect of Welfare to Work.
As Senator Siewert indicated, this is a complex piece of legislation. It is quite nuanced in parts and I note that the Greens will be moving a number of amendments, as will the coalition. I do not think it is satisfactory to be dealing with such an important piece of legislation on what is meant to be the last day—or second- or third-last day—of this sitting session before the Christmas break.
I need to emphasise that the minister’s office has been extraordinarily cooperative and has provided us with briefings and information in relation to this bill. I had a meeting with the minister last week and that was useful. But it does not deal with the issue of consulting with a number of key stakeholders—and I can assure you that it is not reasonable for my staff to spend any more time, because they are doing 16 to 18 hours a day. We have been working around the clock on a number of bills and I believe that in order to do justice to this legislation I cannot in good conscience support this matter going into committee at this stage. I hope honourable senators can understand my position in relation to this. But if this matter does not proceed further tonight, I look forward to this bill being dealt with comprehensively in the first sitting week in the new year.