Thursday, 28 June 2012
Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011
I thank Senator Ludlam for the question. Senator Ludlam, I think I heard during the second reading debate the Greens views on this question of evidence. But we maintain that there are improvements in the Northern Territory in things like infant mortality, reporting of child abuse and reporting of crime. You make the argument that these things show that we are going to have increased incarceration. We say, actually, that this is protecting the community, because crimes are being reported and the laws are being enforced. We think improvements in infant mortality are a good thing. We know that the health checks have been delivering really important results; a high number of health checks have been completed. There is early identification of things like ear infections. So we think the measures are delivering results. I understand you have a principled position that is in opposition to income management. I have heard Senator Siewert argue this many times; I have argued it with her myself. And I know that senators around the chamber have engaged with these issues over a long period of time. We support the maintenance of the income management program. We seek to make some amendments ourselves which we think will improve that. Fundamentally I understand the Greens do not support the income management system. That is why their amendment seeks to remove it. But the government, and I understand the opposition—but obviously they will speak for themselves—is committed to maintaining and improving the income management system. I listened to the contributions earlier today from Senator Crossin and I have heard Senator Scullion on this issue before. I just remind the Senate that the people who live and work in the territory have a lot of experience with how these programs are delivering real improvements to the lives of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory. Things like humbugging that have been so harmful to so many people are decreasing in incidence and a lot of older people are feeling much better protected as a result of these changes.
I know there is a fundamental difference of opinion on this but we think the income management program is an important part of this package. We have looked to extend that to other parts of Australia to address some of these serious social issues, but we think the evidence is that this income management system is assisting to stabilise the communities, assisting them to function better and to ensure that there is proper nutrition and health access in those communities. I understand that we will disagree on this but the government strongly supports the income management regime. This bill will improve that regime, in our view, but I do not expect that I will convince the Greens of that this evening.