Senate debates

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013; In Committee

11:57 am

Photo of Jan McLucasJan McLucas (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Mental Health) Share this | Hansard source

I move opposition amendment (12) and oppose schedule 5 in the following terms:

(12) Schedule 5, page 23 (line 1) to page 38 (line 10), to be opposed.

This goes to interest charges to be applied to certain welfare debts. This measure from the government proposes to introduce interest charges on certain welfare debts. This includes debts incurred by people on Austudy, Youth Allowance and Abstudy.

Unfortunately, this government has already demonstrated its attitude to students. Frankly, it cannot be trusted on education. The students who will be affected by this measure are already on income support. Many of them are doing it tough. People on these welfare payments are already vulnerable. They do not need further punishment from a government that is already messing with their education for political purposes.

The government claims that the interest charges will encourage debtors to repay their debts in a timely fashion, but in reality it will do the opposite. By implementing interest charges on these debts the government is actually making it harder for people to repay those debts and making it harder for them to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, this government is treating students like political playthings. We have seen this with their approach to schools funding and now we are seeing it with this measure to hurt students by imposing further interest charges on low-income students. So Labor will not support the government's reform.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The question is that schedule 5 stand as printed.


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