Thursday, 9 February 2017
Selection of Bills Committee; Report
I would like to say a few words about this omnibus bill. This has become a familiar tactic. It is one that has been adopted from the USA. It is one that I suspect we will continue to see in this place. This bill combines a whole range of unrelated measures, usually quite nasty things that the government does not want to see any scrutiny or debate over. It rolls them into a bill with many, many schedules. It calls it an omnibus bill. People do not know what that means. It is hard to understand it until you get into the details, but what you can be sure of is that in a bill like this there will be cuts to essential services and supports for ordinary people that the government is trying to hide.
For this tactic to succeed they obviously have to be sure that they have people in the chamber whose support they have. I have to say it is very disappointing to see my colleague Senator Xenophon and, indeed, the One Nation party helping the government pursue an agenda of cutting support for ordinary people and ensuring that it is rolled into an all-encompassing bill with so many schedules that it will not get the scrutiny it deserves.
The reason it is so critical that the Senate does its job in this chamber and that we have the opportunity to scrutinise this legislation is that there are so many hidden nasties in this bill. We are only starting to become familiar with them. For young people who need access to income support, who cannot find a job, it forces them to wait for a month before they are able to access that support. That is absolutely remarkable. These are the Tony Abbott measures of the 2014 budget, those zombie measures, coming back to life. It is only through the scrutiny of the Senate committee process, through the peak bodies who understand the details of the individual schedules, through the experts and stakeholders, that you get to understand exactly how far-reaching this legislation is. It is really a betrayal of well-worn and well-established democratic principles. If you want to slash income support for young people, have the guts to stand up and say that is what you are doing. If you want to remove support for ordinary families, stand up and say that is what you are doing. Do not roll it all up into this bill, an omnibus bill with a boring name but really, really nasty.
The truth is that this bill, in its design, is intended to disguise its intended purpose. This government does not want the parliament to know what is going on, does not want ordinary people to know what is going on and does not want the scrutiny of a media that moves from issue to issue with the attention span of a goldfish. It certainly does not want the public to know what is going on. It was only in the latest Senate estimates that we found out that the government has not even told those 1.2 million families that they will lose their family benefit supplements in July. The department said it would let them know in May. So it is an attack on people who are doing it tough.
I do not expect really anything from One Nation on this. They purport to represent battlers, and here they are—young people are being shafted and we have the removal of supports for family tax benefit payments. It is going to slash payments for people under 25 by $90 a fortnight. Those people under 25 will not get access to Newstart now; they will have to go on to youth allowance, a payment which is $45 per week less. Of course, there are concerns here that we also have the clean energy supplement rolled into this piece of legislation. So, as I said, One Nation, the party that represents battlers, again, selling them out and demonstrating that their only relevance in this place is to turn Australian against Australian.
Again, I am disappointed in Senator Xenophon that he would engage in negotiations with the government that would support some of these changes. But, be very clear—
Senator Leyonhjelm interjecting—
No, no. I am not disappointed in you, Senator Leyonhjelm, because you never fail to disappoint! You are nothing other than consistent. What I would say is: we need to have this legislation given the scrutiny it deserves. That is why the Greens will be doing that through an extended Senate committee process. (Time expired)