Senate debates

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Matters of Public Importance

Pensions and Benefits

4:39 pm

Photo of Perin DaveyPerin Davey (NSW, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

Now you've made me lose my place. Labor have also said in the past that they want to make sure that people who are receiving welfare to which they're not entitled do not get a leave pass. It seems now Labor have turned their back on income compliance and are advising people to sit on their hands. It is a real shame to see Labor lose the determination to ensure that we recover this money that belongs to the Australian public.

Let me make it clear: this government wants social welfare recipients to get what they are entitled to, and we don't want to revoke welfare, but, where they are paid more than they are entitled to, it is only fair that we recover that money. The lie we hear opposite is that we want to stigmatise people, but that is so far from the truth. What we want and expect is that welfare recipients receive only the correct amount they are entitled to—no more and definitely no less.

I know how important these entitlements are in regional Australia. For example, the farm household allowance is critical to the coalition government's support for those affected by drought, and for such a program to work the community must have trust in its administration. To ensure that we can continue to support those communities and the people in need, we need to make sure that we can recover overpayments so that we continue to have the funds available to run these programs.

It's not just ensuring the success of our welfare system that we need to worry about. This is also talking about the success of all government expenditure that we concern ourselves with. Over $180 billion, or about a third of total annual government expenditure, is spent on our social safety net. Currently, we have social welfare debts totalling $5.3 billion. The more we recover, the more we can spend on the government's program to support our communities through drought, to support our recovery efforts after bushfire and to support our infrastructure programs going forward, and the more we can spend on rural health and mental health services in my regions. That is why it is imperative that the government ensure that money that belongs to the public is returned to the public and used for the public benefit. That is why we are not ashamed of recovering debt.

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