Senate debates

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Motions

Pensions and Benefits

4:54 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I'm happy to go back and check those figures. Certainly, everyone was very impressed at the contribution that she was able to marshal from the community. It put into stark relief the fairly pitiful contribution that this government has made.

We've called for that disaster recovery payment to be increased, but I want to bring to mind the fact that it is taking far too long to get it out the door. We've heard reports that people have been waiting for up to a month. They're going into more and more debt as that time elapses. This is making the situation worse at a time when people are looking to their government to actually help them. Once again, they're realising that this government doesn't work for them; it works for its own corporate donors and vested interests, and for the lobbyists and industries that government members want to go and work for once they leave parliament.

The other facet I want to raise this evening is the disaster recovery allowance. It is a complementary disaster recovery approach in that, rather than being a one-off payment, it's a payment for a maximum of 13 weeks if the disaster that's been declared has directly affected your income. That sounds good, but the fine print is it gets paid at the rate of Newstart. This is why Senator Siewert has brought this issue to the attention of the parliament yet again. Even some members of the coalition—they're now backbenchers, but they used to be frontbenchers—are admitting that Newstart is too low. Newstart is too low anyway, but Newstart is particularly too low when you've just been affected by a climate-driven natural disaster that has seen your home either fried or washed away, your government is taking weeks upon weeks to send you a recovery supplement and you're condemned to 13 weeks, tops, of living on Newstart in those kinds of circumstances. We strongly support the calls by ACOSS to increase Newstart. It's been, what, 25 to 25½ years since Newstart was increased.

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