Thursday, 10 February 2022
Selection of Bills Committee; Report
by leave—I want to move two amendments to the motion to adopt the selection of bills committee report; however, I want to amend what has been circulated, just to change the date from 25 March to 24 March for both motions. With that, I move:
(6) At the end of the motion, add:
"and, in respect of the Social Security Amendment (Improved Child to Adult Transfer for Carer Payment and Carer Allowance) Bill 2022, contingent upon introduction in the House of Representatives, the provisions of the bill be referred immediately to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 24 March 2022".
(7) At the end of the motion, add:
"and, in respect of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Workforce Incentive) Bill 2022, contingent upon introduction in the House of Representatives, the provisions of the bill be referred immediately to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 24 March 2022".
Here are two bits of legislation. It is standard practice for legislation to be sent to a committee for inquiry. It's a really basic part of our job as the Senate—to inquire into bills. It is not acceptable that this legislation is being introduced and not being sent off to a committee for inquiry. By referring these bills for inquiry, we're basically just asking the Senate to do its job so that we have transparency on two bits of really important legislation that are going to affect people's lives—in particular the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Workforce Incentive) Bill 2022, which is in the space of income support and workforce incentives. There is a whole nexus between supporting people who are seeking employment, supporting people who need to be supported by government with income support and the actions that the government can take to support people to move into employment. It is a very complex space, and it's one where we know the government is doing very badly at the moment.
We have people living on income support who cannot find work, who are living in poverty, who are living well below the poverty line, who cannot afford to put food on the table. We've got people who should be on the disability support pension who can't get on the disability support pension—because maybe they will recover from their brain cancer!—who are then on JobSeeker. We've got other people who should be on the disability support pension who are on JobSeeker who are being forced to comply with so-called mutual obligations. Even in COVID we have now got people being forced to go and have face-to-face meetings with their employment services provider; they are being told, 'No, you can't have these meetings over the phone or via videoconferencing; you've got to come in, in person.' We have so many people jumping through hoops which are supposedly meant to help them find work. They feel they are being asked to do so many things which are not helping them find work; it is all just a matter of them having to do crazy things and apply for jobs they know they haven't got a hope of getting and they haven't got the skills to do, but their employment service provider is telling them they've got to do that.
These are the sorts of things that this bill is in the middle of. We really need to get our employment incentives right, with what really works to get people into employment. We need to make sure that people who, for whatever reason, are not able to work get the support they need. We need to at least double the current rate of JobSeeker from the pitiful $43 a day that it is at the moment. The Greens' position is that we need to double it to at least $80 a day so that people are not left living in poverty.
It is critical that everybody in Australia has support and that government can support them so that they can live a decent life, not be in a situation which so many people across Australia are in today—of not being able to afford to put food on the table, of only being able to afford to eat one meal a day, of their kids not being able to have shoes on their feet, of kids not being able to go on school excursions, of people being homeless because they can't afford skyrocketing rents. This is the reality for far too many people in Australia. Yet we have this government saying, 'We'll just invent some other useless workplace incentive and workforce incentive to try and get them into work.' But people know that they need to be lifted out of poverty and be supported to help get their lives in a good place, to help them get the education they need, to help them have a roof over their heads, to help them afford to eat healthy food. These are the sorts of basic measures that will allow people to really live their life to the fullest, to genuinely participate in the workforce. These are the sorts of fundamental measures that need to be inquired into. (Time expired)