Senate debates

Wednesday, 28 September 2022


Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Lifting the Income Limit for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card) Bill 2022; In Committee

6:32 pm

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

That was indeed a filibuster. The legislation—

An opposition senator interjecting—

I am here to legislate!

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Order! Senator Pratt needs to be heard in silence.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator Ruston, you're not helping things.

The Labor government wanted to finish this legislation this week so that Commonwealth seniors health cards could be extended to other retirees. Instead, you are proposing these amendments to a bill that is not the right bill to do it in.

We have a committee inquiry underway on changing the income limits for pensioners, because a referral has just been done by the Selection of Bills Committee to the legislation committee of this chamber. It makes a complete nonsense of legislative process for those opposite to be pursuing these amendments here in this bill. The bill before us is to lift the income threshold for seniors who need access to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, to deal with their very pressing cost-of-living issues, of which pharmaceutical medications are an absolute priority.

The government has its own clear plan to lift income limits for pensioners, which we have put forward in a bill that has been referred to a Senate committee. We have not inquired yet into lifting these income limits to the level that the opposition and the Greens are seeking to do. It is simply not feasible to expect this chamber to deal with this question at the eleventh hour, in an amendment that doesn't even belong in this bill.

Our workforce incentives bill will see an increase in the maximum work bonus income bank balance from $7,800 to $11,800. When you introduced these amendments at the eleventh hour, this morning, I hadn't even had time to look at what the income limits are, how they'll affect the pension outgoings relative to—

An opposition senator interjecting

Well, of course we do, but we still have to get our head around the answers to these questions as a government—for example, their impact on the budget et cetera. And yet you insist on this, when there is a perfect opportunity, with due process, to look at your amendments in the right and proper bill, which is coming before this place in a few weeks time.

I'm absolutely appalled at those opposite seeking to disrupt parliamentary process in this way—the absolute gall of moving an amendment in one bill, when the substantive issue is dealt with in a completely different piece of legislation that is also up for debate and is also before the parliament. It is not proper legislative process. It's not proper legislative process, for example, to have an issue being debated in one chamber while the same debate on the same question is going on in the other, when it is a substantive matter of legislation. We're supposed to have rules and principles around this. But instead you are seeking to absolutely bypass good parliamentary process.

This is not good policy development. It is also fiscally irresponsible. It's all very well for those over there to laugh and say, 'Well, you've got a department to go and look at that for you.' It certainly shows that you're in opposition now that you're prepared just to fling these amendments up without really looking at the consequences and working through the due process. Yes, we would like to ask the department. Yes, we would like to look at what the fiscal outcome is—which is not something that can be easily calculated within a day, with no notice. You simply brought these amendments in this morning and then expected the government to come to a voting position on them and be prepared to see the bill passed as amended. So instead, we are at this standstill tonight, where those opposite and the crossbench are getting in the way of making the entitlement available to retirees who would like access to a healthcare card to bring down the cost of their medicine.

I appreciate that the decisions in this place mean trade-offs in one way or another in terms of who gets something, But those opposite are leaving us in a position of nobody getting anything by the time the sitting day ends today, when we have, nevertheless, a perfect opportunity to progress their agenda in the right bill that is still to come before this place. Instead, yes indeed, I am standing here filibustering this legislation to stop those opposite from making an absolute mess of the legislative process. I am absolutely pleased to wear that on my sleeve because it is absolutely irresponsible for those opposite to have brought these amendments before this place at the 11th hour in the way that they have. You explain to older Australians that you are in the way of their healthcare card. We on this side are not standing in the way of amendments to the workforce bonus. We are here to progress government legislation on that topic, which this parliament has indeed referred to the Community Affairs Committee.


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