Senate debates

Wednesday, 2 August 2023


Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Safety Net) Bill 2023; In Committee

10:26 am

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I'm very disappointed with the outcome of that division but not surprised that everybody other than us and Senator Pocock is happy for jobseekers, people on youth allowance and people on student allowance to continue living in poverty, which is absolutely bad for their wellbeing, their health and their ability to get a job. If you've got people living in poverty, they're not in a position to be able to get a job. It is absolutely shameful. I now move Greens request for amendment (1) on sheet 2030, which is regarding income-free areas:

(1) Page 33 (after line 26), at the end of the Bill, add:

Schedule 5 — Increase to income free areas for certain payments

Part 1 — Disability support pension (under 21)

Social Security Act 1991

1 Point 1066A-F3 (table item 1, colum n 3)

Omit "$2,184", substitute "$7,800".

2 Point 1066A-F3 (table item 1, column 4)

Omit "$80", substitute "$300".

3 Point 1066A-F3 (table item 2, column 3)

Omit "$1,924", substitute "$7,800".

4 Point 1066A-F3 (table item 2, column 4)

Omit "$70", substitute "$300".

5 Point 1066A-F3 (table item 3, column 3)

Omit "$1,924", substitute "$7,800".

6 Point 1066A-F3 (table item 3, column 4)

Omit "$70", substitute "$300".

7 Point 1066A-F3 (table item 4, column 3)

Omit "$1,924", substitute "$7,800".

8 Point 1066A-F3 (table item 4, column 4)

Omit "$70", substitute "$300".

Part 2 — Youth allowance (other)

Social Security Act 1991

9 1067G-H29(b)

Omit "$150", substitute "$300".

Part 3 — Jobseeker payment

Social Security Act 1991

10 Point 1068-G12

Omit "$150", substitute "$300".

Part 4 — Parenting payment (single)

Social Security Act 1991

11 Point 1068A-E14 (table item 1, column 2)

Omit "$2,600", substitute "$7,800".

12 Point 1068A-E14 (table item 1, column 3)

Omit "$100", substitute "$300".

Part 5 — Parenting payment (partnered)

Social Security Act 1991

13 Point 1068B-D27

Omit "$150", substitute "$300".

Part 6 — Application of amendments

14 Application of amendments

(1) The amendments of the Social Security Act 1991 made by this Schedule apply in relation to working out the following:

(a) the rate of a person's disability support pension, youth allowance, jobseeker payment, pension PP (single) or benefit PP (partnered) in respect of days occurring on or after 20 September 2023;

(b) whether a person's farm household allowance under the Farm Household Support Act 2014 is payable in respect of days occurring on or after 20 September 2023.

(2) For the purposes of indexing an amount:

(a) specified in:

(i) the table in point 1066A-F3 of the Social Security Act 1991, as amended by this Schedule; or

(ii) the table in point 1068A-E14 of that Act, as amended by this Schedule;

(b) on the first indexation day for the amount that occurs after the day this item commences;

the current figure for the amount immediately before that first indexation day is taken to be that specified amount.

Obviously, the Greens' position is that we need to be lifting the rate of JobSeeker, youth allowance and student allowance above the poverty line so that people can live a dignified life. This lot—everybody here other than us—has just voted against that. The least we can do and what has also been Greens policy for a very long time, as well as increasing the rate of income support above the policy line, is to allow jobseekers to earn more. It's not a case of one or another, which is the appalling and cruel position that the opposition are proposing; it's a case of doing both. We need to have the level of income that people receive lifted above the poverty line, and then we need to allow people to earn more.

We know that based on the latest statistics there are 186,290 people receiving JobSeeker who are working. There are a lot of people who receive JobSeeker, youth allowance and student allowance who are working and have income above the income-free area, which means that their earnings are slashed. The amount of JobSeeker or youth allowance or student allowance they get is slashed once they earn above the income-free area. Those people would all benefit. As I said, this is something that can be done to benefit those people, but it's not enough. About 40 per cent of people on JobSeeker have limited or reduced capacity to work. A lot of those people actually should be on other disability payments or the disability support pension, but they are left languishing on JobSeeker. But for the others who are on JobSeeker who are able to work, who—for a lot of them—are working now, increasing the income-free area so that their income from that work can be up to $300 a fortnight rather than $150 a fortnight would make a real, meaningful difference to their lives.

There is a cost-of-living crisis. We know that people are desperate to improve their standard of living, desperate to get the money that they need. We know that actually allowing them to earn more in this cost-of-living crisis would make a tangible difference to their lives.


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