Wednesday, 2 August 2023
Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Safety Net) Bill 2023; In Committee
The Greens will be opposing these amendments by the Liberal Party—and it is telling that they have moved the amendments together. They are not even going ahead with the woefully inadequate $4-a-day increase to JobSeeker but instead proposing an income-free area to allow people to earn more. We are opposing the amendments because of that very framing—that people are undeserving and unworthy, that they need to be living in absolutely dire abject poverty, and that it's a choice. Putting these two together—saying, 'Instead of living in abject poverty, just get out there and work'—is absolutely playing into the frame of the appalling contribution just made by Senator Hanson. It is playing into a frame that people living on income support don't deserve to live a life of dignity, that they are undeserving and unworthy and they just need to get up and find a job.
Anybody listening to the evidence that's been presented to the inquiry into poverty and hardship in Australia and the evidence that was presented to the inquiry into this bill would know that, currently, the conditions that people are living in on income support are absolutely tragic. People are living in tents with young babies. People are trying to bring up their kids while living in cars. People are saying they've spent the last seven years trying to pretend to their children that they're not hungry. People can't afford medication they need to keep themselves healthy. This is what happens when people are left in poverty. So to be proposing, as these amendments are: 'No, we're just going to keep on allowing people to live in poverty,' and that the answer is just allow them to work more is a complete misrepresentation of the reality that people are facing.
We acknowledge that there are overlaps between this amendment and the amendment that we circulated, but our amendment was very much in the frame of: we need to help people in any way possible who are currently languishing in poverty on the inadequate rate of JobSeeker. We need to be raising the rate and we need to be lifting the rates of income support. These amendments, circulated by the opposition, do not do that.