Wednesday, 2 August 2023
Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Safety Net) Bill 2023; In Committee
I want to set out the government's position in relation to this amendment. The government will be opposing this amendment. The effect of an adoption of this amendment would be that over a million people would lose the entitlement to an additional $40 a week. All they would be left with in September is the increment that comes through indexation.
I invite senators to consider this: there's been over a decade of advocacy, a decade of evidence and a decade of everybody who is engaged in this argument saying that the rate of JobSeeker needs to be increased in a substantial way. I appreciate there are differences about the amount, and the government has come to a conclusion about the amount. But it is unimaginable, after all of that advocacy from the business community, from the people who represent the welfare sector and the social services sector and from the trade union movement, that you could reach the conclusion: 'Nothing doing here. There will be no increase.' It is mean-spirited, it is wrong in policy and it would mean that a million people—a million Australians who would otherwise get this increase in September—would be denied this increase.
I don't want to add very much to the commentary that I gave in response to Senator Rice's and the Greens party's amendment on the income-free threshold, because I think the government's response is much the same. Workforce participation is really important, and the best evidence for the government's credentials in terms of workforce participation is the fact that since the government was elected there are just under half a million more jobs. There are 490-something thousand new jobs. Most of those jobs are permanent jobs. Many of those jobs have been taken up by Australian women, who—as a result of the new measures that the government has undertaken, whether they apply directly to them or not—have got the confidence that the kind of work that they are going into is the kind of work that will support them.
It is unimaginable, in the current environment, that the coalition's answer to people who are on JobSeeker or associated payments is: 'Nothing doing.' It's mean-spirited, it's more downward envy and it's more of the same toxic politics that we saw evidenced by Senator Hanson's contribution earlier. I urge the Senate to vote against the amendment.