Wednesday, 2 August 2023
Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Safety Net) Bill 2023; In Committee
I hear the Greens screaming out, 'Poverty,' and, 'These people are living in poverty,' and all the rest of it. As I just explained to you, there are people who are parents who are both working family members who are actually living in poverty as well. They actually have to go to work, but they are living in poverty while trying to feed their kids, pay the bills. A lot of these people are losing their homes. These aren't people on welfare. So, it's not only people on welfare that you say are doing it tough, but there's a difference. People on welfare have the choice. They have a choice to go and apply for a job, a choice to go and work. That is their choice. Everyone has a choice. But if you keep propping these people up all the time, they are going to take the easy way out because it suits them. Their lifestyle suits them. But you're crying for them in this place. Cry for the people who are sick, disabled, people who can't work for the right reasons. Don't cry for those people who have made the choice to sit on their backsides all day long watching TV or taking it for granted that you're going to keep handing them out this money. Think of the future generations. That's what it's about. Make the tough decisions in this place that we need to.
And another thing: how do you determine that someone is unemployed? They're not unemployed if they do one hour paid work a week—that's the international standard—or they do voluntary work. Really? Are you deceiving the people or trying to deceive yourselves? There are a lot more people out there, and that is not the right way to go about it, as well. I'd say—unless that's changed, but that's my understanding—the minister may want to refer to that. If I've got it wrong, please tell me I'm wrong, but that was the standard: if you've got one hour paid work a week, you're not classified as unemployed. So who are we really deceiving in this nation? How many are actually on the extra benefits and payments because they're not classified as unemployed? This is a real problem that we have. The budget that we pay out for welfare payments in this country is around $250 billion a year. When I first came into here, it was around $180 billion. Seven years later, it's $250 billion. That is disgraceful. It should not be the way.
As I said to you before, people are screaming out for employees. I spoke to farmers just a week ago. They can't get workers. Do you know what the cane farmer said to me? He said: 'We have to drag the old boys back behind the machinery and equipment, because we can't get anyone to work. Years ago, if anyone came to work this machinery here, they'd have to have a mechanics licence and all these other things, plus, plus, plus, before we'd allow them behind the wheel of this machinery. Now we'll grab anyone, as long as they've got two legs and two arms.' That's how desperate they are. Production is going down because they can't get the people to work, yet you're so intent on keeping on paying these welfare payments to people, and you're not going after them and saying, 'why?'
I'll put another point across, too, on robodebt—that whole thing that happened there. There was a reason why they were sent that letter: there's a lot of scamming and there's a lot of welfare rorting that's going on. People were sent that letter because they do owe the government money. They'd been rorting the system. About 10 per cent of the people should not have gotten those letters—10 per cent. What happened to the other 90 per cent? What about those ones that are rorting the system? Because of robodebt and because it was poorly handled by ministers advised by their bureaucrats—I say all the time the ministers are so lazy a lot of them don't even know their portfolios and rely on the bureaucrats to give them the information, because they can't even research it themselves. That's the problem in this place. You're being fed the garbage, and you don't go and do the research, the work, yourselves to understand. That was the problem with it. If this same letter were sent out through the Taxation Office, it wouldn't have been under the scrutiny that it was, but because the social welfare system didn't have the authority to send out this letter, that's where the problem came from.
At the end of the day, the problem is that there are welfare cheats. There are people using multiple names claiming multiple welfare payments. Then we have the ones here also who are allowed to have multiple marriages, multiple wives, and are collecting welfare as well. But you don't do anything about that. That's happening. Maybe you don't know about that. What are you doing about that? Bigamy in this country—multiple wives, multiple children, collecting multiple checks and saying to the taxpayer, 'Thank you very much; you're a bunch of fools in this country.' That's exactly what's happening. Until you address these important issues and address what the taxpayer wants—accountability. That's what they want: accountability for their hard-earned tax dollars, because they're doing it tough out there, and all I hear is crying.
As I said to you, people have a choice. There are so many jobs on offer out there. Even I myself could do with some more staff. But guess what: I can't find the people. No-one is applying for the jobs. Isn't it funny? And I hear this right across the board, so don't just make out that it's One Nation, because—I tell you what—I'm hearing it from other members of parliament right across the board. It is hard to find the people who are capable of doing the job, right across the board, whether it's in farming, retail, political offices or political parties—whatever you want to do—so you grab whoever you can that is willing to work.
That's what's happened for me. As a young woman going to work, I got offered three jobs—you could pick whatever job you wanted—and those days are here again now. But the difference is that a lot of people don't want to work. They don't have the work ethic that the older generation have. I'd rather have the older generation work for me, actually, because their work ethic is great. It's fantastic. The fact is we're letting the young ones down; we're letting them off the hook. I'm quite happy to give these kids a kickstart, but it's about finding the ones who want to start at the bottom and work their way up. They always want to start at the top, and that's a problem that we've instilled on them as well.
To go back to the point of Senator Pocock's amendment, it's not helping the people; it's not helping future generations. You're not incentivising them. You're not getting them off welfare payments. You're not being fair on the working Australians who are barely making this $27,000 a year themselves, and that's for an age pension. It'll go to about $25,000 a year—I haven't got the exact figure. You're not being fair on those tradies who are screaming out that they'd like more money. Be fair. If you're going to make a decision in this place, make it fair right across the board for everyone. Incentivise people to get up off their backsides, start going to work and start applying for these jobs. If you don't, do investigations into why these people are still on welfare after 10, 20, 30 or 40 years.
Why are we getting a fourth generation that is on welfare? What have you done about that? What have you done to address that issue? Where is the accountability? Where's the accountability? Why are we seeing our welfare bill go up continually year in, year out? You got 100,000 people off welfare payments, yet you brought—what?—over 400,000 into the country in the last year. That doesn't equate to me.
Like I said, go and do your sums, go and talk to the Australian grassroots people out there, go and talk to businesses, go and talk to the farmers and make it fair right across the board. Get these people off welfare payments by incentivising them. Don't keep increasing their payments all the time to make life better in one way. You've got to incentivise them to see that this is not the way of life, to get off welfare payments and to go and get a job.