Senate debates

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:27 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation (Senator Wong) to a question without notice asked by the Leader of the Australian Greens (Senator Milne) today relating to Newstart.

As we know, this chamber in October last year unfortunately passed a bill that brought in the moving of single parents from the parenting payment single to Newstart when their youngest child turns eight. At the time it was only the Greens, Senator Madigan and Senator Xenophon who opposed those cuts. Only those 11 people out of this whole chamber opposed those cuts. Yet now we have members of this chamber out there saying what a terrible thing it is that Newstart is so low and that single parents have been transferred from parenting payment single to Newstart, so cutting their payments by between $60 and $120, on average, although I have heard of people who have lost $130 to $200 per week depending on whether they have been working or not. We have had politicians from this place, such as Senator Cameron, who was also questioned by Senator Milne today, saying that they are deeply concerned that these people are living in poverty. If you check the Hansard record you can easily see that those senators now out talking about how terrible it is voted to support those cuts. Only 11 of us opposed those cuts: all Greens senators and Senator Madigan and Senator Xenophon.

Those MPs and senators who have been talking so much in the community about those terrible cuts—and they are terrible—did not care about that when they were voting on the cuts. They will have an opportunity to express their support for single parents and those on Newstart, because today I am introducing my Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Caring for Single Parents) Bill. I will be introducing this in about 10 minutes and then they will have an opportunity to show their support for that bill

That bill will increase the payments to single parents by $40 a week. And I expect them to support my other bill which will increase Newstart by $50 a week. I hope they will come out today and express their strong support for that legislation, and when it is debated in this chamber I expect them to vote with us to support it.

I would also expect to see them supporting our motion tomorrow which will highlight the extreme poverty and distress that the cuts to single parents have caused, and will call on the government to reverse the changes to single parent payments and that have dumped these single parents onto Newstart, changes which have cut their income by so much. I expect them to support that motion and then the community will see that the people who go out into the community and express support actually follow that up with real action in this chamber to put pressure on the government to support the most vulnerable in our community. Talk is cheap. Real action means that they need to come into this place and be prepared to cross the floor to support those people who they say are being treated with contempt. By dumping these people onto Newstart, you treat single parents, the majority of whom are single mothers, with contempt.

Yesterday, I released 430 accounts of people who are struggling to make ends meet on Newstart—accounts of mothers going hungry in order to feed their children; accounts of mothers not being able to pay utilities, of not being able to have the heater on in winter because they cannot afford to pay utilities; and accounts of mothers and fathers who have been forced to move or who have lost their accommodation and have had to go to emergency relief organisations. There are thousands of such stories. In fact, 84,000 have been transferred already and there are more to come. Senators such as Senator Cameron and other people who are out there very rightly supporting single parents need to convert that talk into action in this chamber. The Greens will provide the opportunity for senators who have expressed their strong support for single parents and those on Newstart to express their real commitment by supporting our motion and our legislation, and to take real action to help those most vulnerable members of our community who deserve our support, and to not ignore them when they vote. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.