Thursday, 29 November 2018
Questions without Notice
Pensions and Benefits
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Fifield. Can the minister update the Senate as to how the Liberal-National government is supporting innovative welfare service delivery in communities around Australia, including in my home state of Queensland, without the need to increase taxes?
Thank you, Senator Stoker, for the question. Colleagues, it's a fact that the good economic management and good budget management of this government means that we can continue to provide the essential services that Australians depend on. Last week, for example, the government announced it had committed $35 million over the next five years to support 10 demonstration communities across Australia. Under the Stronger Places, Stronger People initiative, we will support community led efforts to provide a better future for kids. Following early successes with this place based initiative in Logan, the government is facilitating Stronger Places, Stronger People in 10 demonstration communities across Australia, including Logan, with the support of other funders and sectors who also believe that a strong local community provides the best opportunities to grow strong environments to support kids.
The goal of this program is to test the impact of this community led, resourced and supported approach in a range of communities, and to assess the difference that it can make to the futures of kids and families living in areas that experience high levels of disadvantage. This investment, which, I should point out, is in addition to the government's funding for programs and services in these communities, will be targeted towards the local community plan of action and the priorities identified by local leaders from 1 July 2019. The funding includes up to $3.75 million over five years for the Queensland community of Logan. These community led, place based initiatives involve governments working together with leaders, families, philanthropists and researchers to support and lead change. Children in Logan are already benefitting from this approach, and we look forward to seeing the results of these trials.
How is the government's strong economic management allowing it to better assist families and children by providing them with the social services, welfare payments and initiatives they need, without the need to increase taxes?
As I said, the government is building a stronger economy and a stronger budget so that we can fund the services that Australian families depend on. Through payments such as the family tax benefit, we are supporting families fairly and sustainably. The government spends over $18 billion on FTB annually, assisting over 1.4 million families.
When Australians need help, our social system is there in place. It's one of the most comprehensive and targeted in the world. We lead the OECD in means-testing welfare payments. Australians on the lowest 20 per cent of incomes receive the highest amount of social assistance benefits, at an average of $517 per week. This is more than 18 times the amount received by those on the highest 20 per cent of incomes, at an average of $28 per week. This government has the balance right.
As I've said before, you don't have to choose between a good economic policy and a good social policy. They're two sides of the one coin. It's like breathing in and breathing out. Good economic policy, good budget policy, is breathing in; good social policy is breathing out. As evidence of this, the government spends more than a third of the Commonwealth budget on the provision of social security and welfare. We can do that because of a strong economy. We've pursued economic growth not as an end in itself—and we haven't pursued good budget policy as an end itself—but in order to sustain the essential services that Australians rely on. Under Labor, in contrast, social security and welfare was growing at an average of 6.2 per cent per year, much faster that total tax revenues of 3.3 per cent per year. Under the coalition, social security and welfare have been growing at an average rate of 2.9 per cent per year, lower than the growth in total tax revenues of 5.3 per cent per year. This is sustainable. (Time expired)