Thursday, 17 October 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. Can the minister confirm that in September Newstart payments were indexed by only 24c per day?
I thank Senator Dodson for his question. I can confirm that in September, as it was in March this year and as it is every other year, Newstart was indexed the same way—that is, by CPI. For the last 20 years it has been indexed this way, including under the government that I have been a part of for the last six years. It's also the same way and by the same mechanism that it was increased by your government for the years that you were in government.
What I can say is that Newstart is a safety net payment that is provided to people who find themselves without a job. Clearly nobody on this side of the chamber—and I'm sure nobody on that side or anywhere in this chamber—would suggest that living without a job would be easy, but the one thing that we are absolutely committed to, as a government, is to make sure that we not only create the jobs but create the pathways to the jobs and to break down the barriers.
This morning's news about the increased growth in employment is really good news for Australians who find themselves without a job, because it's by the creation of more jobs that we are able to increase the level of participation of Australians in the workforce, because we know that the health and wellbeing of Australians is enhanced by them having a job. The way that we continue to create jobs is by continuing to grow the economy and by making sure that the economy is strong, because it is the economy that creates jobs and it is the jobs that the economy creates that are the things that are an absolutely essential component of us being able to assist people off welfare and into a job. But that's not all we're doing. We understand that providing that safety net is not our only responsibility. We have further responsibilities to make sure that we create pathways to jobs and that we continue to break down the barriers to enable people who currently find themselves without work into work.
The Reserve Bank governor has said that boosting the rate of Newstart would be, 'good for the economy'. Why is the Morrison government refusing to do something that's good for Australians and good for the economy?
The government is absolutely focused on policies that have the most positive impact on the economy, like boosting productivity, creating jobs and, of course, moving people from welfare into a job. But, clearly, welfare is not a stimulus; it is designed as a safety net. The proportion of Australians currently receiving working-age income support payments has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years. It's down to 14.3 per cent. There are 230,000 fewer Australians on working-age payments than there were in 2014. That's 230,000 families who now have a job to be able to provide the assistance to their families. So, focusing on the creation of jobs, we make no apology for creating jobs and getting people into work, because we believe that's the best way—
The governor of the Reserve Bank, KPMG, the Business Council of Australia, ACOSS, Deloitte Access Economics, the Country Women's Association and the former Prime Minister Mr John Howard have called for the government to increase the rate of Newstart. Given the minister famously told pensioners that what they received was 'generous', does the minister also think that Newstart is generous?
I'm going to leave that in the hands of Senator Ruston. It wasn't unparliamentary. I don't consider it to be a reflection given the jousting that has been happening and the interjections across the chamber. I'll leave it in the hands of the senator. I allowed you to make the point, Senator Wong, but I might say that some of the interjections have been particularly robust this question time. Senator Ruston.
I thank Senator Dodson for his question because I can absolutely assure this chamber that getting people from welfare into a job is something that this government takes very, very seriously. It's the creation of those jobs that's important. But can I just say: Australia's comprehensive welfare system recognises that there are times when Australians are down on their luck. And we need to make sure that we have a safety net, not just for this generation but for future generations, to make sure that we're here to help them in their time of need, and not just when they find themselves in tough times but to make sure that the safety net is in place for as long as they need it, but it has to be sustainable. And we will continue to work on all of the components and all of the elements that are essential for a stronger Australia.