Senate debates

Monday, 9 November 2020

Regulations and Determinations

Social Security (Coronavirus Economic Response — 2020 Measures No. 14) Determination 2020

6:46 pm

Photo of Patrick DodsonPatrick Dodson (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Reconciliation) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Social Security (Coronavirus Economic Response—2020 Measures No. 14) Determination 2020, made under the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Act 2020 and the Social Security Act 1991, be disallowed.

Labor is seeking to disallow part 1 of schedule 2 of the Social Security (Coronavirus Economic Response—2020 Measures No. 14) Determination 2020. When making this determination, the Minister for Families and Social Services has reinstated the liquid assets waiting period for people accessing unemployment payments. This move will force thousands of Australians in need to wait up to three months before they can access JobSeeker. The liquid assets waiting period was suspended in March, due to the pandemic, in order for struggling Australians to access the support they needed quickly. Reversing this now is an unnecessary and cruel move at a time of unprecedented hardship for so many Australians. Under the liquid assets waiting period, people with as little as $5,500 in the bank will have to wait to receive unemployment payments. Those with $11,500 or more will be forced to wait up to 13 whole weeks. Liquid assets can include savings, loans to family members not yet repaid and superannuation that has been accessed earlier; in other words, in a time of unprecedented crisis, the government expects Australians to run down every last dollar before they can access unemployment benefits.

To reintroduce the liquid assets waiting period is a false economy. It means that people will be more likely to rely on unemployment relief or emergency relief, on food banks and on other government funded supports. It makes it harder for people to look out for their families during this tough time and for people to get back on their feet. Forcing people to run down every last dollar puts families under unnecessary strain. It is easy for people who have financial buffers to dismiss its importance. Try collecting cans for a week or a month and then see whether it's so easy. I fear too many people on the other side simply do not know what it's like for the cupboards to be bare, for the fridge to be empty, to have nothing but bills in the hallway, for the car to be broken down or have no fuel, to have to make a choice about which bills to pay and which ones to keep juggling, to ignore a sore tooth before a trip to the dentist because a trip to the dentist is simply out of reach. What does this government expect people to do if the fridge blows up, if the car needs new tyres or if the family has medical bills? What if you need to travel for a family emergency or a funeral? Forcing people to use up their modest savings before they can access unemployment support is bad for people's health—for their mental and their physical health.

Reintroducing the liquid assets waiting period is particularly cruel, and it hits doubly on people who have withdrawn their super. Under the government's early access program, many Australians, when faced with uncertainty, dipped into their super and have kept that money in the bank just in case they need it. It's common to hear people talk about their plans to put money back into super in the future if they can. But the government has played a cynical trick on Australians who have taken out their super early, forcing them to run that down too before accessing unemployment support—the very same support that could have been accessed earlier if super had not been withdrawn. It's a cynical move by the government to allow people to withdraw their super because they are worried and insecure, and then, if they do lose their job, to deny them support for 13 weeks. This is not designed to help people who have lost their jobs in the recession. It is simply designed to transfer the cost onto the individuals who can least afford it, by robbing them from their futures.

On top of all this, the government still has plans in the parliament to double the liquid assets waiting period to 26 weeks. That's right: the government has a bill before the parliament right now to make people with modest savings wait 26 weeks before accessing unemployment support. The government may say that they do not have any immediate plans to force this new cruelty on people who lose their jobs, but why then is this plan still in the budget and still in the parliament? Reintroducing the liquid asset waiting period and extending it to six months will only make this recession deeper and longer than it needs to be. The government's so-called payments integrity bill has been stitched in this parliament for far too long. It is time they withdrew it and did away with the cuts to pensions and payments it contains.

The other part of this instrument reduces the rate of the coronavirus supplement from $550 per fortnight to $250 per fortnight. Unfortunately, the Senate doesn't have the power to disallow this part of the instrument without depriving people of the supplement all together, but I consider this is an important opportunity to reflect on the impact of the government's decision to reduce the rate of the coronavirus supplement and, even more importantly, on the government's failure to provide any certainty that will continue past the end of this year. This is a snapback to the tyranny that existed before the pandemic. People need reassurances and stability, not uncertainty and insecurity. By the end of the year, 1.8 million Australians are expected to be on unemployment support. This is 300,000 more people than the government estimated before the budget, and it is one million people more than at the end of 2019.

The budget provided no certainty as to what support would be available for them after 31 December. On 1 January, unemployment support is scheduled to return to its old base rate of $40 per day. Labor acknowledges that the rate of unemployment support is inadequate and that it will crush some people. It is not just Labor that acknowledges this; it's business groups, community groups and even members of the government. It's so inadequate that it is acting as a barrier for people finding work. People are unable to afford new clothes to go to job interviews, internet bills to search for work or transport costs to attend interviews. If you continue to disincentivise and devalue the poor and marginalise people, why should they hope ever to find a job? It's also placing people at risk of hardship and poverty and, more seriously, despair. At a time when the country is facing a recession, unemployment is on the rise and so many ordinary Australians are struggling to get by this is nothing short of cruelty.

The budget was a missed opportunity for the government to do the right thing and deliver a permanent increase to the JobSeeker unemployment payment. Instead, 1.8 million Australians face an anxious Christmas, uncertain and unable to plan for the future. This is not just cruel but bad economic policy. The cuts to the coronavirus supplement will cost local jobs and push people into poverty. We know that Australians receiving social security spend at local small businesses. Taking money from those most likely to spend in local economies will mean unemployment will be higher and for longer periods. While the government has admitted that it doesn't know the economic impact of its decision to cut the coronavirus supplement, Deloitte Access Economics estimate that 145,000 Australian jobs will be lost as a result of the government's scheduled unemployment cut in December.

In the midst of this recession and in the budget the government has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver lasting structural change while boosting local jobs and local businesses. Instead, it is increasingly clear that the government has no plans to create jobs. The government's planned Christmas cut to the coronavirus supplement risks losing more, making the recession deeper and longer. Unemployment is painful and unfair. Hundreds of thousands of Australians will bear the impact of the recession for years to come. Those most vulnerable people—people with disabilities, carers and older Australians—will be impacted the most.

In the last sitting week Labor moved amendments in the House to the government's coronavirus and other measures bill to expand support to age pensioners, disability pensioners, carers and Australians on unemployment support. Labor's amendments called on the government to continue the coronavirus supplement beyond December instead of delivering a cruel Christmas cut to 2.2 million Australians. The government used their numbers to vote those amendments down in the House. We'll be seeking to move similar amendments when the bill is debated in the Senate.

While there is nothing we can do to reverse the cuts to the coronavirus supplement in this determination and it is ultimately up to the government in the House of Representatives whether to continue the supplement past December, we will do all that we can to oppose the unfair reinstatement of the liquid assets waiting period. That is the purpose of this disallowance motion. Now is not the time to force people to draw down on their savings before they can access support. Now is not the time for the government to be punishing them because they've lost their jobs. Now is the time to ensure that people have the support they need without delay. I hope the Senate will support this motion.

6:59 pm

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

I rise to support this motion to disallow part 1 of schedule 2 of the Social Security (Coronavirus Economic Response—2020 Measures No. 14) Determination 2020. This disallowance motion opposes the reintroduction of the liquid assets waiting period test. It is, in fact, identical to the disallowance motion I introduced in October, which we debated but, unfortunately, the Senate did not support. This gives the Senate the opportunity to make sure they support people trying to survive on the JobSeeker payment and on youth allowance payment. It gives the Senate a chance to rethink it and, in my opinion, get it right this time.

The liquid assets waiting period test was initially waived for people on JobSeeker payment, youth allowance and Austudy between March and September this year. We very strongly supported this move. It was the right and sensible thing to do, because people needed to get instant relief when they lost their jobs due to the impact of the coronavirus. They needed the immediate support. They couldn't be left waiting before they could access that support. We supported it and we support the continuation of the waiving of the liquid assets test, because we are not out of this yet. We still have the effects of the pandemic, and now we're in recession. So that sort of support needs to still be in place, particularly for those people who, for example, lose their job because of the changes in the JobKeeper payment. They come off the JobKeeper payment and then, all of a sudden, they're supposed to wait before they can get access to the JobSeeker payment, which in our mind is grossly unfair. Not only is it unfair to those people left hanging, waiting for that; it is also not good for our economy. As I said, this was an essential move in the midst of the pandemic and the recession, and those conditions continue to exist; people are still doing it tough. As I commented earlier this morning, the latest Hunger report from Foodbank shows just how much demand there is out there in the community for their support and services.

On 20 September the government reintroduced this punitive test at a time when millions of Australians are unemployed and underemployed. This means that you now have to serve a waiting period of between one and 13 weeks if you have savings of $5,500 if you are single with no dependants, or savings of $11,000 if you have a partner. At a time when people are still at risk of losing their homes because they either can't pay their mortgage or can't pay their rent, people need to have access to JobSeeker without whittling away their savings. Those savings are going to be needed, because we know, particularly with the cut to the coronavirus supplement, that JobSeeker isn't enough for families get by. It isn't enough for people who are trying to pay their rent, meet their essential bills, spend money in order to find work. It isn't enough. We know that people often rely on their essential savings to supplement the low rate of the JobSeeker payment and youth allowance, especially, as I said, now that the supplement has been cut by $300 a fortnight, and particularly with the uncertainty that still hangs over what the JobSeeker payment plus supplement will be at the end of December.

The government used the spurious argument of 'Let's wait for the labour market before we decide what we're doing with the supplement or whether we're going to increase the JobSeeker rate.' The government knows very well that the JobSeeker rate is too low; that's why they brought in a supplement in the first place. They knew it was untenable for those hundreds and thousands—and now 1.8 million—people who will be unemployed next year to try to exist on $40 a day. What possible reason would you have to wait until you see what the labour market is like, to see whether people can survive on $40 a day again? Expenses are expenses—you still have to pay your rent or your mortgage, put food on the table, pay for your medications, pay for your dental appointments, meet the gap if you aren't lucky enough to go to a GP that bulk-bills, and meet all those other essential payments.

As I said earlier today, we know that poverty, in and of itself, is a barrier to employment. The government is making it even harder for people to do things and to meet the government's own rhetoric. When they say, 'The best form of welfare is a job,' they are making it harder—although I don't actually believe that rhetoric. I don't want people to think the Greens agree with that, because in fact we think we're better off supporting some people in caring roles, for example, or making sure that they are studying so that they can get employment that not only, obviously, supports them but also contributes to our community, because educating and supporting people while they're training helps all of us.

The test makes people wear down their savings and only entrenches poverty and disadvantage. I am deeply concerned that we will see thousands retiring into poverty because the government has made them spend their savings in a job market with very limited opportunities. For older Australians, we know very well that age discrimination is rampant and has not been adequately addressed in this country, and that the training packages don't meet older people's needs. We are in danger of seeing another generation of older Australians retiring into poverty because they've been forced to use up all their savings and they then have to scrape things together on the JobSeeker payment, retiring on the pension in poverty.

This measure puts people on income support payments at further risk of homelessness and of poorer mental health by leaving them in a precarious position with little to no savings, having to survive on the JobSeeker payment. For many people, the only way they can survive on JobSeeker is by supplementing that income with what little savings they have. This could be the difference between hanging in on the mortgage or being able to pay the rent until they find more work, and losing the family home or their rental and having to move and try to find, for example, lower cost accommodation, which we know is very hard to come by.

The reintroduction of the liquid assets waiting period is the latest example of the government going back to its old ways, making our social safety net punitive and harsh. Just today we saw a dorothy dixer, basically, from Senator Hanson to Minister Cash, asking about JobSeeker and mutual obligations. Minister Cash made hay and seemed to delight in the fact that over 250,000 suspensions had occurred. For those who are not au fait with our social security system, a suspension means you don't get paid. You are suspended and then you have to re-engage.

The government themselves know this is a punitive approach because, as I said this morning, in December they are in fact giving people 48 hours grace to reconnect before their payments get suspended—because the government know the impact of that suspension. They know that, for those families that are living hand to mouth, missing a payment at a particular time can be the difference between being able to put food on the table that night or not. That's why they're fixing it—well, not properly fixing it. They should get rid of the whole targeted compliance framework because it is punitive, it doesn't work and it particularly affects people on disability support pension, First Nations people, homeless people—in other words, the people that find it harder to meet some of these mutual obligations. But here we have the government celebrating the fact that there have been a quarter of a million suspensions. And don't forget that is over a period of about five weeks, folks: mutual obligations only came back into effect on 25 September, but already we have a quarter of a million suspensions. The government should hang its head in shame that that many suspensions have occurred. The liquid assets waiting period is going to significantly impact Australians trying to find work.

We know that we are not going to return to pre-pandemic employment figures until 2024, and those figures were nothing to celebrate. There were still too many people unemployed because there wasn't enough work. And the reason that we had so many people out of work is because there are not enough jobs at the moment. So people are being punished through this punitive system because they can't find non-existent jobs.

The government had an opportunity to actually reform our social security system, and that's what people want. People want reform to our social security system. They could have used this time to actually make changes to make sure that we have a system that is supportive; that cares for people; that meets their needs; that doesn't automatically stream people into stream A, for example, where they don't get the help they need; that addresses the age discrimination that we've got in the workforce; and that supports people meaningfully in higher education, instead of passing that higher education bill that went through this place the last time we sat. They could have made changes that enable genuine training, that have employment services that meet people's needs, that are supportive, that aren't punitive, that don't require the employment consultant to suspend you if you haven't turned up as you've missed an appointment or you haven't applied for the number of jobs—it's eight at the moment—because there are no jobs there. And they know very well that all they're doing is ticking the box. Talk to anybody that's been on JobSeeker payment. Particularly when you have to apply for 20 jobs, it is a pointless, soul-destroying exercise because the jobs aren't there but also because they're not qualified for a lot of the jobs they are forced to apply for just so that they've ticked that box.

In New Zealand, they've got studies that show that if you get rejected more than seven times when you're applying for a job it has an impact on your mental health. So, if you are having to apply for 20, imagine what impact that is having on your mental health and wellbeing. Again, the system is being counterproductive because it is a soul-destroying system. I always say to the government members, 'Get on the phone when your constituents ring you up and listen to their experiences with Centrelink, listen to their experiences trying to find work, listen to them in tears because they can't find work and because Centrelink has suspended them again through no fault of their own.' It is a soul-destroying system that defeats its supposed purpose, and that is to support people into employment and to support people in their time of need, and, right now, Australians are in need. Those that are unemployed through no fault of their own because the work isn't there are in need. And what do we do? We're going to make them wait 13 weeks now to get the JobSeeker payment and we're not going to give them any security about whether they're going to go back to $40 a day after Christmas other than vague promises by the Prime Minister when he's asked a question in the other place or the minister for social services at estimates saying it's highly likely that there will be an extension to the supplement. They're not saying what it's going to be or when it's going to come in. Although, we know of course it's got to come in the next two weeks of sitting and this place won't get time to properly review it. It will be rammed through this place with the dagger hanging over our heads, saying: 'If you don't pass this people will not get an increase, so after 31 December they'll be back on $40 a day.' That is not the way to run this country. It's not the way to treat people who are doing it tough right now. I urge the Senate to support this disallowance and do the right thing.

7:13 pm

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to support Senator Dodson's disallowance motion. This is a motion which is in essence an appeal to this chamber and to the Morrison government to show some compassion to the 400,000 Australians who are likely to have lost their jobs by Christmas. Put simply, this motion is an appeal for some common decency.

Reintroducing the liquid assets waiting period means that many people will, in effect, have to become destitute before they can apply for JobSeeker, even if they have modest savings of as little as $5,500 in the bank. As Senator Dodson pointed out, whether they have borrowed money from their family or, at the urging of this government and many conservative commentators, whether they have accessed their super and then lost their jobs or whether they have some redundancy payments, they'll have to run those moneys down before they can access JobSeeker. Many of them will have to wait up to 13 weeks. Often, these are people who have families. These are people who have mortgages, even if they have been able to defer them, and, if not, they will be in default. They're people who have rental accommodation and who can't necessarily secure an arrangement with their landlord. All of this is what this government is now trying to present to us as a means of helping people prepare for a COVID-normal Christmas. To me, it could be a scene from Dickens's A Christmas Carol whereby the Prime Minister is playing Ebenezer Scrooge. He's putting in a peerless performance in doing that. Not only will there be no joy, but there'll be no festivity. Many families will not be able to have basic sustenance, because of the liquid assets waiting period. This is simply not the time for the government to be obsessed with the deficit. As it was said in Alan Kohler's piece in The Australian this morning, this is a time for 'whatever it takes'. It's a time for us to understand just how deep the economic crisis is in this country.

Frankly, if the government abandons people who are struggling, as it seems so intent on doing, the deficit's only going to get worse anyway. Taxes won't be paid where there is no money to be spent or where people simply have nothing to spend. We've seen the government being dragged kicking and screaming to every measure that helps ordinary Australians who've been hit hard by the pandemic. They were very slow to introduce the coronavirus supplement for JobKeeper, and now they seem intent on winding it back as soon as they can. I've already mentioned Alan Kohler. On 29 September he wrote:

… over the next few months, hundreds of thousands of people will go from having a job in February, to getting $750 a week from JobKeeper in March, to now getting $600 a week, and then soon getting $282 a week from JobSeeker. That will be a nightmare for those hundreds of thousands of individuals and their families.

Mr Kohler points out what even the most scrooge-like member of this government should understand: apart from the misery the government is inflicting, the contribution that these folks are actually making to the economy ought not be underestimated. It's an irony, isn't it, that we read in the papers again that the banks and other financial institutions, too, will feel the consequences of the government's actions. How many Australians who are losing their income support have a mortgage? I understand there are roughly 200,000 businesses out there that are on loan deferrals. Will they be able to start repayments? The answer to these questions, as Mr Kohler wrote in The Australian, is 'somewhere between none of them and all of them'. If a third of the loans went into default, that would be four times the current total impairment provisions of the banks and nearly three times last year's total profits. The government is allowing all of this to happen in spite of what is known about the unemployment crisis. The reality is that things are getting worse, not better.

We learned at the estimates hearings that some 1.8 million Australians will be on unemployment support by the end of the year. That's 300,000 more than the government had previously predicted. A recent report by Anglicare, Jobs availability snapshot, found that there are 100 unemployed people for every entry-level job. Cutting unemployment benefits can only make that situation worse. Those benefits not only allow people to put food on the table but are spent in local businesses. Unemployment benefits are not just about supporting individuals but an economic stimulus measure in themselves. That's why Labor has been calling for a permanent increase in the JobSeeker payment, yet the government is prematurely cutting support for people who are unemployed. That's why I say this is a measure that calls for a bit of decency and compassion.

This instrument reduces the coronavirus supplement from $550 to $250 per fortnight. Labor opposes this cut and supports maintenance of the rate at $550 per fortnight to support Australians in this time of acute need. At a time when the country is facing recession, when unemployment is on the rise and when so many ordinary Australians are struggling to get by, as Senator Dobson said, this is nothing short of being cruel. Unfortunately, the Senate simply doesn't have the capacity to do anything about that part of this instrument without depriving people altogether, so we're not seeking to change that. What we're seeking here is to call on the government to immediately reinstate the full amount. We can do so by opposing the restoration of the liquid assets waiting period for assessing unemployment payments, which will force thousands of Australians in need to wait for up to three months before they can access JobSeeker. The liquid assets waiting period was suspended in March, due to the pandemic, so that struggling Australians could get access to what they needed and do so quickly.

That need has not diminished. But, at a time of unprecedented crisis, the government is now expecting Australians to run down every last dollar they have before they can access unemployment benefits. That's why we on this side of the chamber are describing it as cruel and cynical. It's a double hit on those who were urged to take out or draw upon their super. It was a cynical move by a government that sought to undermine industry super in this country and went to some trouble to do that. It leaves people with no buffer whatsoever to meet the normal expenses of life. It leaves people in a destitute situation and forces them to rely upon emergency relief. It forces people to rely upon charity, and there could be nothing quite so cold as that. It's shameful that the government is allowing this to happen. It's shameful that we've had to do this again, as has already been indicated tonight. It is now time for the government to show some common decency, and for this chamber to show some common decency and support this proposition.

7:24 pm

Photo of Malarndirri McCarthyMalarndirri McCarthy (NT, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The reality of this pandemic is that there are much fewer jobs—the ABS estimates that there are almost 360,000 fewer jobs than there were 12 months ago—and the unemployment rate has started rising again. Official estimates put the jobless rate at 6.9 per cent, with 937,400 people out of work. But the pandemic and various government support measures mean that that number drastically understates the unemployment crisis, with more than 1.5 million people on JobSeeker benefits. Reinstating lengthy waiting periods before Australians can access payments such as JobSeeker during this time is not only mean spirited; it is needlessly damaging to people and to the economy. The government should be doing all it can to support those it always leaves behind—people who rely on social security payments, the unemployed, Australians with disability and carers.

Unlike the government, Labor acknowledges that aged pensioners, disability pensioners and carers have endured increased costs in relation to protecting their health during this pandemic. Unlike the government, Labor acknowledges that Australians on unemployment support require certainty about the level of support they are receiving during this uncertain and difficult time. Labor believes we should be expanding support to aged pensioners, disability pensioners, carers and Australians on unemployment support. Australians should not be expected to draw down on their savings and superannuation before they can access help.

The government expects another 400,000 Australians to lose their jobs by the end of the year—so up to 400,000 Australians could be forced to wait up to over three months before they can access JobSeeker. Under the liquid assets waiting period, singles with as little as $5,500 in liquid assets must wait to access income support. Those with $11,500 or more will be forced to wait 13 weeks. Liquid assets can include savings, a redundancy that is owed but not yet paid, loans to family members or superannuation that has been accessed early. Over the past six months extraordinary uncertainty has seen a record number of Australians withdraw their superannuation early. Australians who access their superannuation early will be forced to run it down before they can access income support. This comes at the same time as cuts to JobKeeper payments, which will likely see many people pushed onto unemployment payments for the first time.

To add insult to injury, the government still has plans to double the liquid assets waiting period to up to 26 weeks, or six months. The government wants to force struggling Australians to eat through their savings before they can access income support. Now is not the time to resume the liquid assets waiting period. We ask the government to extend the suspension of the waiting period, and we call on the government to withdraw its bill to double the liquid assets waiting period from the parliament.

The Prime Minister said, 'We are all in this together.' Yet our pensioners and carers have been left behind. He said, 'We are all in this together,' but the 1.8 million Australians who are expected to be on unemployment support by the end of the year have no certainty as to what level of support will be available to them. This is one million more people than were relying on unemployment payments at the end of 2019.

The simple fact is that this recession has more than doubled the number of people who are unemployed and need access to social security. For many families, this is the first time they have needed to rely on unemployment support. This is going to be a really anxious Christmas for Australians who have lost their jobs or who have had their hours slashed. They have no certainty about what level of support will be available to them beyond December. As far as we know, the government is scheduled to cut unemployment support to the old base rate of $40 per day.

These Australians who have lost their jobs cannot plan their finances or household budgets, because they simply don't know what level of support they will be provided. They're expected to run down what savings they have, dip into their superannuation to make ends meet, and, not at all surprisingly, many are worried about how they will afford essentials, cover rent and pay bills. Those thousands of Australians who've taken redundancies at this time, many of them older workers, are having to wait months before support kicks in. Some have had to sell cars and other possessions or pare back necessities to make it through each week. The Council on the Ageing have called on the government to reverse its decision to reintroduce the liquid assets waiting period. They know that unemployed mature workers are among the most vulnerable in what will be a long-term recession.

As businesses restructure, experience from past periods of economic downturn tells us that older workers are amongst the highest proportion of people forced into redundancy. Once unemployed, older jobseekers face poor employment prospects, due largely to age-discriminatory hiring practices. Mature-age unemployed people must not be forced to deplete their retirement savings in order to become eligible for JobSeeker, especially when the overall JobSeeker asset test should be sufficient to determine need. But their arguments have fallen on deaf ears on the government side. With more jobseekers than there are job vacancies, there are simply not enough jobs for everyone who needs one. It's even more difficult to find a job in our regions, the result of the government's failure to deliver a jobs program for our regions. In fact Anglicare's recent jobs snapshot found there are more than 100 people unemployed for every entry-level job. Yet for some reason our Prime Minister and this government seem intent on blaming Australians for losing their jobs.

We know that Australians receiving social security spend on local and small businesses. It means local and small businesses have more to spend on wages and jobs. Unemployment support is economic support. Labor's proposal would disallow the reintroduction of the liquid assets waiting period, as it impacts people with modest savings, including those who have withdrawn their super or are waiting on modest redundancy payments. With the economy in recession, people who have lost their job should be able to maintain a buffer to cover unexpected expenses. They should have a buffer if they get sick, if the car breaks down, if the fridge blows up and so on. This is a false economy, because it will mean more people are forced to rely on emergency relief.

This is the biggest recession in almost a century. It is not the time for this government to be punishing people who have lost their job.

7:32 pm

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

The government does not support this disallowance motion. Means testing is a longstanding and fundamental component of the income support system, and the reintroduction of the liquid assets waiting period is consistent with the targeted support the government is providing through the extension of the coronavirus supplement and the six-month extension to the JobKeeper program.

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the disallowance motion moved by Senator Dodson be agreed to.