Tuesday, 8 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. An Anglicare survey found that, under the old rate of JobSeeker in March, 72 per cent of respondents skipped meals every week, with most skipping an average of three or four meals a week. How many JobSeeker recipients will be forced to skip meals because the Morrison government is refusing to grant a permanent increase?
I thank the senator for her question. I acknowledge the report today, the Anglicare report, which set out its findings from a limited survey of 618 people on their attitudes towards income support payments and mutual obligations. I am unaware of whether this survey is a representative survey, but I would point out that it is exactly that—a survey. I would say, Senator McAllister, that we on this side know, through massive amounts of validated research across many different organisations and by speaking to many Australians, that the best way to improve outcomes for people, their wellbeing and their livelihoods is to make sure that we have a strong economy that creates jobs so people have got jobs. We know from surveys such as the HILDA Survey that people who live in a household that does not have employment income are much more likely to have worse wellbeing outcomes than those people that live in houses where income is generated through employment. Whilst, obviously, we will continue to work—
My point of order goes to relevance. The minister has indicated that she doesn't necessarily accept the Anglicare survey results, but my question really was about how many JobSeeker recipients she considers will be forced to skip meals. If she doesn't accept the Anglicare results, I'd appreciate understanding what her understanding of the consequences is.
Senator McAllister, with respect, towards the end you strayed from your point of order. The minister can be directly relevant while she is talking about the survey or while she is talking about JobSeeker or one of the other elements of your question. To that extent, the minister is being directly relevant. I can't instruct her how to answer the question.
The most important thing that we can do to make sure that people have the best possible opportunity and have the wellbeing that we would like every Australian to have is make sure that there are jobs in the economy so people can go to jobs. I'd also point out that the government remains committed to supporting Australians through this pandemic. In fact, in a minute, some legislation will come into this place that seeks to extend the coronavirus supplement, to enable people to have that additional level of support as we recover from this pandemic.
Following the initial reduction of the coronavirus supplement, an ACOSS survey found in September that 80 per cent of respondents would skip meals and reduce their intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. How many children will be forced to skip meals and miss out on fresh fruit and vegetables because the Morrison government is refusing to grant a permanent increase to JobSeeker for their parents?
As this place must acknowledge, since March, when we collectively—everybody—made a decision that we would put additional support in place for all Australians to help them through this once-in-a-century pandemic, we have had in place elevated levels of support through welfare payments, through the coronavirus supplement and through other payments that were made through stimulus payments. But, at the same time, we also worked through the employment situation, to make sure we kept people engaged with their employers, through the JobKeeper program. These measures are still in place. They remain in place now and they will continue to be in place—
My point of order is on direct relevance. This is a question that goes to an issue the Senate is keen to hear an answer on—Australian children being forced to skip meals and miss out on fresh fruit and vegetables. I would ask you to ask the minister to return to the question.
The minister can be directly relevant to this question by addressing the matters you raised, Senator Wong. The preface to that part of the question also includes a reference to a supplement payment. The minister is in order if she is addressing any part of the question, and I believe she is directly relevant, at the moment, in doing that.
One of the great hallmarks of Australia's welfare system is that it is comprehensive and it is targeted. In addition to the elevated payments that are currently available to people on welfare, we also have a number of other payments to support them. (Time expired)
Why is the Morrison government prioritising spending $15 million of taxpayers' money on a marketing campaign praising a comeback while leaving Australians behind and forcing them to skip meals during the deepest recession in almost a century?
In 2019, the government spent in excess of $200 billion supporting Australians through our very comprehensive welfare system. I can assure you, Senator McAllister, in 2020, the amount of support that has been provided to the Australian public who find themselves on tough times will be significantly higher than that $200 billion that was spent in the previous year, because we as a government—with the support of those opposite and everyone in this chamber and the other place—voted to support Australians with elevated levels of payment during that time.
In response to your question, the government have stood side by side with Australians who have done it tough through this pandemic. We remain side by side with those people, and we will continue to support them for as long as is needed. (Time expired)