Monday, 5 September 2022
Questions without Notice
Pensions and Benefits
My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Minister Gallagher. Minister, the Treasurer was quoted this morning in relation to the indexation of income support payments as saying:
We know that it won't solve every problem for everybody, but it's important that we try and make sure that those payments keep up.
Minister, today's indexation of income support payments is less than $2 a day extra for someone on JobSeeker. This pathetic increase will leave millions of Australians in really tough times, with payments that are not keeping up, that aren't within cooee of the poverty line, let alone giving people enough to live on. Minister, poverty is a political choice. Why won't your government choose to increase the rate of JobSeeker above the poverty line?
I thank Senator Rice for the question. It's on an important topic and one the government has been looking at closely when we've been working through our line-by-line audit of the budget of those opposite—how they used to allocate money—to see how we can make sure every dollar that is being spent is actually quality spending and is going towards supporting Australia and the Australian people. We've been clear, though, about the rate of JobSeeker. This did come up quite a number of times during the election campaign. Our commitment was to look at payments through the budget process and to look at, basically, how much money is available and ease cost of living where we can.
But we didn't make a commitment to increase JobSeeker over and above the indexation arrangements, which, because of the high inflation, will require a very significant adjustment to the parameters in the October budget, which the budget will have to accommodate as well. Part of the issue we're dealing with here is a trillion dollars of Liberal debt—deficits for as far as the eye can see. We do need to be fiscally responsible as well. They are the challenges facing us as we put together our first budget. We cannot just go and fund all the good ideas we would like to fund, because we've inherited an absolute mess from those opposite—a trillion dollars in debt, programs growing, terminating measures that have no funding beyond the next two years. These are the challenges we're trying to grapple with. But, rest assured, we will do a better job and we will care about people much more than those opposite did. (Time expired)
Minister, you talk about spending every dollar in a quality way, of the trillion dollars of Liberal debt, of being fiscally responsible and, I repeat, that poverty is a political choice. Can you explain then why you are choosing to implement the stage 3 tax cuts, which will give $244 billion over the next 10 years to billionaires and the ultra-wealthy, and to everybody in this place, while people on jobseeker are forced to live below the poverty line?
The priority for the government is to do what we can now, in the immediate term, to deal with the budget mess we have and deal with the cost-of-living pressures that Australians are facing. We have not changed our view on the stage 3 tax cuts. They don't come in until July 2024. There is an immediate issue here, right now, that we are working through. And, believe me, we are working hard every day to go through the budget to try and make room for good ideas that we would like to fund over and above the commitments we made in the election campaign.
But, in terms of immediate cost-of-living relief, they will be things that we do within the October budget, like making medicines cheaper, making investments in cheaper child care and the quite significant parameter variations that we will have on indexing payments, which will make a difference for people who living on those payments.
Minister, I will ask it another way. Can you explain why people living below the poverty line are going to receive a measly $1.84 per day while Labor's stage 3 tax cuts will give Clive Palmer and everyone else earning over $200,000 an extra $24.86 per day?
My answer is the same as my answer to the previous question, which is that we are focused right now on the next two years and what we can do to deal with some of these cost-of-living pressures immediately. The indexation increases to payments will flow through the adjustment made at the end of September. They will provide some assistance to people as we put in place other arrangements to deal with the cost of living, such as our childcare policy and our cheaper medicines. We have not changed our view on stage 3, but that is not until 2024. These issues that people are dealing with right now are right now, and that is our focus as we put together the October budget.
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, Senator Farrell. What is the minister doing to help Australian pensioners deal with the lack of action on and the neglect of cost-of-living issues, which are the legacy of the Morrison government?
I thank Senator Walsh for her question and congratulate her on the terrific job that she is continuing to do for the people of Victoria.
The Albanese Labor government has overseen the largest indexation increases to government payments in the history of more than 30 years of Australian government allowances. Australian pensioners haven't seen a rise like this in over 12 years, over the entire length of the former, cold-hearted Liberal-National coalition government that now sits opposite because the Australian people simply had enough—enough of the lack of economic planning to lead us out of the pandemic and enough of the lazy policy that has left our nation's most disadvantaged the most exposed to the tumultuous global economic conditions.
This government is committed to serving all Australians and ensuring that, no matter what your circumstances, there is a strong social safety net to protect you when you need it most. This reflects the fundamental principles of this government to leave no-one behind and hold no-one back. This indexation will be yet another building block that we are putting in place to help ordinary Australians manage the challenging economic times that we face, ensuring that the government payments keep up with the cost of living.
Our government understands the challenges Australian households are facing with increasing cost-of-living pressures, especially those on low incomes. The measure to increase government payments by four per cent demonstrates yet again how we are committed to a welfare system that supports the most vulnerable Australians, encourages those who are able to work or study and remains sustainable for future generations. (Time expired)
Again, I thank the senator for her very important question. Indexation is not the only measure our government has announced in order to assist pensioners. As discussed in the chamber this morning, following the Albanese government's Jobs and Skills Summit, we announced an increase in the amount pensioners will be able to earn before losing any of their pension. From 1 December 2022 pensioners on the age pension will have their work bonus income bank credited with $4,000. This will take the maximum work bonus income bank from $7,800 to $11,800 until 30 June 2023. The $4,000 increase will be added to each age pensioner's work bonus income bank upfront.
Again, I thank the senator for her question and her commitment to the most disadvantaged people in our community.
The indexation measures announced will go some way to easing the cost-of-living burden facing Australia, and some of our society's most disadvantaged people are feeling that most keenly. These indexation measures have been implemented to address the CPI rate increase of four per cent. The indexation will continue to be applied on a six-monthly basis.
The factors causing price increases are multifaceted, and we must work to address them across budget cycles. We're spending around $126 billion on income support payments through the social security and social services portfolio, which encompass family assistance and student assistance payments in 2022 and 2023. (Time expired.)