PMB: Poverty

02 February 2017

rise to speak on the issue of poverty, which is a serious and ongoing problem in Australia. As we have heard, poverty is on the rise, the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing, and the government's ongoing cuts to welfare payments are only making matters worse. Far from having a plan to reduce inequality and poverty in Australia, this government is intent on pushing more people below the poverty line.

This government's Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017, being debated in the House on this very day, continues to slash and burn the welfare safety net that has been so important to so many for so many years. Here is the list of cuts that this government would ram through: cuts to family tax benefits, which would leave a typical family on $60,000 a year around $750 a year worse off; cuts to paid parental leave, which will make 70,000 new mums worse off; scrapping the energy supplement, a billion-dollar cut to pensioners, people with disability, carers and Newstart recipients; and a five-week Newstart wait, forcing young people to live off nothing for five weeks. I doubt that any of us here in this place could do that, let alone people who are some of the most vulnerable in the community. They will have to wait five weeks before they can access any kind of income support

There are cuts to payments to young people between the ages of 22 and 24 by pushing them onto the lower youth allowance—a cut of around $48 a week, or almost 2½ thousand dollars a year. That is an enormous amount of money when you are between the ages of 22 and 24, and trying to get on with your life. They are scrapping the Pensioner Education Supplement and the Education Entry Payment, and cutting the pension to migrant pensioners who spend more than six weeks overseas, often keeping their family connections close—it is so wrong. And if all that were not bad enough, the Turnbull government is holding the National Disability Insurance Scheme hostage over its $5.6 billion in cuts to families, new mums, pensioners, people with disability, carers and young job seekers—truly, trading off one group against another.

I have spoken in this place previously about the Turnbull government's attack on pensioners. Its changes to the assets test that came in this year have the pensioners in my seat of Paterson truly reeling. Its refusal to review the deeming rates, which are just ridiculous; its mean and miserly plan to keep older Australians working to the age of 70; and giving $50 billion of tax cuts to big business just do not add up.

There are attacks on Medicare, attacks on school funding and attacks on so-called Centrelink debtors. It goes on and on. This government does not care that poverty is getting worse in Australia or that inequality is getting worse in Australia, because if it did it would stop the slash and burn of our welfare safety net. It would recognise that poverty is associated with worse health and worse education outcomes, and with a higher risk of exposure to violence and to prison. These are not the foundations of a terrific society, the society that we have in Australia that we want to try to boost. It would recognise that poverty affects Indigenous Australians more than any others, and that we are in fact now nowhere near closing the gap in life expectancy or in any measure of health and wellbeing between our first peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.

And then we have the gleeful response by those on the coalition to the Fair Work Commission's cut to penalty rates last week. The workers affected by this callous decision are some of the lowest-paid in our community. In fact, nearly 700,000 Australians will be $77 a week worse off under this decision. Seventy-seven dollars is a lot of money when you are working on a Sunday to try to make ends meet.

And who is speaking up for them? Not the Turnbull government. They have been incredibly quiet. It is only Labor that is going to speak up every day, going into bat for these workers. And we will shout it from the rooftops, from this day to election day, reminding people who their friends are when it comes to trying to make ends meet. That is Labor—it is certainly not the Turnbull Liberal government.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting. The Federation Chamber is suspended until 4 pm.