The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (17:35): Having listened to the contribution made by the Hon. Mr Kandelaars, I can only comment: how the mighty have fallen in relation to the old Labor lefties who were there from years ago, pledging to support the impoverished and single parent families. The old Labor lefties, like the Hon. Mr Kandelaars, who for a variety of reasons sold out and joined the Labor right, are now standing up in the parliament and defending what, over the years, they would have trenchantly opposed should it have been introduced by a conservative federal government. I guess everyone has their price, and the Hon. Mr Kandelaars and the Hon. Mr Wortley and others have their seats on the red benches in the Legislative Council.
The Liberal Party’s position has been consistent on this. The only aspect of the Hon. Mr Kandelaars’ contribution we do acknowledge is that this is a federal issue, and increasingly we are seeing more and more federal issues and international issues: the Hon. Mr Kandelaars is asking us to comment on New Zealand parliament issues in another motion. But putting that aside, the member for Morphett (Dr McFetridge) has had carriage of this for the Liberal Party. Having consulted our federal Coalition, he took a position to the state parliamentary party room, and our position was to support our federal Coalition colleagues on this, and on that basis we will not be supporting the motion of the Hon. Tammy Franks.
The only aspects I would address, in terms of the notes provided to me by, firstly, the member for Morphett (Dr McFetridge) and indirectly by our federal Coalition spokespersons, is to make the comment that if this federal government were genuinely committed to assisting parents back to work it would be providing additional assistance in terms of assisting those parents in finding work and seeking jobs. At the same time as this federal government has been making these changes, it has been slashing $162 million from Job Services Australia assistance for job seekers, and they have also cut a further $44 million from outcome payments for Job Services Australia providers.
If the intention was to actually move people into jobs—and that is something the federal Coalition supports in terms of genuine long-term reform—as opposed to just budget savings measures, in making this change the government would be either maintaining job seeker assistance for people being affected by these changes or increasing assistance in finding jobs. So if you are going to make a change ostensibly to say, ‘Okay, we want to move individuals off a particular benefit into a job and via a different benefit to get them into a job,’ then at the same time, if that is your purpose, you should be at least maintaining job-seeker assistance, retraining packages or providing additional targeted training packages to assist that particular process.
Our federal Coalition position is to support the notion of getting more and more people off benefits and into employment. The Coalition’s position—and it is supported by the state party—is that long-term generational unemployment and having to survive on benefits is not healthy for the individuals, the families and the long term. Clearly it is in their best interests if people can be moved out of benefits and into work.
Of course, that is affected by the health of the economy and I do not propose at the moment to talk about everything that is wrong with the federal and the state government’s management of the economy and the fact that the jobs that should be there are not being provided at the moment—that is a debate for another time. Clearly you need other changes as well.
The final comment I would make of a personal nature is that, of course as individuals, I am sure most of us are sympathetic to the difficulties that individuals and families have in terms of surviving on benefits. The insensitive comments made by the federal Labor minister in relation to this issue which attracted much criticism is a further indication of a government and a party which has lost all touch with its former constituency.
It is no wonder that working-class Australians have lost faith in federal Labor and state Labor when you see such insensitive comments being made by a federal Labor minister, and I note no criticism of that from any member of the state Labor government here in South Australia. They are often out there tweeting or criticising comments made occasionally by federal Liberal spokespersons or state Liberal spokespersons, but not one tweet of criticism from anyone of the federal minister’s insensitive comments in relation to the level of benefits and whether or not someone could live on those particular benefits on a particular day.
With that, I indicate the Liberal Party’s position is to support the position the federal Coalition has adopted on this federal issue and we therefore will not be supporting the motion.