BILLS – Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Coronavirus and Other Measures) Bill 2020 – Consideration in Detail – Thursday, 29 October 2020
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the Opposition) (13:09): I second the amendment moved by the member for Barton. I do so as it is a practical initiative to make a difference to the lives of people who are doing it tough. There are many amendments, and sometimes in this place we move amendments just to make a point, to show a difference of values. This isn’t one of those. This is the only way that you can get a real change in the income support for people, whether they be age pensioners, disability support pensioners, carers or, indeed, people who are on Newstart.
What the amendment moved by the member for Barton does, given the constraints that are there on money bills in this parliament and how you can move amendments that would have a fiscal impact, is say that the minister must consider what additional payments may be required by extending the COVID-19 supplement until 28 March 2021 at the amount of $250 a fortnight, in line with extensions to JobKeeper payments. Then it lists the potential recipients of this support: age pensioners, disability support pensioners and people who receive carer payment. Those measures are practical ones, because we know that if you are on one of those payments then you are currently subject to additional costs just to get by from day to day. You have to have in your budget, in your fortnightly payment—and I grew up in a household with a mother; our only income was the invalid pension every fortnight. My mum would go to Grace Bros and would have everything budgeted down to literally the last cent as a way of getting by.
I’ve got to say that, when I was growing up, this wonderful hand sanitiser that has made a difference to people’s lives wasn’t something that was in the budget. I suspect it wasn’t in age pensioners’ budgets, but they have to get it because we know that elderly people are particularly susceptible to this virus. So this is put forward by the member for Barton in good faith. Because we’re not able to instruct the Treasurer on what to do on a money bill, it’s asking him to give consideration to it. For the life of me, I can’t understand why this government doesn’t embrace the amendment and just give it support.
The second element, of course, is the issue of JobSeeker. I’ve been asked as leader of the Labor Party what I think the amount should be. One of the things that I have done is try to give the government space to move, not to put it in a position of having argy-bargy and playing politics with it but to say that we all know that $40 a day is not enough to survive on. They acknowledged that when they brought in the JobSeeker payments that effectively doubled the rate of Newstart allowance. I haven’t said that it should remain at double the amount. That’s not our position, and I wouldn’t expect it to be the government’s position. But we are saying to give people certainty and provide for an increase. The idea that you’re going to announce in December what money people will have at the end of December, during Christmas and during that period—there are families that will be thinking now about whether they can afford to take their kids to the beach holiday that they might get to go on once a year for a week or so. There will be families who will be making that decision. We wouldn’t ask any of us to be put in a position whereby we don’t know at the beginning of December what income we are going to have at the end of December. We wouldn’t ask people to be in that position, and the government shouldn’t be putting people in that position either. We need a permanent increase to the base rate of JobSeeker payments. I commend the amendment to the House.