The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child
Care Reform) Bill 2017 incorporates measures from the Social Services
Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measure)
Bill 2016, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2016,
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Youth Employment) Bill 2016, measures
from the 2016-2017 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook as well as the Jobs for
Families Child Care Package measures, Paid Parental Leave measures and one
By recycling and continually reintroducing measures, some that have been
rejected since the 2014 Budget, the Government is once again demonstrating that
it still does not understand that attacks on our social safety net have been
rejected as cruel and unfair.
Numerous submitters to the inquiry have expressed concern about the
Government’s repeated attempts to reintroduce these measures. These concerns
are due to the impact these measures will have on low income and vulnerable
people and have been repeated to a number of different inquiries when many of
these measures were included in other Bills.
The Australian Greens are deeply concerned by the Government's repeated
rejection of the expertise and evidence given by stakeholders in their
continued pursuit of these harsh cuts.
In this regard the National Social Security Right Network (NSSRN) said
in their submission:
[These measures] attracted widespread criticism in the
community and were rejected because they were harsh and unfair, especially in
light of the continued failure of this Government to make meaningful progress
on taxation reform. The reintroduction of these proposals yet again suggests a
Government deaf to the concerns of the community about fairness.
The measures in this Bill will hurt many struggling Australians. The
Australian Greens will not support cuts to the social safety net to pay for
childcare reforms and the NDIS. The Government needs to look at revenue raising
strategies such as reforming negative gearing, closing tax loopholes and ending
subsidies to mining companies and large corporations.
This Bill contains measures that the Australian Greens oppose including
cuts to FTB-A and FTB-B, (FTB) supplements, imposing a four week period with no
income on young unemployed people and cutting the energy supplement. We oppose
these attacks on vulnerable people. These measures would reduce the incomes of
millions of people who can least afford it.
The Australian Greens outlined our concerns regarding many of the
measures contained in this Bill in our dissenting report to the Social
Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and
Participation Measures) Bill 2016, the Social Services Legislation
Amendment (Youth Employment) Measures 2015 and the Social
Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2016. The concerns
outlined in these dissenting reports still stand.
The Government has previously stated that the purpose of many of the
measures in this Bill is to make provision for the additional $3 billion needed
for the measures contained in the Jobs for Families Child Care Package
as well as to fund the NDIS. The Government has since stated they will require
$1.65 billion to pay for the childcare measures through savings found
predominantly through changes to the family day-care sector. The Australian
Greens reject the linking of family payment cuts to increased investment in
child care. Additional investment in early childhood education and care should
not come at the expense of low income families.
The Australian Greens are concerned that measures in this Bill will have
a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children by
failing to providing adequate supports for children and the services that meet
their unique needs.
The Australian Greens oppose the Paid Parental Leave measures in this
bill which would prevent employees accessing the Commonwealth Paid Parental
leave scheme to supplement any private parental leave agreement beyond a
cumulative total of 20 weeks paid leave at the minimum national wage.
While the measure that denies young people income support has been
watered down in response to the enormous community backlash, refusing access to
income support based on age still represents one of the most significant
changes to the Australian system of income support since it was first
introduced in a consolidated Social Security Act in 1947.
All of the inquiries relating to the measures in this Bill received
clear evidence of the negative impacts that the measures in this Bill would
have. The recommendation in the Majority Report that the measures be passed
simply cannot be justified by the evidence given to the committee. As a result,
we can only conclude that the Majority Report conclusions are based on ideology
rather than on evidence.
This dissenting report will examine each of the measures in turn.
Payment Rates of Family Tax Benefit Part A
While Schedule 1 increases FTB Part A by $10 per week for each child up
to 19 years old it does not offset the losses for all families receiving FTB
under Schedule 3, leaving families worse off.
Family Tax Benefit Part B Rate
Schedule 2 abolishes FTB Part B
for single parents under 60 years of age at the beginning of the calendar year
their youngest child turns 17. While this is a softening of the previous
measure that reduced FTB Part B by almost two thirds for sole parents whose
youngest child was 13 or over, this measure incurs the package's single largest
cut to income for people affected. A sole parent (under 60) with one child
turning 17 years would lose roughly $3,400 per year (factoring in the loss of
supplements and $10 per week increase in FTB Part A).
The National Social Security
Rights Network said in their submission:
The NSSRN opposes these cuts. They are harsh and unfair and
affect the poorest families in our community. Cuts of this kind need a very
strong rationale, which the Government has not provided.
Family Tax Benefit Supplement
Schedule 3 phases out the end of
year supplements ($726 per child per year for Part A and $354 per family for
Part B) over two years. Families will be at least $210 per child per annum
worse off. A dual income family with one primary school aged child would be
$210 a year or $4 a week worse off. A single income family with a child in
primary school would be $560 a year worse off, or $10 a week. This end of year
supplement is crucial for low income families managing a tight budget.
ACOSS outlined their deep
concerns regarding the impacts of schedules 1-3 in this Bill in their
submission to the inquiry:
ACOSS has long advocated for reform of the family payments
system to address the high level of child poverty in Australia. Instead of
addressing child poverty, we are deeply concerned that the proposed package
would instead cause serious financial harm to many low income and vulnerable
families. Since 2009, at least $12 billion has been cut from the family payment
system. These latest cuts would take another $2.7 billion out of the system and
would hurt those on the lowest incomes.
Single parents and single income
families with pre-school and primary school age children will lose more, as
they also lose the FTB-B supplement, currently $354 per year per family. Single
parent families with older children in year 11 or year 12 (depending on the
child’s age) will lose even more, as they lose eligibility for FTB-B entirely
from the end of the year their child turns 16. For the majority of families
receiving FTB, who have household incomes under $80,000, this is a loss of
income support of at least $200 per year per child, more if they are a single
In their submission the National
Council of Single Mothers and their Children noted:
Low income sole parents have repeatedly borne the brunt of
successive cuts. Struggling sole parent families, mostly headed up by a mother,
have no financial capacity to absorb any further reductions.
The Australian Greens are deeply
concerned about the risk to food security for low income and single parent
families if their payments are cut. Dr Cassandra Goldie gave the following
evidence to the inquiry:
Both anecdotally and from research we have available,
including from excellent work from some of our members, food has become one of
the most discretionary items for households on very low incomes—particularly
adults trading off a meal and also their accelerated accessing of food parcels
from those of our members who provide those kinds of services. That is hardly
an acceptable situation in a country like ours.
The Australian Greens do not
support these changes to Family Tax Benefits. They are unnecessary and unfair
and will have a significant impact on single parents and low income families.
Let it be clear, these cuts to the Family Tax Benefit will affect the most
vulnerable in our society, children. Single parent families have been unfairly
targeted again and again and the Australian Greens cannot support measures that
would hurt single parent families.
Jobs for Families Child Care Package
The Inquiry received a
submission with signatories from 23 early education and care sector peak
bodies. A number of concerns regarding these reforms were raised in that
submission, including the delay in the implementation of these reforms, the
unnecessary coupling of childcare reforms to significant cuts to social
services and the potential for some children to be left without access to two
full days of childcare each week.
The Australian Greens support
the purported aim of the childcare reforms to 'improve access to the
affordability of early childhood education and care'.
The Australian Greens remain
concerned, however, that the childcare measures included in this Bill as
currently drafted will not achieve these aims, and will in fact result in a
number of families being unable to access childcare or receive reduced access
to subsidised care.
The Australian Greens are
concerned by the imposition of a minimum requirement of 8 hours of activity per
fortnight in order to receive subsidised child care and note that a number of
vulnerable families may not be able to meet this minimum requirement. The
Greens are therefore concerned that a number of lower socio-economic and
middle-income families will be ineligible for adequate levels subsidised
childcare under this scheme.
The Australian Greens also
recognise concerns that the proposed activity test inadvertently creates
barriers to work for families where at least one parent does not have secure,
regular employment and believe amendments are required to ensure the system is
fair for parents engaged in irregular work and does not leave them with
inadequate child care subsidy to meet their work commitments, or higher childcare
costs. Without amendment, this activity test will present a barrier for new
mothers trying to re-enter the workforce through casual and irregular
employment. Without a minimum amount of childcare guaranteed, many parents will
find it near impossible to take on extra hours of work.
The Australian Greens also
remain concerned that the Bill may have a detrimental impact on children from
remote and rural parts of Australia, and in particular Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander children. The Australian Greens refer to concerns raised by the
Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) in their
submission and in their evidence provided at the public hearing into the Jobs
for Families Childcare Package in 2016, in particular:
The proposed closure of the Budget Based Funding Program;
The risk posed to the loss or reduction to the Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander sector; and
The increased cost of service delivery to remote areas, in
particular for Indigenous communities.
The Australian Greens are
further concerned that the introduction of the activity test will reduce access
to subsidised childcare for vulnerable children and is counter to the
acknowledged need to increase participation in early childhood services for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Proportional payments of pensions outside Australia
Schedule 5 reduces from 26 weeks
to six weeks the period during which age pensions, and a small number of other
payments with unlimited portability, can be paid outside Australia at the basic
means-tested rate. After six weeks, payments will be adjusted according to the
length of the pensioners' Australian working life residence.
This measure is a tightening of
an existing restriction, rather than addressing a gap in the system. The
measure is poorly targeted, and does not recognise the range of circumstances
in which pensioners may need to travel for more than 6 weeks outside Australia.
The National Social Security
Rights Network said in its submission:
The rules concerning payment of income support overseas
(known as portability) have been progressively tightened over a number of
years, especially since 2004. We consider that the rules already place great
weight on the principle of residence and this further tightening is unjustified
because it does not give enough weight to the importance of travel overseas,
especially for the many older Australians who are migrants and have strong ties
to family and communities overseas.
The Australian Greens do not
support this measure. It is unfair and will have a significant impact on Age
Pension recipients as well as those accessing a disability support pension.
Pensioner education supplement and Education Entry Payment
Schedule 6 would cease a
pensioner's education supplement and Schedule 7 would cease the education entry
payment from 1 January or 1 July after the day the Act receives Royal Assent
These measures would remove
study assistance available to people who rely on income support. There are
33,000 people currently receiving the Pensioner Education Supplement (PES),
most of whom receive Parenting Payment Single, Disability Support Pension and
Carer Payment. There are 83,000 recipients of the Education Entry Payment,
which amounts to $208 per year. These measures particularly disadvantage sole
parents who are already facing payment cuts.
ACOSS outlined in their
Sole parents have also lost the Low Income Support Bonus and
new recipients would lose the Family Tax Benefit Energy Supplement payment,
which adds up at least $350 per annum. This would make it more difficult to
pursue education and training, which is essential to improving work prospects.
Around 40% of PES recipients are sole parents and another 40% are Disability
Support Pensioners. The remainder are carers and widows. Three quarters of
recipients are women. Sole parents in particular may need to obtain further
educational qualifications to re-enter employment after a period of full or
part time care.
The Australian Greens continue
to oppose these measures. These supplements assist income support recipients to
engage in education and training. This can improve their prospects of entering
the labour market, as well as providing the other social and personal benefits
of education. The social security system should provide additional support to
engage in education and training for income support recipients who do not
receive a student payment. These supplements and payments assist with a range
of additional costs of study, including travel costs and course material and
equipment costs that are not covered in programs like HECS-HELP, FEE HELP and
VET FEE HELP.
These measures will make it
harder for those already struggling on income support to access education; it
contradicts the Government's claimed agenda of encouraging people to improve
their skills and enter the workforce and weakens supports to those studying and
relying on income support.
Once again single parents will
be bearing the brunt of the Government's harsh cuts.
Freezing Indexation of Income Free Areas
The amount certain income
support recipients can earn (before their payments are reduced) will cease to
increase in line with inflation for three years.
Freezing indexation of income
free areas would reduce the amount that people on income support can earn
before their payments are reduced. This would reduce the overall income for
people partly reliant on income support as well as those in paid employment.
This would largely impact Newstart recipients and sole parents, most of whom
are already living on inadequate incomes. It would have a flow on effect of
preventing payment recipients from accessing state concessions that are based
on receiving a full rate of payment, such as transport concessions.
ACOSS has warned of these
measures pushing people further into poverty should they be introduced:
Income free areas should not be adjusted through ad-hoc
freezing of indexation to achieve short term budget savings at the expense of
reducing the incomes of people on low wages. People on allowances are already
relying on inadequate levels of income support. Any measure which further
reduces the adequacy of incomes for people partly reliant on allowances should
be strongly opposed.
The Australian Greens do not
support this measure. It will reduce the amount of money people on income
support can earn in real terms before their payments are reduced dropping
people further into poverty and making it harder to enter the workforce.
Close the energy supplement to new welfare recipients
Schedule 9 ceases from 20
September 2017 the payment of the energy supplement to recipients who were not
receiving a welfare payment on 19 September 2016 and closes the energy
supplement to new welfare recipients from 20 September 2017.
This schedule reintroduces a
measure which would close the energy supplement to new social security
recipients. The Australian Greens are opposed to this measure as it would
reduce income support payments to millions of people, most of who are already
below the poverty line. This measure would affect 2.2 million people over the
forward estimates, including Age Pensioners, Disability Support Pensioners,
Carer Payment recipients, family payment recipients, Parenting Payment and
recipients of Newstart and Youth Allowance.
The NSSRN stated in their
We are particularly disappointed that the Minister continues
to state that this measure simply removes compensation no longer needed because
of the repeal of the carbon tax. That this is incorrect (because normal indexation
of the basic payment rates did not occur at the time the supplement was
introduced) and has been pointed out numerous times in the media and by experts
in this area.
This measure cannot be supported
by the Australian Greens. It would see the payment drop to a rate lower than it
would have been if there had been no carbon price or compensation due to the
adjustment to indexation when the Energy Supplement was introduced. It would
put people living on already inadequate payments further into poverty.
Stopping the payment of pension supplement after six weeks overseas
This measure will stop the
payment of pensions supplement after six weeks temporary absence overseas and
immediately for permanent departures.
This measure would apply to the
GST component of the Pension Supplement as the rest of the supplement is
already no longer not payable after six weeks overseas. While in theory this
measure should not disadvantage pensioners whilst overseas because they are not
paying GST, in practice it reduces their income. This underscores the need for
supplements to be rolled into the base rate. Many affected by this measure may
be affected by the reduced portability (and reduced pension) in Schedule 5.
The Australian Greens do not
support this measure.
Automation of income stream review processes
This measure will allow for the
automation of the regular income stream review process by enabling the
Secretary to require income stream providers to transfer a data set to the
Department of Human Services (DHS) on a regular basis.
The Australian Greens cannot
support this measure. As we have seen with the recent Centrelink debacle and
ensuing inquiry, there is a distinct lack of public confidence in DHS
particularly in regards to automated systems. Considering the mistakes that
have been made in the automation of Centrelink debt assessments, there is good
reason to hold concerns about the implementation of such a program and the
Department of Human Services' capacity to accurately implement and assess an
income stream review process via an automated system.
While technology can be
beneficial to both the Department of Human Services and those using the social
security system, as we have recently seen, the Government has been unable to
implement and maintain an accurate automated debt recovery program as well as a
reliable online service and phone system. That they are proposing another
automated review process before the current crisis has been resolved is deeply
In this regard Ms Charmaine
Crowe, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer from ACOSS told the inquiry:
Our concern remains around the accuracy of the automation of
the process. As you have pointed out, we are not filled with confidence when it
comes to the automation of income assessment, which we are seeing with the
Centrelink debt recovery process.
The Australian Greens would be
deeply concerned to see this review process used retrospectively. Until the
issues with the current automated data-matching system have been completely
resolved, and recommendations of the inquiry implemented, the Australian Greens
cannot support this measure due to the inordinate amount of risk involved.
Seasonal horticultural work income exemption
This measure would allow
approximately 7,600 people receiving an unemployment payment each year access
to an income bank of $5,000 if they undertake seasonal horticultural work 120
kilometres away from their home.
The Australian Greens believe
this style of policy initiative should be broadened to apply to all people
receiving an unemployment payment. As suggested by ACOSS, the Government should
consider an income bank of $4,000 for Newstart and Youth Allowance (Other)
payments that accrues over time to enable all receiving an unemployment payment
to undertake casual or sporadic work without incurring a sharp or total loss of
payment. An income bank would also reduce the likelihood of people receiving
unemployment payments accruing a debt.
ACOSS noted in their submission:
This kind of measure must be carefully thought through because
it sets a precedent of directing people who are unemployed into a specific
industry. Such measures should also be considered in terms of how it would
assist people to get secure, sustainable and meaningful work.
We share the concerns of NSSRN
who stated in their submission:
Incentives like this have generally been unsuccessful in the
past (the Job Commitment Bonus for example), because there are other far more
significant factors affecting the take up of work. They are also a departure from
very fundamental principles of payment according to need and can therefore lead
The Australian Greens believe
that this measure has some merit and could be explored further for those on
Newstart and Youth Allowance (Other) payments but have concerns that it is
limited to one industry.
Ordinary waiting periods
This schedule makes amendments
to extend and simplify the ordinary waiting period (OWP) for working age
payments and will affect parenting payments and will make single parents wait
longer to access payments.
Currently, most Newstart
recipients must serve an ordinary waiting period of seven days before
allowances are payable. This Schedule provides that the current exemption on
the basis of severe financial hardship will only apply if the person is also
experiencing a personal financial crisis.
Schedule 13 extends the OWP to
Parenting Payment and Youth Allowance (other), which is paid to young job
seekers under age 22 who are not full-time students or apprentices. It makes
this waiting period consecutive on other waiting periods and also changes the
circumstances in which it can be waived.
In addition to severe financial
hardship, the claimant must also be experiencing a "personal financial
crisis" which is defined to mean: being subjected to domestic violence,
incurring unavoidable or reasonable expenditure or any other circumstance
specified by the Secretary in a legislative instrument for this purpose.
The Australian Greens share the
deep concerns of NSSRN in regards to this measure:
The intention of these amendments should be recognised. They
are intended to ensure that most claimants serve a one week waiting period on
top of any other waiting periods, and that it cannot be waived even if they are
in severe financial hardship. This should be rejected. It is a fundamental
departure from the principle of need, the basic principle of the Australian
social security system. The existing rule for waiver of the OWP is sound and
consistent with this basic principle and should be retained.
The Australian Greens cannot
support this measure. It will mean that parents with children to care for will
have to go without income for a week which will unfairly impact on children. We
are also deeply concerned that severe financial crisis alone does not result in
an exemption from this waiting period, pushing people further into financial
Age requirements for various Commonwealth payments
This measure increases the
eligibility age for some income support payments.
Young people aged 22-24 would no
longer be eligible for Newstart allowance or sickness allowance until they turn
25. Instead they will be deferred to Youth Allowance if they can satisfy the
This is another cruel and unfair
measure that will compound financial stress for young people for longer periods
The NSSRN said in their
The stated intention is to encourage young people to engage
in study or training by aligning the rate of payment for job seekers aged 22 to
24 with the rate of payment for full-time students, who currently receive youth
allowance until age 24 (or older, if a continuing student). Again this is
policy based on a fiction. In our view, it is a fiction that the higher rate of
Newstart allowance acts as a significant disincentive to people aged 22 to 24
taking up study. Young people who undertake study do so on the understanding
that it is a period of reduced income for the purpose of the long-term benefits
in terms of employment and income of further education and training.
This measure will not be
supported by the Australian Greens.
Income support waiting periods
A key concern in this Bill is
the re-introduction of a measure for a four-week waiting period for young
people to access income support.
It is clear that people with
little financial support who are unemployed will be unable to live if they are
locked out of income support payments for any length of time. This measure has
been almost universally criticized, as well as being rejected by the Senate in
previous Bills. The Australian Greens join many of the organisations who
submitted to this inquiry in their concerns.
The National Council of Singe
Mothers and their Children said:
The ‘waiting period’ is a cold-hearted cost saving measure
that would witness Australia stepping away from its moral obligation.
Essentially Australians, who are eligible, and in need of a payment will be
forced to endure a period with no capacity for self-support. It is an unethical
and flawed economic lever and we are steadfast in opposing this punitive
measure. Hardship and poverty is an obstacle towards getting work ready,
applying for jobs and gaining a foothold in the labour market, it does not serve
anyone’s interest when this obstacle is increased.
This measure is so inherently
flawed it has emergency relief provisions for those required to "wait".
This Bill includes a provision of funding for emergency relief of around $8
The Australian Greens will not pass a measure that unfairly impacts young
people and in such a way that even Government acknowledges that it will result
in a large number of young people having to access emergency relief.
NSSRN stated in their
The NSSRN has long experience helping people who fall into
hardship during the existing waiting and preclusion periods in social security
law. Our experience is that surviving from one week to the next quickly becomes
an all-consuming task for people with no income: asking landlords for more time
to pay rent, exacerbation of mental health conditions due to severe stress and
anxiety and so forth. These are the natural consequences of putting someone
into severe financial hardship. They interfere with job search and are likely
to lead to some people becoming vulnerable and being exempted from the four
week waiting period part way through, an absurd outcome.
Other waiting period amendments (Rapid Activation of young job seekers)
This measure requires young
people on the waiting period to undertake activities, if a young person fails
to meet these requirements they could be denied income support and have to
re-apply and begin the 4 week waiting period again.
Schedules 13-16 are of deep
concern to the Australian Greens and will lead to many young people relying on
emergency handouts. The Government continues to pedal the myth that there are
many young people who are unemployed because they lack motivation to find work,
despite the employment data to the contrary. The current rate of youth
unemployment can be explained by inadequate demand for labour since the Global
The NSSRN expressed their concerns regarding these schedules in their
They will impact hardest on young people from low income
families who have the least financial capacity to help them. They will cause
financial hardship, debt and stress to the young people who are unable to
quickly find a job through no fault of their own and their families. The
Department of Social Services estimates that one-third of young job seekers
subject to this measure or about 25,000 young people will be forced to rely on
emergency handouts to get through the new waiting period.
Adjustments for Primary Carer Pay and Employer Opt-In
These measure moves away from
recommended minimum international standards and instead of strengthening
support for working parents, these measures weaken the existing scheme which
already sees Australia ranked third to last amongst OECD countries.
The Australian Greens maintain that
Paid Parental Leave should be a minimum of 26 weeks as per the World Health
Organisation's recommendation. The CPSU noted that the Coalition's Paid
Parental Leave Policy in August 2013 argued that 26 weeks paid parental leave 'is
the optimal outcome for new mothers'.
The Australian Human Rights
Commission noted in its submission to the Fairer Paid Parental Leave Bill
2016, that it considers limiting PPL entitlements as a retrogressive
measure. Expressing their concerns that the measures 'fall short of meeting
Australia's human rights obligations, and could potentially have negative
impacts on maternal and child health and development, the economic security of
women and their families, and women’s workforce participation'.
The government-provided Paid
Parental Leave scheme was always intended to work alongside employer-provided
programs, but now the government is attempting to cut support for working
parents. The ACTU’s submission noted the current scheme is highly successful
and 'removing access to the minimum standard of 18 weeks paid leave is unfair
and undermines a fundamental workplace right'.
While the Government persists in
trying to cut funding from our social safety net, they are dishing out
corporate tax cuts that will cost the budget $4.8 bn a year. 72, 000
families will be affected by these measures.
These cuts will see nearly half a billion dollars ripped from the current
scheme and make approximately 42% of families worse-off than they are now,
hitting low-income families particularly hard.
Yet again, the Government is
targeting vulnerable people while continuing to prop up corporations, the
wealthy and those in the mining industry. This Bill targets young people, low
income families, children, single parents, women, pensioners and those already
living below the poverty line.
This grab for "savings"
by the Government will not only have a negative impact on people, it will
affect the economy, costing the tax payer more in the long term because it will
push people into poverty. It widely accepted that poverty has an overall long
term negative impact on economic growth and productivity.
It is disturbing to see the
Government rehash these harmful measures again and again, ignoring the evidence
of a wide range of experts and stakeholders.
We can afford a strong social
safety net; in fact we cannot afford not to have one. We must invest in a
strong plan for revenue raising through reforming negative gearing, closing tax
loopholes and stopping handouts to the wealthy.
The Government should not be
targeting low income people to raise revenue for vital services like the NDIS
and childcare. The Government's continued harsh approach towards income support
recipients is unfair and unnecessary.
Despite their rhetoric about
getting women into work, the Government is engaging in a piece of social
engineering that will hit women hard. The best way to look after children and
to support women getting back to work is by legislating 26 weeks of paid
parental leave, not by taking an axe to the current minimum entitlement. The
current Paid Parental Leave scheme was always intended to be a floor, not a
The Australian Greens are
concerned the issues raised by the vast majority of childcare experts regarding
these reforms have not been addressed. There is a real risk that the impacts of
a tougher activity test will further disadvantage families with irregular work
hours and new mothers re-entering the workforce. Some of the most vulnerable
children in our nation, particularly those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander communities, will lose out if these measures are introduced
un-amended. Furthermore we contend, as do the 23 peak bodies who submitted to
this inquiry, that the childcare reform package should be considered on its own
merit and has already been paid for, by legislated savings, at least twice
since it was announced.
The Australian Greens share the
concerns of submitters in regards to this Bill exacerbating the already high
poverty rate in Australia:
It should be noted that in Australia right now we have just
under three million people living below the poverty line and we have 731,000
children living in poverty. On our analysis through the poverty report, which
has been done in conjunction with the University of New South Wales, a full 40
per cent of children in single-parent households are living below the poverty
line. It would be an extraordinary outcome if the parliament was to support a
budget measure which had the effect of reducing the incomes of single parents
at this time in the face of that kind of overwhelming evidence of the very high
levels of poverty in Australia for single parents and their children.
The Australian Greens have
always stood for vulnerable people and cannot support a Bill that would that
would reduce paid parental leave, make young people live with no income for
long periods and cut vital supports to children, families, single parents and
Given the extensive evidence
presented to the inquiry on the real world impacts these cruel measure would
have on young people, low income families, single parents, children, women and
pensioners, the Australian Greens appeal to the crossbench and Labor to join us
in blocking these harsh measures. They should be taken off the table, once and
The Australian Greens recommend that the Social Services
Legislation Amendment (Omnibus and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017 NOT be
Senator Rachel Siewert
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