Question without Notice – House of Representatives
Mr MORRISON (Cook – Minister for Social Services) (15:04): I thank the member for Swan for his question. In know he is interested in getting people into work; as a successful businessman he employed a lot of people himself and he knows a lot about that.
There are two principles that I think we need to adhere to when we think about the challenges that the questioner has put to me. That is, when we are looking at social services we need to remind ourselves that there are Australians who need our help.
But there also are Australians who go to work every day who pay tax so that we can help those people who need our help. There are 10.1 million taxpayers who pay income tax, and we need 8 million of them every day to ensure that we can pay for the $150 billion welfare bill that this country carries. That is eight out of 10 taxpayers. If we keep going the way we are going, it will be 10 out of 10 – and that will not be a perfect score when it comes to success in welfare policy. We will have to get it right with the amount of funds we are committing to this to ensure that we get it to those who need it and we respect those who have to pay for it.
In this area, labour force participation is absolutely critical. We know that labour force participation, productivity and population growth are what drive our economy. When it comes to participation there are three areas that we as a government are going to focus on very sharply.
Firstly, we need to address the declining rate of male labour force participation for those under the age of 25. We need to work harder in policy to ensure that young men can get out of school, get into work and stick in a job. That is a critical area of focus for the government.
Secondly, we need to focus on parents with young children – particularly those on double incomes but also those who are single parents – so they can get back to work and ensure that they contribute and have a role in ensuring a better quality of life for their families.
Thirdly, we need to focus on older Australians who are working. We want to encourage them – as I know you have, Madam Speaker, for many years – to stay in work. There is a particular opportunity for older females over the age 65 who have been working and are able to continue working. This is a key area of policy focus for the government.
At the end of the day, we have got to seize these opportunities that are there in our people: our young men who are leaving school, our families and parents who want to get back to work and provide for their families, and those Australians who have worked all their lives and are able to continue working.
We talk about the ageing of the population. It is not a curse for a country; it is a great opportunity. It is an ageing boom that we can take advantage of as a sophisticated country, and we can become a leader in services for people who are ageing. So, at the end of the day, we are very committed to these three areas. Above all, we are going to honour those who need the help and we are going to honour those who pay for it – and that is the taxpayers.