Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Labor and Democrats: Soft On Compliance and No To Reform

The Australians Working Together Bill is a commitment by the government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the welfare system.

It has two key features –

  • The introduction of a new working credit incentive to permit people of working age on income support payments to earn more and keep more of their pension or allowance.
  • Special assistance for sole parents who need extra help to find work. Sole parents will inevitably move off Parenting Payment when their youngest child turns 16 years of age.

We have listened to Labor and received details earlier this week of their initial amendments to the Bill. However, at the 11th hour, both Labor and the Democrats made it clear that the Bill would not pass in its current form unless substantial changes were made to the breaching regime for unemployed people on income support.

Labor and the Democrats have conspired together to hijack the Bill. Labor knows that under successive governments, the House of Representatives has not accepted that the Senate has the power to split these sorts of Bills. Labor and the Democrats have conspired to effectively fail to pass this Bill.

They are basically saying that unless the Government spends between $400 million and $700 million softening welfare compliance, the Bill is not getting through.

On a year by year basis, breaching numbers have fallen by around 30%. Additionally, we have made significant changes to breaching in July, making it easier for those people who have a genuine excuse for not complying with the obligations.

Labor and the Democrats should give these significant changes the chance to work even further.

Clearly, the message from Labor and the Democrats is – go soft on welfare compliance or no to welfare reform.

Labor and the Democrats don’t seem to understand that taxpayers expect people on welfare to treat the dole like a job to look for work.

I deeply regret that they want to hold up these benefits flowing to people who need them. I hope Labor and the Democrats will reconsider their position.