Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Mr Latham: Talk is cheap, time for action

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, today called on the Labor Party to pass vital reforms which would assist people with disabilities who have the capacity to work back into the workforce.

“On Friday the Labor Leader, Mark Latham, said that he ‘support(s) the idea of opportunity plus responsibility as the best combination for getting things done’ in the area of welfare reform,” Senator Patterson said.

“This seems at odds with his actions. Not once but twice Labor has thwarted this Government’s attempt to get on with the implementation of good policy reform, despite the claims of Mr Latham that he supports moves to boost workforce participation of people with disabilities.”

Before he became leader Mr Latham said: “The Disability Support Pension needs to be overhauled and mutual responsibility policies applied to those with a genuine capacity to work” and “Something (also) needs to done about the outrageous growth in the Disability Support Pension”.

“It is time Mr Latham backed his words with action and pass the Government’s legislation,” Senator Patterson said.

The Australian Government’s proposed reform package will provide $258 million for additional services and support to help those people affected by the changes to the Disability Support Pension (DSP) (to participate in work and the community to the extent they are able).

The proposed changes to the Disability Support Pension are about making sure that people with disabilities have access to their fair share of jobs and the benefits that flow from work.

Senator Patterson said: “Our reforms are about increasing employment opportunities and support for people with a disability who have substantial capacity to work.”

“The 670,000 people currently receiving DSP will continue to have support and assistance if they desire to participate in the workforce, but they will all be exempt from these reforms.

“If the Opposition Leader was true to his word when he said “if the Howard Government does something good for this country I’ll be supporting it”, he would agree to pass the disability support pension reforms.”

“I call on Mr Latham to pass the disability support pension reforms.”