Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

BILLS - Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 - Second Reading

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (12:38): Senator Bernardi, it has been a real pleasure to listen to the Australian Conservatives' party platform. We have not had an opportunity till this stage to do so in this place. In your contribution on the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, whose name I do not think you managed to get into your contribution-

Senator Bernardi: I did in the first line.

Senator MOORE: I must have been so caught up in your arguments about tax and how we should operate in the brave new world that I missed you mention the actual bill that is before us. That is no surprise because most of us seem to have missed the content of the bill in front of us today because we will not see the bill we are debating now-according to the government, for extensive periods of time-until we actually conclude the debate. With due process, the government has brought forward an amended bill. It did not just split the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017. In the series of Senate inquiries over the last three years we have consistently talked about the government's plan to make cuts and savings-and Senator Bernardi did admit that this bill may have some impact on some people. Of course it is very easy to say that when the impact is not on you. In this place as a series of government pieces of legislation have come out around some of the measures we have before us we have talked about the value, the issues and the impact of individual cuts and we have balanced that with the issue behind the cuts, which is to save money.

Indeed, there is no question that we should be looking effectively to ensure that the budget is in as strong a position as it possibly can be. It is the role of parliament to ensure that governments look at budget processes. We on this side of the chamber have never moved away from that, despite some of the rhetoric that has been thrown across in the series of debates we have had. We have questioned consistently the priorities being put forward by the government, which groups of Australians these savings are going to be imposed on, at what cost, how they are going to be supported through the processes implemented by the changes and then on the other side exactly how much savings we are going to have.

Until this morning we were being told that the necessary savings in the omnibus bill were going to be immediately important for the child-care package. A divide was consciously created by the government between some people in the community on whom the savings would be imposed and those who would benefit. We questioned sometimes the amount of that benefit, but there was a clear divide. Until 9.30 this morning that was the debate we were engaged in. It was the debate in the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, which I still visit from time to time and did in consideration of the previous bill. That took up a considerable amount of the time of the committee-the thought and the preparation-and the concerns and the contributions of people who gave up their time to come and talk to senators about the legislation in front of them. There were hours of discussion.

In a relatively short time, as often happens, people were asked to think about the proposed legislation and to give their opinion. Unfortunately, despite people giving their opinions, often there is not much change in what comes to the parliament. Until 9.30 this morning we had not seen much change in what was coming to the parliament as a result of a proposal that the government had followed by producing legislation. In the lower house there was significant discussion around the elements of the bill, the objectives of the bill and why the savings in this bill were absolutely necessary to fund the child-care package. That was the bottom line of the debate we were engaged in until 9.30 this morning.

So we have two new pieces of legislation in front of this chamber. We know that part of the reason we are here is that we are concerned and engaged in legislation and we have the competence, I hope, to be able to react quickly to what is happening on the floor of the chamber. However, I am not too sure that I have the competence to react as quickly as we are being expected to do on this bill, because it is not just the bill that we had before us split into two. We now have changes to the original bill on savings-and we had not seen these changes until this morning-and elements that had been discussed in the committee over weeks are now no longer there, and no explanation has been given by the government to the wider chamber.

We do understand the processes of effective negotiation in this place. That is how we operate. I feel sure that there has been considerable negotiation between the government, crossbenchers and other people who may have interest in this bill, but not with the shadow minister and not with the Labor senators in this place, who have shown genuine interest in the process-genuine interest in the bill.

Debate interrupted.