What family violence prevention groups are saying about the Family Law Inquiry

What family violence prevention groups are saying about the Family Law Inquiry
Linda Burney and Mark Dreyfus

Family violence prevention groups have expressed serious doubts about the integrity and sincerity of the Morrison Government’s Family Law Inquiry and its commitment to preventing family violence.

A parliamentary inquiry into the family law system delivered its report as well as 33 recommendations for reform in December 2017.

The Australian Law Reform Commission completed its Family Law System Review as recently as March 2019, which contained 60 recommendations for reform. The Government has yet to even acknowledge this report.

We know already that urgent action is needed – including more resources, increased funding for legal assistance and greater support for families.

Family violence prevention groups want to see real and urgent action.

The Government already has two detailed reports and recommendations for action in front of it, and Australians who care about these issues are perplexed as to why the Morrison Government is calling yet another inquiry.

They also want to know why Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday appointed Senator Pauline Hanson as co-chair of the inquiry just hours after she claimed that women make false allegations of domestic violence to game the family law system.

The Prime Minister needs to explain how he can reasonably expect women who have experienced the trauma of family violence, to share their experiences with an inquiry co-chaired by someone with these declared biases against them.

Women and children are dying as a result of family violence and Labor cannot support any proposal to further delay, or undermine, action on this critical issue.

The family law system is crucial to the wellbeing of many thousands of lives, especially young children. It is too important to be dealt with in this fashion

Of course, should this inquiry proceed, Labor will participate in it to ensure the voices of survivors of family violence and their advocates are properly heard.

This is why family violence prevention groups have made clear their strong concerns about this inquiry:

Rosie Batty
I have strong issues about who is heading up this inquiry … It cannot possibly be an unbiased inquiry with these two people heading it up.

Women’s Legal Services NSW
We are deeply concerned by the announcement of another parliamentary family law inquiry when the government is yet to respond to the Australia Law Reform Commission Family Law System Review recommendations. There was also a parliamentary inquiry into family law in 2017 which made many recommendations about prioritising safety.

We are concerned that victims-survivors of family violence will be reluctant to participate in this new inquiry when the co-chair to the inquiry makes comments such as reported here.

Women’s Legal Services Queensland
How will this inquiry be impartial when the co-chair says women lie about Domestic Violence for strategic advantage in the court? 50 to 85% of matters in the family courts involve DV.

One woman a week continues to be killed by her partner or ex-partner. Separation is the most dangerous time and this is exactly when DV survivors are before this court.

We accept the government may have genuinely wanted a fair inquiry however when these statements are made by the co-chair - can it truly be fair to DV victims and their kids?

White Ribbon
We support Rosie Batty in today’s statement – now is not the time for more inquiry’s, now is the time for action.

Domestic Violence Victoria
Numerous other inquiries, reviews and evidence gathering processes have already told government what reforms are required to improve the family law system as a whole, and most critically for victim-survivors of family violence including children and young people.

Mostly recently, the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 18-month review of the family law system which made 60 recommendations for reform which the government have not engaged with the sector on to date.

Coalition of Women’s Domestic Violence Services SA
If our leaders are serious about addressing violence against women, they must listen to the women’s safety experts, including women with lived experience of violence, who are very clearly saying we don’t need another inquiry.

Carrie’s Place
We are concerned that this “new inquiry” is yet another delaying tactic. This is a way in which government can ignore or delay appropriately responding to the evidence contained in the 2017 inquiry. Ever delay brings with it the risk of more women and children being harmed or being killed.

People with Disability Australia
Women and all people with disability are much more likely to experience domestic and family violence, and we need family law reform and accessible services now – we can’t wait.


Linda Burney on ABC RN Drive with Patricia Karvelas, Wednesday, 18 September 2019 - Transcript

Linda Burney on ABC RN Drive with Patricia Karvelas, Wednesday, 18 September 2019

SUBJECTS: Family law inquiry; John Setka; Robodebt; Biloela family


PATRICIA KARVELAS: Linda Burney is the Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services. Linda Burney welcome.




KARVELAS: Is it just Senator Hanson’s role in this inquiry that you object to? Would you support the inquiry if she wasn’t involved?


BURNEY: No, it’s not just Senator Hanson’s role in the inquiry. There was absolutely no consultation with the Labor Party on the terms of reference. I’ve just read them. They’re enormously long. And there was – a bipartisan committee is between the two major parties, and the last time I looked, One Nation was not one of the major parties. I think the other thing is that some of the comments that have been made by Senator Hanson on air today are probably comments that – certainly there’s been a massive response from women’s organisations. I’ve got in front of me, 17 organisations that have contacted myself or Julie Collins or other offices, just saying that they won’t participate. They believe the inquiry is unnecessary. And finally, the government had in front of it two really significant pieces of work as you know. The Australian Law Reform Commission did a report into this very topic, with 60 recommendations. And the standing committee on social policy and legal affairs went around Australia talking to women about domestic violence. And the government has done nothing with either of those reports.


KARVELAS: As an elected member of parliament though – you talked about the mainstream parties – isn’t Pauline Hanson entitled as any other MP to serve as a deputy chair of this inquiry?


BURNEY: Bipartisanship on particular issues as you know is really important. And one of those elements of bipartisanship is family and domestic violence. And the other thing of course is that this is an inquiry into how the family court is operating. And Rosie Batty actually is the person who’s led the charge saying it’s a broken system and that’s where the focus needs to be.  Going to your question in relation to Pauline Hanson, of course inquiries are important and of course people should be able to participate, but a bipartisan inquiry is between Labor and the Government.


KARVELAS: Is there any evidence that false allegations of domestic violence and sexual abuse are a problem in the family court as Pauline Hanson suggests?


BURNEY: I know Pauline has been talking about this issue since she was here in the parliament previously. And you can always find instances where there is what you describe what’s taking place. But to characterise women as lying about abuse and lying about sexual abuse of their children in these kinds of legal proceedings is a little bit beyond – well beyond the pale as far as I’m concerned. And the issue of family break up violence is traumatic enough without an additional inquiry where women’s groups are clearly saying from right across the country – and I’ve got them here in front of me – that they will not participate.


KARVELAS: You’re saying that there’s evidence now that women will not participate in this inquiry because of the way that it’s been established?


BURNEY: Yes, the Women’s Legal Service of New South Wales is deeply concerned by the announcement. The Women’s Legal Services of Queensland are questioning how the inquiry will be impartial. Women’s safety NSW says there’s no need for another inquiry and I think that’s the really pertinent thing that Labor is also saying. What about the two inquiries that are sitting in front of the government at the moment?


KARVELAS: So you think – just to clarify – that there is absolutely no case full stop for an inquiry?


BURNEY: I think that there is two very substantial pieces of information and recommendations in relation to this particular issue and the broader issue of family and domestic violence  sitting in front of the government, sitting in front of parliament, and the government has done absolutely nothing about them,. And they have been there for over six months.


KARVELAS: Labor is backing a class action against the legality of the government’s Robodebt system. The current minister argues that this is a system that actually Labor created. That’s right isn’t it? Robodebt is actually something happened when Labor was the government.


BURNEY: Labor is very forthright as you know Patricia saying that we believe in mutual obligation and that’s very important. And the Robodebt as it’s being characterised now is very different to the system that Labor had in place. We also had made sure that the debts were real. The issue with this, and it’s been an ongoing thing for a number of years now – the issue is that the debts that are being generated is based on the wrong algorithm. There are no human oversight of the debts and most of the debts that have been sent and have got to the appeals in the tribunal and have been paid out by the government. It’s never been tested. Now of course the other thing is that the minister himself said that one in five debts is incorrect and that’s just not good enough. And the class action is about whether or not the government has received financial benefit from their mistake basically.


KARVELAS: The problems with Robodebt were well documented before the federal election but you didn’t campaign on it. You didn’t say you were going to get rid of Robodebt. Why didn’t you make this call earlier?


BURNEY: Well there wasn’t a specific – and you know, I had responsibility for the disability insurance scheme prior to the last election – there is now a specific minister and of course, Bill Shorten is the shadow minister involved. And I don’t think it’s actually true to say that we didn’t campaign on it. You’re right in saying that we didn’t call for its abolishment. We certainly made enormous in roads into getting the government to change some of their systems. They seem to have ramped this up again. And there are debt notices going out left, right and centre that are inaccurate.


KARVELAS: I want to change the topic if I can, because John Setka spoke to RN Breakfast this morning. He said –


BURNEY: Yes, I heard the interview.


KARVELAS: There you go. I’m glad you did because many people claim they don’t hear the interviews and then you have to brief them. But Linda Burney, we’re on safe ground. He said he doesn’t believe an expletive-filled tirade against the crossbench warning them against passing the Ensuring Integrity Bill was intimidating. Do you think it was intimidating?


BURNEY: Well, I did hear what was a very long interview between John Setka and Hamish MacDonald this morning, and a lot of it’s certainly focused on the language being used. The basic issue in terms of Labor is that we don’t believe that someone who’s been convicted of harassment of women – and that would include of course language – be part of the Labor Party. And there is no place for anyone in the Labor Party that has breached family court orders, and in both cases Mr Setka has done that.


KARVELAS: He says that his family has moved on, that they were just text messages. What did you make of his explanation of that?


BURNEY: Well, like I said I did hear that.


KARVELAS: Did you find it alarming?


BURNEY: You can’t erase what’s happened in the past. He has an absolute right of course to make statements that he did. But what I’m basically saying Patricia is what the Labor Party believes is that there’s no place in the Labor Party with the attitude and the actions that John Setka has displayed.


KARVELAS: But on the justification – I do want to get your view on this – for this just being just text messages which sounded to me like he was, you know, basically suggesting it was not very serious even though he accepts that he shouldn’t have sent them. Do you think that’s a poor justification –


BURNEY: Well, I think you have to look at what actually clearly took place. I mean, he was – he faced a conviction in relation to that harassment. And we didn’t learn until much later on that the harassment was actually text messages to his then and present wife. He can say that they’ve moved on. I’m very pleased that they’re receiving counselling and getting their family together but you can’t deny the fact that it actually happened. And he was convicted of that harassment.


KARVELAS: Linda Burney, just finally, the Federal Court has again has delayed its decision on whether to hear an application for protection for one of the daughters of the Tamil family from Biloela. It’s due to rule tomorrow. Are you worried about the impact these delays are having on the family?


BURNEY: Look, obviously it must be incredibly difficult for the family. I heard on ABC radio yesterday morning, I think it was, one of the friends of the family had spoken to them and she said they’re really stressed and worried. I can’t imagine the sort of anguish that they’re going through. And Labor’s position has been very consistent on this and I’ve just seen Kristina Keneally actually in the corridor and that is that the Minister has used on thousands of occasions – or certainly many many many occasions – his discretionary power. And Labor is saying that he should use it in the case for this particular family, particularly for in what you’ve reflected that the children were both born in Australia.


KARVELAS: Thank you so much for joining us.


Linda Burney with David Speers on Sky News - Wednesday, 11 September 2019

SUBJECTS: AIHW Report; Drug testing of welfare recipients; Labor’s policy review.


DAVID SPEERS: The Shadow Minister, Linda Burney, joins me know.


LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINSITER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS, MEMBER FOR BARTON: The snapshot concerns me on a number of fronts, and I really think it is what sits behind the snapshot and that is it does say that loneliness has become a real issue in the Australian community. It particularly mentions men and young people.


SPEERS: Yes, not just elderly Australians.


BURNEY: No, not just elderly Australians, a lot of young people find themselves very lonely. I think that is a very big societal issue.


SPEERS: Why is that do you think? What do you put that down to?


BURNEY: I think young people, and that’s what the report goes to, are feeling very isolated. I think they are feeling very uncertain about their future, particularly in terms of home ownership, which the report goes to; insecure work, which the report goes to as well. But also, I think they are just fearful of what the future holds for them as young people in Australia, and more interestingly in a global context.


SPEERS: Do you think part of it is that social media age we live in, the way people communicate? Does that, I mean while we get online and communicate with each other are we losing personal contact? Is that part of the reason behind this?


BURNEY: This is a very personal view – I think that social media has, made young people’s worlds a bit smaller, strangely enough. In the sense that you are often communicating with people that you actually don’t know. And, that it’s a lot easier to use social media to communicate than to actually sit down and to have a conversation and um interact with people. Perhaps that has something to do with it. But as Tanya Plibersek said David in the um Question Time today, we are seeing the lowest number of apprentices in 10 years in Australia and we’re also seeing, I think and I know just talking to um young people in my own sphere is that the idea of home ownership, which is such a strong part of the Australian ethos, is slipping away from them.


SPEERS: Sure, but it wasn’t all bad news in the report today though.


BURNEY: No it wasn’t.


SPEERS: I see that the number of people with jobs is up, that’s a good thing: civic engagement; year 12 attainment; some of these figures were positive weren’t they?


BURNEY: A number of the figures were positive and the ones that you’ve just articulated were some of those figures. But the report also had a fairly substantial section on Aboriginal Australia and I have to say that the school participation rates, the level of poverty is so disproportionate in that, in that community. And, what the report really says is, it gives us an overall view of how things are nationally, but there are pockets of extraordinary disadvantage.


SPEERS: Well, let’s now talk about the welfare sector, because this gets to the Bill that’s now been introduced and that to trial drug tests of welfare recipients. Have you had a chance to look at the legislation yet and what do you think?


BURNEY: Well that the third time the Government brought it back.


SPEERS: It’s the same Bill?


BURNEY: It’s the same.


SPEERS: Not changed?


BURNEY: It’s the same piece of legislation, the dust has been blown off it. It is the same piece of legislation. And it has been rejected twice by the last parliament. And the Government, as they are doing for a number of pieces of legislation, which they weren’t successful with in the 45th parliament, are bring them back to the 46th parliament. It’s still the same three trial sites.


SPEERS: The Prime Minister’s argument here is, we don’t want people on welfare taking drugs - right, that’s a given. Why not have a mechanism where you can identify the people that need help and provide it to them?


BURNEY: Very straightforward answers to that – it’s indiscriminate, I don’t think, the Minister or the Prime Minister have thought through the practicalities of administering this particular…..


SPEERS:  Like what? What would be the practical issues?


BURNEY: Some of the practical issues is where is the initial drug test undertaken?


SPEERS: Hasn’t it been made clear?


BURNEY: Who’s going to oversee it? And what hasn’t been made clear is what the cost is. And what Labor is doing, very responsibly David, is listening to the experts that are saying that this is punitive, this does not work. And looking particularly at the New Zealand experience, where 8,000 people on social security were drug tested, with 8 people proving positive. It was abandoned.


SPEERS: Well, we don’t know if this will be exactly the same. To the cost questions, I assume this would go to tender for a provider to do the drug testing.


BURNEY: It is completely unclear. And there are lots of assumptions. As I think that the Minister displayed yesterday. I think it was on a Sky Interview about how it would work.


SPEERS: But if the costs, if the costs can be managed, if that can be addressed: Is this still in principle something that could help some of those on welfare?


BURNEY:  Well, let’s put it this way. I don’t know how many people are watching us in this interview have had a loved one that is, that has, a drug addiction issues – trying to get those people into some sort of residential or some sort of treatment program is virtually impossible. And I would argue strongly that perhaps the Government shouldn’t have taken $1 billion dollars out of the Budget for drug dependency. And that is money will be better spent on up front services. I mean if you’re receiving a social security payment. If you or I are going onto Newstart and we automatically have to have a drug test to keep the right to have Newstart, there are questions there about individual rights. But if you, by prescription, are taking the place in a treatment facility of someone that is truly committed and not compelled.


SPEERS: Was that your concern here?  That they might take the place in a rehab place of someone who has volunteered to get that service?


BURNEY: Well, I do think that that is a concern for many people. My fundamental issue is that we are listening to what experts in the field are saying, and they are saying this is not a, not a method that will work.


SPEERS: The Government does point to data though showing that there has been a decrease in the number of welfare recipients who have recorded drug addiction. I mean, what’s your plan to do something about that?


BURNEY: Well, if there are people who have drug addiction problems, whether they’re receiving a social security benefit or not, they should be getting support to deal with those addictions and so should their families. And the other incredible statistic, I know that you know this, but let me say it – is that the group of people that is the growing group in the Centrelink, in the Newstart cohort are people over the age of 55 that have been retrenched or their industries have been closed down. Do you really thing that it’s okay to ask a grandparent to go through that process?


SPEERS: Before I let you go, where are you at in this internal debate in Labor about sticking with or ditching some of those policies, like franking credits and negative gearing and so on? What do you think?


BURNEY: My view is that we should all allow the review process to take its time.


SPEERS: So everyone should stay out of it until it’s done?


BURNEY: No well, what I, people, if you want to have an input into the review you can do that and obviously we are at the beginning of this term of government and I think the judicious thing, the sensible thing to do, is to work thoroughly through those issues, listen to what the review has to say and then make decisions about policies going forward. Well thought out costed but, you know there is time to do that.


SPEERS: But in reality you know that you are going to have to change some of these policies, right?


BURNEY: I will go through the review process. I have put forward to the Leader, in the areas I have responsibility for what I believe are the solid policies that we should be pursuing and we will take that process through.


SPEERS: All right, Linda Burney, Shadow Minister for Social Services and Indigenous Australians thanks very much for coming in this afternoon. Thank you very much.


BURNEY: Thank you very much.





SUBJECTS: Aboriginal flag; drug testing welfare recipients.

WENDY HARMER: Good morning Linda.


HARMER: Have I got that right?

BURNEY: You have. I am very much calling on the government – and I’ve had one discussion with Minister Wyatt about this – calling on the government to intervene and buy the copyright because as you have indicated this flag is so important to Aboriginal people but it’s important across the country. It’s recognised in the official flags act as an official flag of Australia.

ROBBIE BUCK: Give us the – and for people who’ve missed this story – we were flabbergasted when we heard this – but the background behind it – the flag was designed by an artist called Harold Thomas. And first became the official flag for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, where you are in Canberra after it was first flown in Adelaide in 1972. How did it become copyrighted by a private company? And I think it was not even an Indigenous company.

HARMER: WAM Clothing.

BUCK: Yes, that’s right.

BURNEY: It is WAM Clothing. And I understand – this is my understanding – is that Harold Thomas sold the rights of the flag, including digital rights to WAM Clothing which of course is absolutely unacceptable to so many people. The Aboriginal flag – there are people like myself with a tattoo of the flag on their arm. Aboriginal organisations often include the flag in their uniforms, particularly medical services. The NRL and the AFL use the flag in the Indigenous round and on the field. There are just so many uses. You drive around Sydney, as you know Wendy and Robbie, you look at the NSW Parliament which flies the flag inside and outside the parliament. It’s often on the Harbour Bridge. It’s all over the place. And there is just so much uncertainty.

HARMER: It’s amazing to think that you might owe people some money for that tattoo of yours Linda.

BURNEY: (laughter) It’s very small Wendy.

BUCK: We should actually make it clear. It is really – the copyright covers sales of t-shirts – and I don’t know about flags – but it’s actual clothing and material.

HARMER: And the Indigenous Wellness Centre – this is a non-profit Aboriginal medical service. They produced the flag on t-shirts that they were giving out to patients –

BURNEY: - Yes.

HARMER: - who came in for a health check and they were told to pay $2,200.

BURNEY: That’s correct and that’s just one instance. We know that many organisations have been sent cease and desist letters from WAM Clothing, or they have to pay a percentage to WAM Clothing for the use of the flag on promotional material. And what’s really unclear we understand that the rights are now including digital images and that is just complete – the whole thing’s just completely unacceptable, which is why we’re saying that the real arbiters in this – the people who can sort it out is the government. And I don’t know why Harold did this. I really don’t.

BUCK: What are the legal avenues available to you, though? If they hold the copyright on it –

BURNEY: That’s right –

BUCK: It means that they can essentially hold the government to ransom can’t they?

BURNEY: That’s precisely right –

HARMER: - but to be fair this is a perfectly legal arrangement. I can’t see that anyone’s to blame. And Harold needed the money. And this other outfit wanted to pay for it. I mean, it all seems above board. I think the thing that you’re saying Linda and the thing that a lot of people will agree with is that this should have been secured by the government. I wonder if Harold offered the copyright to the government.

BURNEY: I actually don’t know. I haven’t had a conversation with Harold but I mean, his role in producing the flag back at a time as you say in the 70s when the civil rights movement was so important, the establishment of the Tent Embassy here in Canberra. But the fact that the flag is now in many ways being held hostage by a non-Aboriginal company who are actually demanding money from Aboriginal organisations – it’s my understanding that there’s some sort of arrangement brokered by Harold that Aboriginal organisations could use the flag. So it’s really very confusing …

HARMER: Okay …

BURNEY: …about what’s going on.

HARMER: Alright, well good-o. Before we say goodbye to you, we’d like to get your opinion, being obviously a Sydney MP as well, knowing Bankstown your electorate. What is your view of the federal government wanting to drug test welfare recipients receiving Newstart and Youth Allowance?

BURNEY: Oh thank you Wendy. My position and the position of the Labor Party is that we’re not supporting the roll out of this trial. There is some talk here in Canberra today that the government will attempt to introduce this legislation for a third time. When you talk to the experts, which is where we are taking our direction from, you talk to the experts they say this is punitive, it’s been tried in other countries, it’s expensive and it doesn’t work. And what’s really needed is drug rehabilitation programs and investment in where people can get treatment. Not the punitive measures of drug testing every welfare recipient which by all measures has not been successful anywhere else.

HARMER: Now the Prime Minister said he’s puzzled by the opposition. What do you make of that?

BURNEY: Well, I think that the Prime Minister and the responsible minister, and indeed the cabinet, have not really thought through the practicalities of this. And the fact that this could legitimately take away treatment facilities from people who are seeking help. We also know Wendy that in New Zealand that there was something like 8,000 people who were drug tested and we also know that only 22 of that 8.000 proved positive. So you have to say ‘what is the economic arguments behind this? … which seems upside-down as well.

BUCK: Alright, we will leave it there. Thank you very much for your time this morning.




Almost one in ten Australian workers are underemployed, and new apprenticeships are at their lowest in two decades.

With the release of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Report Card on the Welfare of Australians, it comes as no surprise that Australians are doing it tough.

Scott Morrison will try and gloss over the state of the welfare of Australians – just like he has with the state of the economy – but Australians know the truth.

Many Australians are finding that they simply aren’t receiving enough hours at work to get by.

In fact, almost one in five – or over 130,000 – Newstart recipients have a job, but do not receive either enough hours or income to get them off the payment.

In addition, 60 per cent of people receiving unemployment payments had been on them for two years or more.

The report mentions that one in four Australians feel lonely, especially young people and men.

One million Australians are living in housing stress, and Australians are less likely to own their home than ever before.

There is no wonder our young people are struggling to buy their first home. They are finding it harder and harder to get a job, with youth unemployment more than double the national average, while housing prices continue to soar.

Australia needs to do more to measure the success of government policies and our success as a country by the wellbeing of our citizens and our communities.

Scott Morrison is obsessed with devising new ways to humiliate and harass people desperately trying to re-enter the workforce with urine tests and saliva swabs.

Meanwhile, the economy is floundering, wages and living standards are stagnating, and the Liberals have no plan to turn things around.




SUBJECTS: AIHW Report Card on the State of Welfare of Australians; Mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients; Cashless welfare card.

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS, MEMBER FOR BARTON: Well the key messages are that there is a very difficult future in Australia for young people. This report reflects that there’s a great deal of loneliness. We also see young people very anxious about being able to purchase a home, particularly in capital cities. And I think the issue that jumps out at me is we are hitting the lowest number of apprenticeships ever in this country. And that to me for young people is a very anxious future. Insecure work of course is another very big message out of this report.

SABRA LANE: It’s not all bad news, year 12 attainment’s up. The number of people with jobs is up. Civic engagement is up. They’re all positive things.

BURNEY: It’s not all bad news. But I think we need to look at what sits behind this report. And what sits behind this report are indicators of wellbeing. And I think it was Ken Henry that said as much as yesterday that Australia is really lagging behind in terms of really solid policy development. Governments need to use this report as a way forward. But we need to look at what sits behind these indicators to understand what is really going on.

LANE: You touched on loneliness. At least 50 per cent of us report being lonely at least once a week. Does that worry you?

BURNEY: It worries me particularly for older men and also young people. The issue of loneliness is becoming something that’s pervasive in Australian society. And you talk to service providers who are often the only people that someone that’s in a wheelchair or someone that’s perhaps having a carer – that’s their only human contact all week. And when you think about that, you think about your own life, you just wonder how people would actually cope with that, that you’ve got one person a week coming in to cook meals or clean. And that’s your only human contact.

LANE: The UK has a loneliness minister. Should we have something like that?

BURNEY: I’m not saying that we should have a loneliness minister but it needs to be very much and it is very much of course on the forefront of minds of people that I work with in terms of the Labor Party. But it also seems to me that this report indicates – and it does have a section on Indigenous Australians – I’ve just spent two weeks or a week and a half travelling through some really remote communities Sabra, and the poverty is – it’s indescribable. I mean, most of those communities – every single community in fact that we went to – said their big issue was not having clean water. Now how can we in this nation be a country, a first world nation like Australia, have communities with no clean water and no access to secondary schools?

LANE: Housing affordability is a big challenge. Labor’s solutions to that – the negative gearing and capital gains tax changes weren’t embraced by the majority at the last election. Are those policies still the answer to affordability?

BURNEY: As you’ve known, you’ve reported there is a review taking place of all the policies and the processes that we took to the election –

LANE: - do you have a view?

BURNEY: I think that the obvious thing is for Labor to clearly look at the response to those particular policies. I will let the review make those recommendations before offering one of my own.

LANE: I’ve just got to quickly get through some issues. The Government will reintroduce its drug testing for welfare recipients bill today in the Parliament. Are there any circumstances under which Labor will support that policy?

BURNEY: Labor is not supporting that policy. This is the third time the Government has dusted off this policy and I just heard on Radio National there is a group of people meeting experts meeting in Canberra today. They are saying this is punitive. It’s not going to work. And the biggest issue is that there is just not enough treatment centres or treatment available for people that want to come off drug addiction. And that is where the government needs to focus.

LANE: The cashless welfare card. The Government wants to roll this out nationally. 80 per cent of money is quarantined in that for rent and food. The Government says it works. Has the Labor Party got a position on that yet?

BURNEY: The Labor Party does have a position. We’ve had a position for some time on the cashless welfare card. And that is that if a community has proper consultation and proper consent, and the community wants the card then Labor would not stand in the way. But we do not support a national roll out of this card. It goes to whether or not it’s effective. And I have to say Sabra, just in closing, that the evaluations so far have been quite inadequate and there needs to be proper evaluation, and Labor has a very strong view and a very persistent view on this particular card.

LANE: Linda Burney, thanks for joining AM this morning.



Despite talking up an “$800” pensioner bonus just months ago, Scott Morrison has been caught out by own his figures.

Less than one per cent of pensioners will receive anywhere near this amount.

New figures released today show that nearly half of pensioner couples will receive less than $130 per year – that’s just $0.36 a day.

After waiting more than four years for Scott Morrison to do something about the deeming rates, this latest revelation is a slap in the face.

Pensioners have every right to feel conned.



Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources

Hon Linda Burney MP, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services

Drought affected farming families will be rightly shocked by the suggestion they could be subject to the Morrison Government’s cashless welfare card.

Asked yesterday whether he believed farmers on Farm Household Allowance (FHA) should be put on the welfare card Barnaby Joyce answered:

I’ve got no problem with that.”

Affected farming families will have a different view.

On Sunrise yesterday, when talking about the cashless welfare cards, Barnaby Joyce said:

We want to be generous but we can’t have money being misspent.”

Does this mean Barnaby believes farming families are misspending their allowance?

On the 7:30 Report last night, when the Prime Minister was asked why he was planning on rolling out the policy nationwide, he said:

What we want to do is get people off welfare and into work”.

Farmers are already at work – they live at work. Does the Prime Minister not understand what it takes to survive on a drought stricken farm?

Scott Morrison also said one of the key reasons the welfare card has been is working is because “it has been embraced by the communities where it has been put in place...”

Does Scott Morrison really believe communities impacted by one of the most severe droughts in Australian history would embrace his arbitrary cashless card system?

Scott Morrison should guarantee today that farming families on FHA will not be subject to his populist and cruel cashless welfare card.



The number of over-55s who receive Newstart has increased by over 45 per cent under the Liberals and Nationals. 
The number of over-55s on Newstart has surged by a staggering 58,313 over a five year period, according to the latest figures from the Department of Social Services.


December 2013 - 125,630

December 2018 - 183,943

Increase - 58,313

Source: Dept. of Social Services


One in four Australians on Newstart are aged 55 or over – the single largest cohort of recipients of the allowance.

Older Australians experience particular difficulty in re-entering the workforce due to structural barriers and age discrimination.

The average person on Newstart has been on the payment for three years.

And many Australians are finding that they simply aren’t receiving enough hours at work to get by.

In fact, almost one in five – or over 130,000 – Newstart recipients have a job, but do not receive either enough hours or income to get them off the payment.

The reality is that it is not possible to live on Newstart. It’s making it more difficult to re-enter the workforce. People are finding it difficult to meet transport costs or afford clothes for job interviews.

Rather than stimulating our stagnating economy and easing the situation for older Australians who have fallen on hard times, Scott Morrison is more interested in subjecting them to humiliating urine tests.

How is it that Scott Morrison spends so much time obsessing over and devising ways to humiliate and prod older Australians who are trying to re-enter the workforce?

Yet, he has no plan for jobs and he has no plan to boost an economy that is getting weaker every day that he is Prime Minister.






SUBJECTS: Mandatory drug testing for social security recipients

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES: Well good morning everyone and thank you for coming. Today we see the Government again dusting off an old policy and saying that they’ll introduce it to the Parliament next week. And that is the issue of drug testing people who are on Newstart and people who are on Youth Allowance. This is an indiscriminate policy. And what is really needed is more facilities for people to get real help if they’ve got drug addiction.

This is random and it will not be effective. We have seen in the past experts come out and say repeatedly that this policy will not work. It’s been tried in the United States. It’s been tried in New Zealand. And it’s been proved a failure.

Many of the people on Newstart are over the age of 55. In fact, one in four people are over the age of 55. Many of them are people that have been retrenched and will have very little chance of getting back into the workforce anytime soon. Many of them – most of them – have never used drugs in their life. And they are certainly not being treated with the respect they ought to. The demonization of welfare recipients is a tried and true method of this Government. Drug testing of people on Newstart and drug testing of people on Youth Allowance is ineffective. It is expensive. And the money needs to be spent on frontline services, not demonising people on welfare.

We have heard from the experts – from the AMA down; from people that work in the addiction space – that this is ineffective, and it is not the way for a government to actually deal with the issue of drug addiction. The issue of drug addiction is a health issue. It is not an issue that should be dealt with through the welfare system. People in the welfare system are not there because they want to. They are there because they have come on to difficult times, or they are eligible for whatever the benefit is.

Randomised drug testing could see a 55 year old being expected to urinate into a cup somewhere to prove that they are not a drug addict. That is inappropriate.

What the Labor Party is saying – despite the fact that the Government says it’s going to tweak it here and there – what the Labor Party is saying is that this is a health issue. It is not an issue that should be dealt with through the welfare system. If the Government really wanted to do something for people on welfare, they would be out there with real – if the Government wanted to do something for people on welfare they would be out there creating jobs. They would be out there with a proper employment policy. But that is not the case with this Government. They are too busy dusting off old policies, reintroducing them with the hope of creating an agenda.

Labor is very clear – and I’ll finish on this point – Labor is very clear: we want to see employment programs. We want to see jobs created. We do not want to see the punitive measures of using people on Newstart and people on Youth Allowance as experiments in trying to treat a drug addiction. This is ineffective. It is proven to be ineffective in other countries. And it’s expensive. Frontline services are where the money should be spent, not the punitive measures that this government is undertaking.

JOURNALIST: The Government is saying there will be extra money for services for trial areas – [inaudible]

BURNEY: Well the Government said in the last iteration of this Bill when they introduced it in the last Parliament – and it was clearly defeated – that they would put additional money into frontline services in the trial sites. The Government has also said that they won’t be charging people this time for the second drug test. And they say they’ll expand the number of drugs being focused on. None of those issues take away the fundamental problems with this particular approach. It is a health issue. It is not something that 55 year olds who happened to find themselves on Newstart through no fault of their own should be subjected to. And this Government still does not have a jobs creation or employment policy.

JOURNALIST: The Social Services Minister has said it’s not about punishment. It’s about identifying people who need help. What do you say to that?

BURNEY: I hear – I heard the Social Services Minister make the claims that this is about helping people. Let’s be very clear. This is punitive, it’s indiscriminate and there is no focus to the program. There is also no evidence from overseas that this actually works. It’s been trialled in both parts of the United States as well as in New Zealand, and both countries have abandoned those trials because of the ineffectiveness, because of the randomness, and because of the expense and the fact that very, very, very few people in both jurisdictions were found to be using drugs and be on welfare at the same time.

JOURNALIST: The Government has also said that taxpayers expect their money to be spent on things like food and getting their children to school, not on drugs. Do they have a point?

BURNEY: There is absolutely no question from the party that I’m part of, the Labor Party, about mutual obligation. It’s really important. People who are receiving taxpayer funds should meet certain obligations. And that’s very much in place. But this is a dangerous policy. Imagine if someone is found to be a drug user, they have their benefits cut, and they are pushed into desperate and difficult circumstances including homelessness. Now it seems to be that if you want good social policy – if it’s not about punitive measures – then you’ll be thinking of those things about the fact that this could put people, push people into more difficult and dangerous circumstances.


BURNEY: Labor held this position very clearly the last time the Government attempted to introduce this regime into the welfare system. As I have said, I believe in mutual obligation. It’s absolutely important. People have responsibilities if they are in receipt of taxpayer funded welfare. But on this occasion, when it is such an ill-defined program when the program has no evidence of working; where it’s completely random; where people who are over the age of 55 and find themselves on welfare because of retrenchment are going to find themselves subject to this regime, is not acceptable to the Labor Party. This is a health issue.


BURNEY: Well, the issue of income management – there is another agenda running here which we will see played out by the Government over the next little while. The Government understands I believe that this policy does not work. There was absolute disagreement the last time they introduced it. They made a few minor changes to it and are dusting off an old policy in a desperate search for an agenda.

JOURNALIST: Do you support Jacqui Lambie’s idea that – she said she would support this legislation if politicians undergo drug testing at work. What do you think of that idea?

BURNEY: I know that Jacqui Lambie has made that statement in relation to the drug testing of Members of Parliament. My response is that there are many workplaces where drug testing is mandatory. I will leave Jacqui Lambie to have her own views and discussions on that. I don’t believe the issue is about drug testing in other arenas. This is clearly about a very ill-defined inappropriate policy being made to apply to people who need support. They don’t need punishment.

JOURNALIST: Just one on your comment about people being treated with respect, if people who happened to find themselves on Newstart or on welfare – if they are found not to be taking drugs – do you think they would have any objection to this?

BURNEY: I think the issue really is one of deciding whether it’s a welfare issue or whether it’s a health issue. This is a health issue clearly. And you speak to any family that is going through the horrors of drug addiction by a loved one and they will tell you there is a paucity of places for people to get treatment. We believe that this money should be spent on treatment and not pursuing people in the welfare system who are not drug addicts.





Today is Indigenous Literacy Day. This is a day to celebrate Indigenous culture through language and literature.

The language and stories of First Nations People are national treasures that all Australians can be proud of – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.

Indigenous language and stories bring people closer to the Indigenous worldview and in connection with thousands of generations of history and culture.

All Australians should take this opportunity to learn about Indigenous languages and immerse themselves in Indigenous stories.

Today is a day to reflect on the challenges and opportunities in the efforts to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous in quality of life outcomes, especially reading and numeracy – which remain not on track.

All Australians should have equal access to literacy resources, especially for those children living in remote communities.

First Nations Australians should have the opportunity to learn language and culture.

Language and culture are integral to improving Indigenous literacy outcomes.

And strengthening identity and connection to culture is imperative to improving Indigenous quality of life outcomes.

This year is also the International Year of Indigenous Languages – a reminder that thousands of Indigenous languages around the world are at risk of disappearing.

Everyone has an opportunity to participate in Indigenous Literacy Day. Visit the Indigenous Literacy Foundation for more information on how you or your organisation can get involved.





It shouldn’t be this hard to admit Newstart is too low.

Anne Ruston speaking with David Speers on Sky News, Sunday, 1 September 2019

 DAVID SPEERS: The government continues to resist calls to increase the rate of the Newstart allowance, which is currently $39.70 a day, if you’re a single. Minister  can you explain how this is enough for feeding, clothing, housing themselves, getting to and from job interviews and so on?

 ANNE RUSTON: Look, nobody has ever said that living on Newstart would be easy. But one of the things that this government is absolutely committed to do is that everything we can for anybody who’s on Newstart  to get them off Newstart and into a job. And I think it’s incumbent on government to much more than just provide a safety net payment. We need to create jobs and I think our track record of creating jobs is a very good one. But it’s not just that. It’s creating the pathways. But most importantly, helping people breakdown the barriers they currently have to be able to get work. And that’s what we’re absolutely focused on.

 SPEERS: But a part of breaking down those barriers, does mean being healthy, being able to present yourself with a job interview and so on. As you say, it’s not easy. But critics say it’s not possible to live properly on Newstart, to be prepared for those job interviews to make that transition back into the workforce.

 RUSTON: Well many of the programs that are in place help people with those sorts of things: making sure that they’ve got appropriate CVs; that they understand how to go to a job interview; providing them with, in many cases, the appropriate clothing so that they can go to interviews. It is absolutely essential that we provide people with pathways and breaking down the barriers for them to get a job. Because they’re not going to get out of their disadvantage cycle that they’re in without them being able to get employment, and that’s what we’re focused on and will remain focused on.

 SPEERS: What about the basics? Putting food on the table and heating on during the winter? Are you saying that Newstart is adequate to pay for this?

 RUSTON: Look, I have not said it would be easy to live on Newstart  -

 SPEERS: But is it adequate? Is it possible?

 RUSTON: Well, as I said, it wouldn’t be easy. It’s a safety net payment. It never was meant to be a replacement for a wage or a salary. It is there as a safety net to assist people while they haven’t got a job. But we will make sure that our investment is in making sure we get them a job.

 SPEEERS: I’m just trying to establish though, it should be enough is your view – it should be enough to cover the basics?

 RUSTONS: As I said, we are absolutely focused on making sure that people get away from having to rely on that safety net, get a job so that they can actually earn more money.

 SPEERS: But I’m asking you if it is enough.

 RUSTON: Well, as I said, the purpose of our program is very much about getting people off Newstart and into a job –

 SPEERS: No, I appreciate that. I’m just wondering is there a reluctance to say whether this payment Newstart is enough to live on.

 RUSTON: Look, I’ve said it and I’ve said it earlier. It would not be easy to live on Newstart. I’m not shying away from that. And that’s why I am focused, as is the government, to make sure that we get people off Newstart.

 SPEERS: Ok, but it is possible to live on this?

 RUSTON: I think I’ve answered the question.

 SPEERS: Well, with respect Minister, you’ve said it’s not easy but I’m just – it’s pretty straight forward – is Newstart enough to live on?

 RUSTON: Look, I have answered the question and I absolutely remain totally committed to helping anybody who’s on Newstart who wants a job to get a job.

 SPEERS: Ok, but you’ve not said whether it’s enough to live on. Just to be clear.

 RUSTON: I’ve said it wouldn’t be easy to live on Newstart.

 SPEERS: Alright, we’ll move on.





PRESENTER: There are a lot of people listening right now who are 55 plus, well into their 60s, thinking, ‘I’m not going to get a job’.
MCCORMACK: Maybe they should look to regional Australia.
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack speaking to David Bevan on ABC Adelaide – Tuesday, 27 August 2019
As Australians who are over 55 and looking for work know, it’s not that simple.
Suggesting that older Australians looking for work could easily have a job if they moved to the regions is very out of touch.
For most people in their 60s, it simply isn’t an option to take on heavy work.
Not to mention, 9 out of the 10 electorates with the highest number of people on Newstart are in regional areas.
Even if they are able to leave family and caring responsibilities behind, Newstart is so low people can’t afford to move and look for work.
One in four people on Newstart are over 55 – and age discrimination is a huge issue.
The Government needs to stop blaming older workers and get the economy and wages moving again.
It’s just a few weeks since the Minister for Social Services said the pension was ‘welfare’ and ‘generous’.
You have to ask yourself – why are the Liberals and Nationals so out of touch?


MCCORMACK: I appreciate that senior Australians are sometimes set in their ways as far as they’ve got the family home. They’re living in the suburbs of Adelaide. I appreciate that it’s not for everybody. But for some there are job opportunities out there if they just look.

PRESENTER: “I’m sorry, but this man is mad?”, says another person, the solutions that you’re providing. That’s what the phone lines are saying.

MCCORMACK: Well, I’d also like to hear what those people might have as solutions for the problem. And the bucket of money is only so big.

PRESENTER: What if you are 60 plus, you’ve been working as a labourer most of your life, your body is now broken, you cannot get work, and even if you could, you are in agony to do it? And what Michael McCormack says is, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t increase Newstart for you. You got to stick it out on that lower payment until you turn 67, another 7 years away, because I need to balance my budget this year’.

MCCORMACK: When you’ve got a stronger economy you can look at all those sorts of things. You can look at the welfare payments. You can look at all those sorts of things. Even spending more money on infrastructure to make it easier for people.




Our social safety net should assist women experiencing family violence and make it easier for them to leave violent relationships.

We know that financial security remains a critical barrier to women attempting to leave a violent relationship.

This latest report shows how Centrelink is simply not providing critical assistance for women experiencing family violence when they need it most. In fact, Centrelink processes are making them more financially vulnerable and actually adding to their trauma.

The report also revealed that information was being inappropriately handled by Centrelink to be used as evidence against women experiencing family violence, including police and hospital records. This is abhorrent and unacceptable.

The Morrison Government needs to urgently review Centrelink rules and processes to ensure that our social safety net can flexibly meet the complex circumstances of women experiencing family violence.

Centrelink under the Morrison Government is failing women experiencing family violence.

This report from ANROWS comes after revelations in March that the Morrison Government’s private Centrelink workforce inadvertently provided the personal information of women who left violent relationships, to their abusive partners.




34 years since Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was handed back to the Anangu traditional owners, climbing on this sacred place will be stopped from 26 October.

Uluru holds great cultural significance for the Anangu traditional owners and many other Aboriginal nations.

The Anangu traditional owners have been asking people not to climb for many years since the time of the handback, and the vast majority of visitors have respected this request.

Climbing Uluru is also dangerous, as Pauline Hanson found out when her latest divisive stunt backfired.

Local tourism operators have been working closely with the Uluru Kata Tjuta Board of Management for many years to develop successful alternative visitor activities.

We recently visited Uluru and heard first-hand from the Anangu traditional owners about their heartfelt decision to respect the significance of Uluru by closing the climb.

Labor wholeheartedly supports this decision.

People from across Australia – and the world – will continue to be welcomed to Uluru, to marvel at its ancient beauty, connect with this very special place and learn more about Aboriginal culture.




 A new report today, on the eve of the coronial report into the death of Yorta Yorta woman Ms Day, showing Indigenous deaths in custody have worsened over the past year is a shocking and urgent call to action.

 The situation for First Nations Australians in our justice system is dire – with incarceration rates still shamefully high, mistreatment and neglect too common, and access to proper support and legal services too limited.

 Today, Commonwealth and state ministers, will meet with First Nations peak service delivery groups, as part of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting to discuss the refresh of Closing the Gap targets.

 It is imperative that the Government and COAG genuinely listen to First Nations leaders, and work constructively with them, to adopt a justice target as part of Closing the Gap.

 Labor has consistently called for a justice target to be added to Closing the Gap.

 A genuine national commitment to reducing the disproportionately high rates of incarceration and ending the pattern of deaths in custody is painfully overdue.

 First Nations people having a say in the policies and laws that affect their community is essential to delivering a meaningful and lasting drop in incarceration rates.

As Australia continues the important discussion of a First Nations voice to parliament, this COAG meeting will demonstrate that First Nations people having a say in the policies and laws that affect their communities is something to be embraced – not feared.





New analysis by Essential Research shows 75 per cent of Australians support an increase in Newstart.

This includes over two-thirds support among Coalition voters (68 per cent).

The Prime Minister and Treasurer are increasingly out-of-touch with the Australian community – who know that the current rate of Newstart is too low.

In a developed country like Australia, everyone should be able to afford the basics.

And children should all get a good start in life – no matter what their parents’ circumstances.

Newstart is so low that people can’t afford transport to interviews, appropriate clothes and equipment, or access the training and education they need to get into the workforce.

The Prime Minister needs to listen to former leaders and his own backbench – with John Howard, Russell Broadbent, Dean Smith, Arthur Sinodinos, John Hewson and Barnaby Joyce all calling for an increase to Newstart.

Voices in the community have also been loud and clear including ACOSS, the Business Council of Australia and the Reserve Bank.

Newstart is too low – it’s so low its pushing people into poverty and preventing them from getting work.




Labor is calling on the Government to support a proposed Joint Select Committee on the Implementation of the National Redress Scheme.

The committee will examine, among other things, the Government’s excruciatingly slow rollout of redress for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

Labor Senator Patrick Dodson has tabled the notice of motion to establish the Inquiry in the Senate today.

The scheme is projected to provide redress to 60,000 survivors. And yet, the latest data shows that only 4,100 applications have been made and only 229 Redress payments have been made.

This is not acceptable. Survivors have already waited too long.

Many people seeking redress are older and in ill health, and we can’t afford to see more people die waiting.

It is the responsibility of our whole community to make sure those people who were let down and betrayed by institutions and governments have can access redress and justice.

The Parliament, the states and territories, and institutions must deliver on the promises they have made to prevent this ever happening again.

The Government needs to support this important Inquiry to ensure that institutions are joining as quickly as possible, and that applications are processed accurately, and in a timely manner.




Deepening divisions in the Government are heaping more pressure on Scott Morrison to finally acknowledge Newstart is too low, and do something about it.

Today, former Minister for Social Service, Paul Fletcher, refused to deny reports he intervened to prevent a Parliamentary Inquiry recommending an increase in Newstart.

This comes after the Chair of that Inquiry, Liberal MP Russel Broadbent, called publically for Newstart to increase.

It also follows reports today that the Nationals are undertaking modelling into the jobs and economic benefits a boost to Newstart would deliver for regional areas.

After six years of inaction, the Liberals and Nationals are running out of excuses.

Scott Morrison is increasingly out of touch with the community – who understand that Newstart is so low people can’t afford the clothes, transport and basics they need to get back into the workforce.

Scott Morrison needs to listen to former leaders and his own backbench – with John Howard, Russell Broadbent, Dean Smith, Arthur Sinodinos, John Hewson and Barnaby Joyce all calling for an increase to Newstart.

Voices in the community have also been loud and clear including ACOSS, the Business Council of Australia and the Reserve Bank.

Newstart is too low – it’s so low that people are being pushed into poverty and its preventing them from getting work.

SUNDAY, 28 JULY 2019



SUBJECTS: Liberals’ latest attack on pensions; Liberals’ push to ditch Superannuation Guarantee increase; Labor’s policies; Newstart; retirement incomes review; Banking Royal Commission

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES: We are seeing the suggestion from this Government – this cruel Government, when it comes to pensioners – a very drastic change. Craig Kelly has suggested that people can buy the family home from their superannuation and that it be included in the pensioner assets test. This is a cruel and drastic change that’s being suggested by this Government in relation to the assets test. It is putting pensioners in the position of either owning a home or going on the pension. It’s completely unacceptable. And when you look at the DNA of this Government when it comes to pensioners, it didn’t take long did it, from the deeming rates decision to this? You look at the very fact that they have constantly tried to move the pension age to the age of 70. They have constantly tried to do away with the energy supplement. And the history is there to be seen. Jim will talk about the fact that there were 370,000 pensioners that were worse off when the Government did a deal with the Greens in relation to the pension. I am saying very clearly that we were shut down this morning, so pensioners’ concerns were not heard in the Parliament. The discussion did not take place in the Parliament about what is an absolute drastic change. Scott Morrison needs to stand up today and before question time be very clear about what the position is in terms of the home and the assets test. We are calling on him to make sure that pensioners who are careful people; who have given their entire lives of working for this country and deserve respect and dignity and surety in their old age. We are calling on the Prime Minister to provide that. I’ll ask Jim to make some comments.

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much Linda. When the Government gagged the motion that Linda and I just moved in the House of Representatives they didn't take up the opportunity we were providing for them to rule out the changes that Craig Kelly is proposing to put the family home into the pension asset test. The Government has failed and refused to rule out this change that Craig Kelly is proposing.

The Liberals wandered around the country during the election campaign pretending to care about retirees at the same time as they were planning to attack superannuation and the pension. The Liberals are gearing up to rob almost 13 million Australian workers of the Superannuation Guarantee increase that they need and deserve and were promised. And now we know on top of that they're also gearing up to put the family home in the pension assets test.

This will push pensioners out of their home, off the pension, or both, and it's not good enough.

We will fiercely resist this change that the Government is contemplating. We call on the Government to rule out changes to legislate the Superannuation Guarantee increase, to rule out changes to the family home in the pension asset test, and to stop pretending that they care about the retirees of this country.

We now know what Josh Frydenberg’s retirement incomes review is all about. The retirement incomes review is all about justifying more cuts to super and more cuts to the pension.

This Government has form on both. This is the Government which froze the Superannuation Guarantee, who has tried at every turn to limit retirement incomes for Australian workers; a Government which has cut the pension repeatedly; tried to cut the energy supplement; done deals with the Greens to push people off the pension or to make hundreds of thousands of Australians substantially worse.

This Government has form. It's time for them to rule out putting the family home in the pension assets test, to rule out messing with the legislated Superannuation Guarantee increase and to stop pretending they care about retirees when all along they've planned this ambush on their retirement income.

JOURNALIST: Craig Kelly is known for making off the cuff remarks. Is it really fair to say [INAUDIBLE]?

CHALMERS: I'm pleased you asked that. I invite you to consider what happened with energy policy, and we went through the same dance with energy policy. Everybody said well Craig Kelly is just a backbencher and at the end of the day Craig Kelly's energy policy became Josh Frydenberg's energy policy. So there has been a recent precedent which shows that in the Liberal Party the tail wags the Treasurer and we've seen that repeatedly. Josh Frydenberg will always put his internal political ambitions and interests ahead of the interests of Australian retirees and pensioners and superannuants and workers. We saw with energy policy one of the reasons that we've had six failed years of energy policy is because the Liberal Party have had the tail wagging the dog. Characters like Craig Kelly. We've seen this movie before, and I fear that we're about to see it again.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it was a mistake to go to the electorate proposing that franking credits crack down without grandfathering. In other words, telling people you're going to immediately take that income away without giving them a chance really to reorganise that?

CHALMERS: Well Greg, I think as I've said to you many times and I've said to other friends here at this press conference, all of the policies that we took to the last election are up for review. Obviously we listen to the message that was sent to us by the electorate. We will take our time. We're not in a rush to come to a final view on the policies that we'll take to the next election when it's only been eight or nine weeks since the last election.

JOURNALIST: Does it make it hard to criticise the Government on things like superannuation, things that aren't their policy, when you guys still have policies that are tax increases for superannuation and these franking credits.

CHALMERS: I invite you to consider it another way. This is a government that went all around Australia pretending to care about retirees with all their dishonesty around the retiree tax and all of that kind of stuff. Now we know that the Liberals are proposing changes which would be massively detrimental to pensioners. We also know that there's a substantial push in the Liberal Party to cut the Superannuation Guarantee which would mean for example, for an average worker who's 30 years old right now on $80,000 a year, they'd be about $90,000 worse off at retirement.

I've given Scott Morrison multiple opportunities to rule out messing with the Superannuation Guarantee and he wouldn't do it. The Insiders program gave Josh Frydenberg five opportunities to rule that out. They won't rule out messing with the Superannuation Guarantee. They haven't ruled out messing with the family home in the pension asset test. We call on them to give workers and retirees and pensioners some certainty and come clean on what their plans are for their retirement incomes.

JOURNALIST: The PC recommended six months ago a retirement income review. Do you support that recommendation? Would you make a submission to that inquiry? And should it get underway soon?

CHALMERS: We will be an active participant in a debate about retirement incomes. Whether or not we make a submission is to be determined. I think when that proposal was first made by the PC with the best of intentions that was one thing. But now I fear that the Liberal Party will use that suggestion as an excuse to justify the cuts that they want to make to superannuation.

BURNEY: The other thing about that inquiry is that it’s been impossible for us to find out what the terms of reference are, what the inquiry is actually going to do. They have been completely opaque about that inquiry. And if they want participation, they should be clear about what the inquiry is going to examine. And as Jim said, it is now beginning to appear that it could be a stalking horse for a whole lot of bad things.

JOURNALIST: With Newstart, why won’t Labor put a figure on how much that should be changed by?

BURNEY: The Labor Party has been very clear in terms of Newstart: we are calling on the Government to review with a view to increasing Newstart. We did not win the election. We went to the election with a very clear and long term commitment to review Newstart. The Government obviously won the election and it is now firmly in their court to determine a rate with a view to increase. That is what the Government’s responsibility is.

CHALMERS: We've also seen stories today about the Minister interfering with the report of the Committee. What we would say about that is it seems almost everybody in this country except for Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg know that Newstart is inadequate. The reason why we're calling on the Government to review and increase Newstart is because it's necessary to alleviate poverty, to get people in a position to find a job, but also good for the economy because the economy is struggling for consumption.

So, there's a whole range of reasons why we're calling on the Government to act in this fashion. It's for the Government to explain why they interfered with that report. It appears that there are more and more Liberal and National backbenchers who have Labor's view about Newstart. It's time for Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison to listen to their backbench, to Labor, to the BCA, to John Howard, to John Hewson, to KPMG, to the Reserve Bank - the list goes on and on - and take action.

JOURNALIST: If there was interference by the Minister and that recommendation was changed why didn't your members issue a minority report?

CHALMERS: You have to ask our members. I don't involve myself in the goings-on of that committee. But I think what is clear from the reports that have come out today is that the report was going to recommend working towards an increase to Newstart. The Government intervened at the last minute. They seem to be the only ones who don't recognise the need for consideration of a change here.

BURNEY: Not only the Government, but the then-Minister for Social Services intervened and that is a very, very dangerous precedent.

JOURNALIST: With Labor's policy under review as you said, you are going to take time to consider them. What sort of time frame are we talking about? Can we expect to know what policies Labor has or what policy it has dropped since the election before the end of the year?

CHALMERS: I'm not prepared to put a timeframe on it. I think it's entirely reasonable, as I said before, when we're eight or nine weeks from the last election to take all the time that we need to review and revise the policies that we took to the last election, but also to come up with new policies and a new agenda for the 2022 election.

BURNEY: Which is a completely responsible way forward and we’re not going to be rushed with the review. We’re not going to be rushed examining what policies are there, what new policies we need to think about. It is three years to the next election and we will do this slowly.

CHALMERS: I'll just take one more question from Kat and then we're good.

JOURNALIST: In these reports about the interference in the committee report, how confident are you that your new push for the economics committee inquiry into Newstart –

BURNEY: Well, you would know that we have recommended an inquiry by the Senate economics committee. We’re working through what the terms of reference for that committee should be. And I have every confidence that that committee will explore this issue very thoroughly.

CHALMERS: I meant to go back to Phil before.

JOURNALIST: Just on the Banking Royal Commission, the Government is saying they may or may not be done by the end of this year. What is an acceptable timeframe to have the 40 reccos that [INAUDIBLE] legislated by?

CHALMERS: The Government pretended they cared about the recommendations of the Banking Royal Commission to get them through an election. Since the election we haven't heard a peep from them on what they intend to do with those recommendations. It's very clear from what's going on in the Parliament this week that the Government is putting forward all kinds of bills to satisfy a political strategy and to distract from the fact that they have made absolutely no progress on implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into banks. This is a Government which will always try and create a political distraction from their economic failures. The fact that growth hasn't been this slow in the economy for 10 years and wages are stagnant, consumption is weak, retail is weak, confidence is down and because they have that strategy to distract all of you and try and distract all of us from the main game they think they can get away with overseeing a weak economy and doing nothing on the Banking Royal Commission.

I think it's incredibly important that we and the Australian people hold the Government's feet to the fire when it comes to the Banking Royal Commission. It's not good enough for them to pretend they care in the lead up to the election and then to wash their hands of it afterwards. We need to see substantial progress. We need to see legislation in this building to make sure that the recommendations of the Banking Royal Commission can be implemented as soon as possible. Thanks very much.