GOVERNMENT’S BACKFLIP ON ENERGY ASSISTANCE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 3 APRIL 2019
I have great pleasure in seconding this motion. The Treasurer is no Angus Young, and AC/DC would be absolutely mortified that they use that song. Not only do we have cuts, not only do we have chaos, but we actually have confusion, and the new thing is that we have copycats. We have copycats. Yesterday, when I circulated a second reading amendment for this bill to the crossbench proposing the government should expand the payment to those on Newstart, youth allowance and other payments, I never in my wildest dreams anticipated it would be so successful so quickly. Labor called on the government to extend the one-off payment to other people on means-tested income support, including ABSTUDY, Austudy, double orphan payments, Newstart allowance, parenting payments, partner allowance, sickness allowance, special benefits, widow allowance, wife pension, youth allowance and veterans payments. That's quite a lot to forget, don't you think?
But it seems that even the Treasurer was taken by surprise. When asked directly on 9 News last night about extending the payment to people on Newstart, he didn't say yes. This is what the Treasurer said: 'Well, Newstart does go up twice a year, when it is indexed. But, importantly, the majority of people on Newstart move off Newstart within 12 months. They hopefully go into work, and many have been doing that.' But it was a totally different script this morning. The Treasurer this morning told ABC, 'Well, a couple of things. Firstly, the energy supplement will be extended to people on Newstart.' That was a change from last night. Sabra Lane then asked, 'It will be?' and the Treasurer said 'It will be.' That's a bit of a change. How quickly things have unravelled—the unravelled budget. It is chaos, it is confusion and now you are copycats. It is a desperate tone from a desperate government and Australia will see through it. $75, six weeks out from an election, will not undo six years of cuts and cruelty. Labor moved to see this payment extended because there is no good reason for people on these payments to be excluded.
Finally, within in a bit more than 12 hours—not 24 and not 48—the government realised that they had forgotten quite a few people on several payments. These people face the same costs of living and in many cases they are in fact on lower payments, yet you, in your cruelty, forgot to add them into the energy payment. While Labor supports this payment, make no mistake that after six years of chaos and cruel cuts the Australian people will see right through this cynical and desperate attempt from this government to save its own skin. That's what this is about—saving your own skin. This government must take the Australian people for fools. Well, they are not fools. This incompetence—the fact that within 12 hours there has been a complete unravelling of this budget. There is an $80 million black hole. We are seeing the stature of this government.
While I am on my feet, let me address one other thing: the NDIS underspend. Let us remember that this is about building a surplus on the back of people with disability—$1.6 billion off people who can't use their plans. $1.6 billion off people on disability, people who are disabled. You are building a surplus on that. How cynical. How outrageous. Do you really think people with disability, their advocates and the broader Australian community are going to cop that rubbish? No, they will not. I think we are seeing that very clearly this morning. We are seeing a government that forgot a whole bunch of people and this morning is copying what Labor was going to do. It is just a cynical, outrageous act from this government. The bottom line is that Australians with disability are the ones who are going to pay for Prime Minister Morrison to bolster his books.