Support for Children in Hardship Bill - Committee stage

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

STUART SMITH: It is a pleasure to rise for Part 3 of this Committee of the whole House which relates to the Inland Revenue Acts. I have listened with interest to some of the contributions coming across the Chamber this evening. I think it has been quite interesting.

I note one of the speakers pointed out that submitters were grateful for the increases but did not feel that they had gone far enough. I think that that actually lines up with quite a few of the Opposition’s contributions this evening. I think that is quite ironic because that particular party had 9 years in Government and chose not to do anything about it.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Yawn!

STUART SMITH: They may well yawn but, really, it must be a real source of embarrassment for them when we come to Part 3—that this deals very much with how people receive their abatements and so on.

We have also heard quite a bit of contributions about which is the best way to deal with raising these particular benefits to those people and how that is not far enough because it does not get up close to the wages of people working. But that is the point.

Really, benefits are there as a safety net, and the benefit to families and children living in a family that works, where their parent or parents or caregivers are working—that example that they see every day is worth lots and lots to those people, which cannot be measured in dollar terms. I think that that has been completely forgotten by the other side.

It is very easy to complain and just say, look, you know—one person alluded to a bill that would have added $50 a week to the abatement rate. That is all very well if you do not have to balance the books.

And what about the people who are out there working and showing that great example to their families about what the benefit of a day’s work is? When you have earned the money yourself, it is worth far more to you, and you will spend it more carefully than something that is given to you, which, actually, tends to not have much value at all.

I really was quite interested in the arguments about the vehicle for increasing benefits because you can go backwards and forwards across it, but Ministers considered this very carefully. The Minister herself has had a lot of time on this bill. She has talked to officials who have done a lot of work on this, and I was very impressed, when we had them in to the Social Services Committee, by the breadth and depth of their knowledge on this particular issue.

When we had some thoughts from them rebutting some of the evidence given in the select committee, it was pretty clear that the solution that was chosen was the one that is most appropriate and delivers the best solution, given what is the aim of that—that is, not to take it right up to the wages that people are earning because, actually, that is not the right incentive that we should be sending.

I support that, and I think that is brave and that is leadership, but that is exactly what people elect Governments to do—to lead and make tough decisions. I commend the Minister for taking that stand and for going to such a wide net and then pulling it back in to what is actually going to give an elegant solution to raising benefits. First time in 43 years—I think that deserves a round of applause, almost, but I am sure we will not get it from the other side of the Chamber.

I also am quite interested that the Greens were quite adamant about how these things keep missing out and how they were not quite enough. All of these submitters who came in seeking more increases and greater solutions in that area—that is their job to do that, to advocate for as much as they can get; go past what is actually needed to try to get more. That is their job. I am very happy to commend this to the Committee. Thank you.