Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch has thrown his support behind single parents in the region, saying that cuts to parenting payments will put families under further unnecessary pressure.
The Leichhardt electorate rates fourth-highest in the country in the number of people accessing the payment, with 4227 recipients. Julia Gillard’s own electorate of Lalor leads the board, at 4829 people.
With parents from around the country demonstrating on the lawn of Parliament House yesterday, Mr Entsch said he was pleased to see them “come together as a united body”.
The legislation has already passed through the House of Representatives and was due to be introduced in the Senate today. While the Coalition has supported the Bill in its intention to encourage parents back to work, Mr Entsch said he had a number of concerns.
“Given that Cairns has an unemployment rate of 10.3 per cent, twice the national average, it’s crazy that this highly vulnerable sector of the community is now being pushed onto the dole,” he said. “It’s classic policy on the run and is only going to make the situation worse.”
Mr Entsch said the Howard Government’s Welfare to Work reforms introduced in 2006 which were opposed by Labor guaranteed that the single parent sector was protected and also provided means for getting them into the workforce.
“There’s no doubt that getting people back into work is a positive thing. But, with no additional funding or support, it will be extremely difficult for them to find a job in a region with consistently high unemployment.”
He pointed to the fact that the Government has slashed $162.2 million from Job Services Australia assistance for job seekers and a further $44.3 million from outcome payments for JSA providers.
“Parents may well be forced into a position where they go back to work but actually end up being worse off financially than they are now as a result.”
The Welfare to Work program also ensured that extra Out of School Hours care was available for parents.
“This is in direct contrast to the Labor Government, which is putting extra pressure on the childcare sector,” he explained. “Some centres have been forced to close as a result of the National Reforms, and this means that even those parents who are able to find work may struggle to get placement for their child.”
Lastly, the fact that Labor just three months ago reduced the Parenting Payment cut-off age from 16 to 12 showed the move was only ever about clawing back money from a disadvantaged part of society for their ever-increasing budget black hole.
“This Bill is expected to save the Government $691.9 million over four years, but is going to have the biggest impact on families who are already struggling,” Mr Entsch commented. “With burgeoning cost of living pressures, rising electricity costs and impacts of the Carbon Tax, this government is creating a perfect storm.”