Take Note: Income Support Payments

 In Parliament, Senate Speeches

Senator RENNICK (Queensland) (15:11, 10 August 2021): I seem to recall it wasn’t all that long ago that we had Labor actually condoning the robodebt scheme. They themselves were the ones that brought in the averaging scheme, under the Paul Keating government, in the late eighties. The member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek, said:

But if people fail to come to an arrangement to settle their debts, the Government has a responsibility to taxpayers to recover that money.

From the former Leader of the Opposition, the member for Maribyrnong:

The automation of this process will free up resources and result in more people being referred to the tax garnishee process, retrieving more outstanding debt on behalf of taxpayers.

And from Chris Bowen, the member for McMahon, who also called for a refund of overpayments through the robodebt scheme:

It is important that the Government explores different means of debt recovery to ensure that those who have received more money than they are entitled to repay their debt.

No-one is saying that the scheme is perfect and that we haven’t made mistakes. We’ve owned up to that, but we’ll never apologise for trying to automate processes in terms of the tax and transfer system in this country. When it comes to talking about subsidies for the rich, I think Labor should take a good look at themselves in the mirror. As the Treasurer pointed out yesterday, the unions themselves received $22 million in JobKeeper payments. Given the billions of dollars they collect every year from superannuation fees, they are the last people to need handouts in a time of crisis. Let’s be honest. The union industry today is really nothing more than the finance-brokering arm of the industry super funds. You have to ask yourself why they aren’t being taxed. I know Labor loves to complain about how the coalition loves to give tax breaks to big business, but if there is a big business in this country it’s the industry super funds. It’s the industry super funds and their brokerage arm, the unions themselves.

Look at the amount of money these guys in the unions collect by threatening to go on strike at these tier 1 builders. In Queensland, they’re threatening to go on strike if it gets hotter than 30 degrees, which is a bit of a joke really. Anyone knows that it’s 30 degrees in Queensland quite often after September, so I’m not quite sure when we expect to get anything built in Queensland. Good luck with that for the Olympic Games!

Of course, the other thing is the great big renewable energy subsidies that also go to the big end of town. We’ve got $10 billion—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Rennick, I have been listening carefully, and you have drifted off the taking note response. I am listening carefully for a segue back and I haven’t heard it yet.

Photo of MPSenator RENNICK: I’m segueing back to the notion, which I know Senator McAllister was implying, that we’re always giving tax breaks to the big end of town and we’re looking after the big end of town. I’m merely pointing out, Madam Deputy President, that Labor should look in the mirror at how they look after the big end of town, whether it be unions, whether it be super funds or whether it be large corporations that get generous subsidies for energy.

I’m agnostic here. I don’t think any energy company should be getting government subsidies. I know one of the big myths is that our agricultural industry, our fishing industry, our timber industry and our mining industry get free diesel subsidies. That’s not true. They’re actually rebates—that is, they’ve paid the money and they’re getting back what they paid. It’s neutral.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Rennick, you do need to get back to the taking note response.

Photo of MPSenator RENNICK: Okay. I’m coming back to robodebt and that technology, albeit flawed. I’ve worked on many IT projects myself, and I can tell you that you can always take the cost of an IT project, double it and multiply it by three, because that’s how much it will end up costing. I’m happy to take it on board. I would love to look at that robodebt stuff myself, because, having come from a systems implementation program, I’m sure there are ways we could fix the system. But we were trying to do the right thing. (Time expired)

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