Liquid Assets Waiting Test
Senate Hansard Thursday 10 February 2011
Senator SIEWERT (Western Australia) (3.26 pm)—I move:
That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (Senator Carr) to a question without notice asked by Senator Siewert today relating to liquid assets.
This is a particularly important issue because the amendments we were discussing relating to the dou¬bling of the liquid assets test and the removal of the waiting period are to run out on 31 March this year. The Greens understand that these provisions were time limited. I must note here that it was the then Deputy Prime Minister, now the Prime Minister, who made these commitments. While her commitments were time limited, part of that commitment—and the bit that the government seems to be forgetting—was a clear promise to review the effectiveness of these measures within 12 months.
This promise was made repeatedly. It was made in a letter from the Prime Minister to Senator Bob Brown, the Leader of the Australian Greens, on 12 February. This letter was written in the name of the then Deputy Prime Minister and it outlined, amongst other things, the government’s commitments to implement the liquid assets waiting period and the doubling of the threshold for the liquid assets test. Part of this agreement, as out-lined in the letter, was that these arrangements would be reviewed after one year to determine their adequacy. This letter was received by us as part of the government’s commitment on the stimulus package, and at-tached to it was a letter by Minister Swan, the Treas-urer, on 12 February.
In this letter he very briefly out-lined the relaxation of the liquid assets waiting period for unemployed people and the mechanism to ensure that all unemployed people and students would have access to the bonus payment. This letter was attached to the government’s letter in which they outlined their commitment to relax the assets test for unemployed people and ensure that students would be able to access the bonus payment.
This promise was repeated by the Deputy Prime Minister in a media release on 12 May 2009, in which she clearly said: ‘The measure will be reviewed after one year.’ I note in passing that, in that media release, the Deputy Prime Minister seemed to have forgotten or did not acknowledge the fact that this was an idea of the Greens and that it was part of the measures that we managed to get the government to agree to in the stimulus package. This promise was repeated on the DEEWR website on 20 March 2009, where the government outlined the changes to the liquid assets test and repeated, yet again, that this measure would be reviewed after one year.
It is very clear from all of these sources that the measures for relaxing the liquid assets test were time limited. We do not dispute that. What I am cross about is the fact that the government have not reviewed these measures. So I would like to know from the government: did the now Prime Minister and her government deliver on their promise to review these measures? From the non-answer given by Minister Carr, it is quite obvious that they have not reviewed these measures.
If they have, they would have mentioned them. So, in fact, the roundabout answer to my question was no. In that case, how do they know whether or not these measures were effective? How many people were helped? How should we consider extending the meas-ures? How do we know that the government are right in their assumption that, because unemployment has decreased slightly, there are not a lot of people out there who will be adversely affected when they go back to the reduced liquid assets test and an extended waiting period?
Does the government know how many people will be affected by that? What about the issues around in-dexation? We know that there has been a problem with indexation of the liquid assets test, which I would have thought should have been part of any review. If the government had done the review, they would have been able to present us with evidence to tell us what the impact has been.
Is there a basis for having a higher or lower threshold, a longer or shorter waiting period? How effective were these measures for people who did become unemployed during the GFC? How much of a difference did the measures make to their health and wellbeing and that of their families? Did these measures make a difference in their capacity to find another job quickly? Did they help people to bounce back fairly quickly after they had become unemployed? We believe that these are all key issues.
We believe that it relates to the credibility of this government that they made promises repeatedly and have not fulfilled them. This was a fairly easy promise to keep: you put in a measure, you review it and then you present that information to the public.
Question agreed to.
Read the Hansard of Senator Siewert's question.