Zali Steggall MP Speaks on the Economic Inclusion Committee Bill 2023

16 November 2023

I rise to speak to the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee Bill 2023.

This bill is thanks to the efforts of Senator David Pocock, and I pay tribute to him for ensuring it has come to fruition, with the government’s agreement.

The committee this bill establishes is already up and running, and this legislation puts it on a statutory footing. It will bring together experts from across Australia to provide ongoing, expert advice to the government. It will help ensure the widest range of stakeholders will feed into each yearly Budget process. This advice this committee with gives to the government to act on will include the following:

  • The adequacy, effectiveness, and sustainability of income support payments, including options to boost economic inclusion and tackle disadvantage.
  • Options to reduce barriers and disincentives to work.
  • Options for tailored responses to address barriers to economic inclusion for long-term unemployed and disadvantaged groups.
  • The impact of economic inclusion policies on people with barriers to work, including (without limitation) people with caring responsibilities, Indigenous Australians, and people with disabilities.
  • The impact of economic inclusion policies on gender equality.
  • The trends of inequality markers in Australia and international comparisons.

This is a lot to cover, but it is heartening to see a good policy advisory mechanism reporting directly to the government on the most effective way to deal with thorny, long-running issues around people who face barriers, hardship, and disadvantage in fulfilling their full potential.

I know that many of my constituents in Warringah will welcome this sort of measure that improves the policy-making process and tries to address longstanding, complex policy conundrums that have bedeviled successive governments.

While Warringah is indeed an affluent electorate, I still deal with constituents facing hardship, who struggle to make ends meet and who do need help to get their lives back on track.

This bill will ensure substantive, sober policy work is undertaken and provided to the government to act on to help constituents such as this.

The committee has, in fact, already issued a report in April this year with a series of wide-ranging recommendations for the government to examine, including:

  • A substantial increase in the base rates of JobSeeker Payment and related working-age payments.
  • Increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance and reform its indexation to better reflect rent paid.

I look forward to hearing more from the government on how this committee is specifically driving them to make better policy and take on board the recommendations it makes.

There is always some risk that governments will set up committees such as this and ultimately ignore recommendations.

Therefore, I will be offering an amendment to ensure a government response is made public every time the committee makes its recommendations to the government.

As I say, I support this bill. I support the work of the committee.

The proof will be in the pudding whether the government will take up its advice. We await Budget 2024 with bated breath.