Minister Rishworth interview on ABC Radio National Drive


ANDY PARK, HOST: Joining me now in the studio here in Parliament House is the Federal Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth. Minister, welcome to you.


ANDY PARK: This policy, the single parent payment, is close to my heart. My mother survived on it until I was twelve. The cut off age was reportedly set to be increased to 12 – it will be increased to 14. Why the change of mind?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What the Government did was look at all the evidence and of course what we looked at was the fact that parenting doesn't stop at age eight. And so ensuring that single parents, particularly the primary carer, has enough support to support themselves and their child was very important. We tried to strike a balance. Of course, parenting never goes away – but it does evolve. And so once a child, the youngest child, is settled into high school, then it was deemed an appropriate time to look at parents being able to increase their employment and job seeking.

ANDY PARK: I mean, single parents and single parent groups were calling for the original scheme to be reinstated. That is, to make the cut off age 16 again. It's what the Greens want as well. Does this policy go far enough is the question?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This policy has been thought about quite considerably and it is striking the right balance of making sure we recognise that juggling work as well as caring responsibilities is difficult for single parent families and they do need that certainty of the income coming in. But the role does evolve and once the youngest child is settled into high school, then it is a time when those parents will be able to spend more time potentially taking more hours or looking for work.

ANDY PARK: Minister, you'd have to admit that Julia Gillard's policy decision did really dog Labor for years and has been blamed by many experts for an increase in child poverty rates. Why not just fully reverse that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, firstly, the Howard government was the first Government to bring in this change for new parents with the cutoff age at eight. The Gillard Government did remove the grandfathering that had existed with that. Successive governments have made change. I think our Government is recognising that this wasn't the right thing to do. There's more evidence coming in around how we need to support single parents, how we need to make sure that they are able to do that very important job of looking after their child, at the same time being supported, to take work when they can. But there is a juggle, there is a balance there. And we believe that this change, which does have a significant increase to the payment level, does support that.

ANDY PARK: This measure is set to cost $1.9 billion through to 2026-27. Is this part of the Government's $14.6 billion cost of living budget or separate?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This is part of the Government's $14.6 billion cost of living relief. There's a range of different measures that people will see on Budget night. We believe this is a substantive package, but it's been designed in a way that doesn't add to inflation. It's been designed in a responsible way, in a very targeted way, to support those who are doing it tough. Obviously, we've already announced energy relief for close to five million families, that's a really important measure. As well as our cheaper medicines policy. There is a range of measures, but that headline figure is a significant investment and support for people doing it tough with cost of living.

ANDY PARK: Can you say with certainty that none of these payments will stimulate inflation?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The evidence that Treasury has looked at very carefully is to consider the impact on inflation, because our focus has been on responsible budgeting that doesn't add to inflation. Certainly the advice from Treasury is that the package that we've put together will not add to inflation which makes people's lives harder.

ANDY PARK: If you have just joined me, it's twelve past five here on RN Drive. You're listening to the Federal Minister Social Services, Amanda Rishworth. She is here in the studio with me. You're the Minister for Social Services. Treasurer Jim Chalmers has said the Budget will also increase indexation for funding for government and community services. What does this mean for things like mental health and domestic violence services? I mean, we know, especially through the pandemic and post-pandemic, these services are under extraordinary pressure.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The services that the Commonwealth relies on to deliver are really important organisations. We rely on a lot of non-government organisations to deliver programs that we set out. So making sure that they are properly resourced is really important. This was something we did in the October Budget to recognise that the wages of these community sector workers is really important. It is important they are remunerated appropriately. And so we recognise that by providing extra funding for these organisations in the October budget. Our Government has committed to making sure that they're able to deliver the services we need because so many people rely on them and there's a huge range of services that the Commonwealth does deliver. Some of them are mental health services, as you've highlighted, but some of them are emergency food relief, others are financial counselling. So, we rely on a whole range of non-government organisations and it is important that we appropriately pay them for the work they're doing.

ANDY PARK: Just quickly, we have all seen the reports that JobSeeker may be increased for those over 55, but there are hopes that may get extended. The Government has been rather coy on this. Is there an increase in JobSeeker coming and will it be across the board not just targeted for over 55’s?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I'm going to say this - it’s just one more sleep until the Budget. There's one sleep to the Budget. The full raft of cost of living relief that will be in the Budget will be on full display tomorrow night. As I said already, we have announced our energy support for many households and that includes those living on income support, but in terms of the broader range of measures that will be available to people - there's just one more sleep to go.

ANDY PARK: I’m glad that may be the last time we hear that. Federal Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth, appreciate your time Minister.