7AD Weekdays with Lee Dixon


Topics: Social security payments, Loaves and Fishes, cost of living

LEE DIXON, HOST: We have a studio full of people right now as we're graced by the Honourable Amanda Rishworth, Minister for Social Services and Senator Anne Urquhart for a little bit of a chat this afternoon. Hello, Anne. How are you?

ANNE URQUHART, SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: I'm very well. How are you, Lee?

LEE DIXON: Very good. You always have guests in tow when I see you. Who have you got with you today?

ANNE URQUHART: I have the wonderful Minister Amanda Rishworth.

LEE DIXON: Hello, Amanda. Welcome to the North West Coast. Thanks for your company.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Great to be with you. You can't come to Tasmania without Anne bringing you to Devonport or somewhere. She's a very persistent Senator.

LEE DIXON: We've got lots to show off though.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: You do. It was a beautiful morning this morning. I had a lovely walk at about six am.

LEE DIXON: Good to hear. Now what has your day entailed so far? You've made some pretty interesting announcements over the last 24 hours.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Yes, today was really a wonderful morning where we got to actually visit Loaves and Fishes, both their commercial kitchen and their warehouse. And we were unable to unveil a plaque because the Federal Government committed $1.3 million to Loaves and Fishes to ensure they can secure their warehouse. That settled just yesterday and allows Loaves and Fishes a lot of long term planning. Of course, for those people that don't know what Loaves and Fishes do, I think a lot of Tasmanians do, but they secure and I guess rescue food and make sure that that food, very nutritious food, fresh produce makes it onto the tables of people that are hungry.

LEE DIXON: Now, is that food distributed locally or does it go further afield?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It goes right across Tasmania, but what they were making in the commercial kitchen today was food lunches for schools. I think they supply about 30 schools, they were saying, with food lunches. They’re hot and they looked really good. I have to say, one school almost might have missed out on a lunch because I was ready to tuck in! One of their really impressive mantras was about it being healthy and nutritious. It really is wonderful that we were able to help and that was a commitment that Anne made before the election. So after the election, it's been great to come down here and make sure that we've delivered that security.

LEE DIXON: Amanda, I'm glad you told us what it was, because we have driven past, we've seen the signs. They used to be on Formby Road there for a little while.

ANNE URQUHART: They're still in Formby Road. It’s the same building but they've been renting it for quite a few years. As Amanda said, the provision of them being able to purchase that building now saves an enormous amount of rent every week or every month. And it also allows them flexibility to be able to set the organisation up for a really good future in terms of food security and the way that they provide that food security through new freezers and a whole range of things that they can do over the long term now.

LEE DIXON: And they've got a big team there.

ANNE URQUHART: They've got quite a few employees, but they also have volunteers and they've got a commercial kitchen round behind the TAFE building. That's an amazing organisation there. And there's really young people who have come in and are learning skills about cooking, about meals preparedness. The young person in charge there said that they might get 100 kilograms of asparagus, so they've got to work out what to do with that. So, it's not just simply reading a recipe, but it's also taking advantage of a bit of flexibility with what food comes in.

LEE DIXON: And not wasting what they receive.

ANNE URQUHART: And not wasting anything. Yes.

LEE DIXON: Now, Amanda, you also announced some extra money in the pockets for over five million Australians recently. Can you tell us a bit about that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Yes. Yesterday we saw a significant boost to many income support payments that people may receive. We saw the indexation of the Age Pension, the Disability Pension, but also saw a boost to payments like JobSeeker and student payments and also the largest increase to rent assistance in the last 30 years. We know it's really tough for people in the private rental market that may be on income support, so that boost will hopefully help people with the cost of rent. It was a significant boost for people. We do know people are doing it tough, but this is one way that we're able to support those people, particularly on government payments.

LEE DIXON: When you are hitting the pavement, what are people saying to you in the streets at the moment? Because it is quite difficult for a lot of people right now.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: A lot of people are saying they are doing it tough and they do recognise that the Government is looking at where we can support them. Things like healthcare costs are one example, where we're starting to see the flow on benefits from our boost to Medicare and our cheaper medicines policies. But also energy costs are always a challenge for people and we're starting to see the energy relief flow through to families here in Tasmania. So look, we recognise that it is cost of living. We, as a Government, don't want to add to that pressure by fuelling inflation. That would be not the right thing to do, but where we can help people, we really are trying to do that.

LEE DIXON: Yeah. And you're seeing that on a broader scale nationally. What about locally, Anne?

ANNE URQUHART: Well, talking about the energy relief, I had a guy come up to me yesterday actually and he said to me, thank you very much. That energy relief payment really helped me pay my Hydro bill or TasNetworks.

LEE DIXON: Whatever it's called these days.

ANNE URQUHART: Those sorts of things, I think, can be resonated. And we do recognise that it's difficult for people. Cost of living is going up, lots of increases going up, but I think our Government is really looking at ways in which we can help people get through these times and make it easier to do it. So, the comment from just one person yesterday was really lovely. To know that it does make a difference when you do things that help people in those sorts of areas.

LEE DIXON: It'll be nice to think that the old saying, what goes up must come down rings true at some point with all this stuff. Yeah and Amanda, just quickly, before we wrap it up, when will people start noticing those payments or extra help?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: At their next payment instalment. Whenever they may have scheduled their next income support payment, they'll receive that increase.

LEE DIXON: Lots going on. I know you're busy. You've got to head east now. We've had Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth in the studio with us today and Senator Anne Urquhart. Thank you for dropping by weekdays.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Thank you very much.