The new social services minister promises to leave no Australian behind.
Almost three months after the election, Parliament has begun to sit and we are beginning to get an idea of the priorities of the new federal government. The first week of sitting saw a flurry of legislation introduced relating to key social issues, including the cashless debit card and climate change.
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New Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth has been an MP since 2007 and represents the Kingston electorate. She has held a number of posts over the years under previous Labor governments and the shadow ministry, covering disability, environment, education, health and veterans. Prior to the May elections, she was shadow youth minister.
How do you feel entering this portfolio? What does the appointment of some of Australia’s most vulnerable people mean to you?
I had the honor of being appointed Minister of Social Services by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Social Services is a critical portfolio and impacts so many in our community. It represents a quarter of the total federal budget. Social services are at the heart of the Albanian Labor Government’s vision to create a better future for all Australians and leave no one behind.
Your portfolio overlaps in some areas with other ministers, including on the NDIS and charities. Do you foresee this having an impact on how decisions are made in these important areas? Who will ultimately make decisions on these issues?
The Prime Minister has made it very clear that our government will bring people together to address our common challenges. I look forward to working with my ministerial colleagues to ensure that we make decisions in the best interests of the Australian people.
What are your main priorities for the portfolio and what were your first steps?
Australians voted for change and our government is working hard and delivering on its promises.
Cleaning up ten years of mess and mistakes won’t happen overnight, but we’re not wasting time.
My first task is to deliver on the election commitments we made, including improving women’s safety, putting in place an early childhood strategy, better support for retirees, addressing issues facing people with disabilities, abolishing the cashless debit card, solving gambling problems and supporting gambling groups, while recognizing the long-term challenges we face.
There seems to be real pressure from campaigners and some corners of Parliament for an increase in social benefits. Can they expect to see one during this term?
We recognize that the most vulnerable Australians have been hardest hit by the rising cost of living.
The Albanian government is focused on tackling the spiraling cost of living that is making life difficult for too many Australians. We need to kick-start wage growth and make health care, child care and housing more affordable, while growing the economy.
The previous government left us with a trillion dollar economy in debt, declining productivity, declining wages and the highest level of inflation in 20 years.
We have already gotten to work – already getting a raise in the minimum wage, lowering the cost of medicine, providing flood and pandemic relief and working with the energy sector to bring prices under control .
Just this week I introduced legislation to change the income cap for older Australians accessing the Commonwealth Senior Health Card, which will reduce cost of living pressures for Australians aged.
People with disabilities are calling for a specific plan to be put in place to help them navigate a COVID-filled world where many are at high risk of illness and death. Is this something you would be willing to implement with them?
The Albanian government is committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are included at every stage of our response to the pandemic.
Continuing to increase uptake of immunization among people with disabilities, including the second booster dose when eligible, remains a key government priority.
[Last week] I announced that we were going [in August] Launch a targeted SMS campaign to ensure that people living with disabilities can increase vaccination rates and have the information they need to access antivirals if they become ill.
Will you have oversight of the Labor Party’s plan for aged care?
I will work with all my ministerial colleagues on all initiatives that span my portfolio to ensure the best results for all Australians. I will also work with states and other parties to raise the standard of health care at all levels.
Centrelink continues to be a source of intimidation and frustration for many people who use the system. Are you planning anything to make Centrelink easier to navigate or to improve service and wait times?
I look forward to working with my colleague, Government Services Minister Bill Shorten, to ensure that Services Australia delivers the best results for Australians.
We have seen a signal from Albanese and other ministers that they would like to take a more collaborative approach to governing. Is that the approach you envision and how are you going to do it?
The Albanian Labor Government is committed to working with all levels of government, business, trade unions and other stakeholders to achieve strong results for the benefit of all Australians.
In my portfolio, I will focus on a whole-of-government approach to addressing key priorities that will improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable people in our community.
We are seeing an explosion in wait times at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, is this something you will be addressing or something you have jurisdiction over?
We recognize the need to address the high number of National Disability Insurance Scheme cases that are brought before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and will work with States and Territories to develop alternative dispute resolution options.
I look forward to working with my colleague, National Disability Plan Minister Bill Shorten, to ensure the best results for plan members.
Do you have a message for the sector as you get to work?
As Minister, I will strive to have a positive impact on the lives of Australians affected by this portfolio and to ensure that our government is inclusive and compassionate.
Our fundamental principle as government is to create a better future for all Australians by leaving no one behind and holding no one back. This is what will guide me on a daily basis in the important work required for this portfolio.