If the Coalition gains outright control of the Senate from 1 July 2005, it paves the way for the Government to reintroduce its reforms to cut disability support pension to hundreds of thousands of Australians. The Government tried to introduce the Disability Reform Bill twice in the last session of Parliament, and twice it was defeated in the Senate by Labor and Democrats numbers.
With the loss of Democrat Senators, the Government can introduce the Bill from July of next year and have it pass the Senate, if there is a Government outright majority.
"The Bill would take away the disability support pension from those people the Government say can work 15 hours a week, and make them compete in the open job market with people who do not have a disability.
"The Australian Democrats are particularly concerned that people with serious impairments such as multiple sclerosis, paraplegia or acquired brain injury who are working a few hours a week could lose their disability support pension and be worse off every fortnight because of the tougher income test on Newstart allowance.
"The Government also wants to remove the power of Centrelink to take into consideration labour market circumstances of people over 55 years of age. Telling a 55 year old person with a disability that they must search for work which is not available in their local community is simply unreasonable.
"The last time the Bill failed, the Government did not provide any incentive to employers to take on a person with a disability.
"Australians with a disability have much to fear from an unimpeded Howard Government agenda," Senator Bartlett concluded.