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Welfare entitlements bill sparks fiery Senate debate

THE Liberal chairman of a parliamentary committee has attacked The Australian newspaper, Labor and a peak community group for telling "half-truths".

But Senator Dean Smith's comments, about a government bill that his committee found breached Australia's human rights obligations, did not dispute the committee's central findings.

The government bill would see young jobseekers lose welfare entitlements for up to six months if they failed to find training places or a job.

It sparked fiery debate in the Senate on Tuesday.

Labor and The Greens hit out at the budget measures as evidence the Abbott government's first budget was "not fair".

But Sen Smith told the upper house a report in the national broadsheet, seized on by the Opposition and Australian Council of Social Services, was "very disappointing".

He said the report neglected to mention that of 12 government bills examined by the committee, 10 were compatible with human rights.

However, he reiterated that the committee did find that specific budget measure was incompatible with human rights, but he did not believe such rules should be applied to budget bills.

Despite Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews telling the committee he believed the measures still allowed young people access to welfare, the committee disagreed.

It said in its report, tabled last week in parliament, that the budget measures did discriminate against young people and Mr Andrews' response was "inadequate".


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