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senate vote 2012-06-28#9

Edited by Henare Degan

on 2014-11-22 10:47:42


  • Bills — Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011
  • Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 - Leave schedule 2 as it is


  • <p class="speaker">Scott Ludlam</p>
  • <p>by leave&#8212;The Greens oppose schedule 1 in the following terms:</p>
  • <p class="italic">(2)&#160;&#160;&#160;Schedule 1, Part 1, page 3 (line 2) to page 9 (line 16), Part TO BE OPPOSED.</p>
  • Senators agreed to [keep schedule 2 of the bill as it was](;adv=yes;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fhansards%2F77c820b8-ec44-4d61-a787-9d81d07e3ff0%2F0165;orderBy=_fragment_number,doc_date-rev;page=0;query=Dataset%3Ahansards,hansards80%20Date%3A28%2F6%2F2012;rec=0;resCount=Default) (without amendments).
  • <p>I am glad to have so much support on this side of the house now! Senators who have been elsewhere in the building may not be aware that our proposal to oppose the whole schedule has been defeated, so we will look to address some of the more serious concerns we have around this policy. Senators will be aware that I am moving this amendment again on behalf of Senator Siewert, who is not able to be here. In her usual constructive fashion, she has proposed two courses of action.</p>
  • <p>Senator Siewert's approach has been, for reasons I think we have been fairly explicit about describing, that that schedule should in fact have been knocked out of the bill. In the absence of the chamber moving that way, Senator Siewert has proposed a number of amendments which finetune and improve the way that income management, if it is to be perpetuated, will occur. These amendments remove state and federal referrals, which govern who can be placed on income management. It should be pretty well known by now that the Australian Greens strongly oppose the continuation of compulsory income management in the Territory, its expansion to five communities in other states and the broadening of referral powers to state and territory authorities enabling the expansion of income management across Australia.</p>
  • <p>We probably do not need to dwell. I am not proposing to call a division on this, but I would commend this amendment to the Senate as the first of three amendments that I will move in sequence that are essentially about finetuning, conditioning and improving the way that income management occurs, having set fairly squarely on the record the fact that we do not believe that people should be subjected to this kind of treatment at all.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Chris Evans</p>
  • <p>The government's amendments will give greater flexibility to the operation of income management, so we do not support the propositions by the Greens. It is pretty much about the supporting people at risk measure, which will allow referrals from recognised state and territory authorities determined by the minister on a similar basis to referrals under the current child protection measure, which will ensure income management will assist those people most likely to benefit. It does not broaden the scope of income management as, under the existing legislation, the minister can, by a legislative instrument, apply existing income management measures across all of Australia.</p>
  • <p>To support the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory alcohol measures, this bill will enable people referred by the Northern Territory government's Alcohol and Other Drugs Tribunal to be placed on this new measure of income management, thus reducing the proportion of income available for alcohol. As Senator Ludlam made clear, the Greens intent is to exclude any of the state or territory bodies being able to refer. That is a fundamentally different approach to ours. We think there is a place for referrals from those sorts of bodies, such as the Northern Territory's Alcohol and Other Drugs Tribunal. Therefore, we will not be supporting the Greens amendment.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Marise Payne</p>
  • <p>With the appeal process that will be added to the bill through the government's amendments, which we will support, we agree with the process of state and territory referrals, so we also oppose this amendment.</p>
  • <p>The CHAIRMAN: The question is that part 1 of schedule 1 stand as printed.</p>
  • <p>Question agreed to.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Chris Evans</p>
  • <p>by leave&#8212;I move government amendments (1) and (2) on sheet BM283 together:</p>
  • <p class="italic">(1)&#160;&#160;&#160;Schedule 1, item 6, page 4 (line 4), before "The", insert "(1)".</p>
  • <p class="italic">(2)&#160;&#160;&#160;Schedule 1, item 6, page 4 (after line 10), at the end of section 123TGAA, add:</p>
  • <p class="italic">Functions, powers or duties of officers or employees</p>
  • <p>The amendment to schedule 1 item 6 of the Social Security Legislation Amendment Bill will place requirements on the type of state and territory authorities that would be able to give a notice to place a person on income management, including, as Senator Payne indicated, that they have the appropriate review processes. This means that the type of state or territory authority that can refer a person for income management must have powers or duties in relation to the care, protection, welfare or safety of adults, children or families.</p>
  • <p>The amendment means that these authorities will need to have appropriate processes for reviewing any decisions for referral of a person for income management. It addresses a recommendation of the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee majority report on the bills. The committee recommended that the government amend the bill to require that only agencies that have in place the internal and external review and appeal processes be approved by the minster to make income management referrals. So, effectively, the amendment is picking up the recommendations of the majority report from the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Scott Ludlam</p>
  • <p>I wish to speak briefly on these. The Australian Greens will not oppose these amendments and we do not propose to call a division. I have received my first piece of feedback from Senator Siewert tonight, but it is probably best that I do not repeat it in the chamber for fear of being thrown out. She has taken issue with the minister, who on a couple of occasions has made it sound&#8212;and I do not want to paraphrase you here, Minister, so jump up if I get this wrong&#8212;like it is not a major expansion of the scope of income management. It is kind of 'steady as she goes', and Senator Siewert would like remotely to take issue with that contention. She has provided us with some notes on the government's amendment, but to call them lukewarm would probably overstate the case. We will not be opposing these amendments.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Marise Payne</p>
  • <p>Amendments (1) and (2) place greater control and certainty around the state and territories and their officials that the minister may authorise as agencies that may place a client onto income management. We had been concerned that their was a lack of oversight of those agencies and that it was necessary to ensure that a potential referral agency had an appropriate professional relationship with a client in order to base such a referral. We were also concerned that any state or territory agency should have an appeals process that was comparable with those of Australian government agencies, given that amendment (2) specifies the review process or mechanism that must be in place before the minister may make a determination to include the relevant agency or body as a recognised authority under the act. The coalition is supporting the amendments.</p>
  • <p>Question agreed to.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Scott Ludlam</p>
  • <p>by leave&#8212;I move Australian Greens amendments (3) to (5) on sheet 7229 together:</p>
  • <p class="italic">(3)&#160;&#160;&#160;Schedule 1, item 15, page 6 (line 24), omit "70%", substitute "50%".</p>
  • <p class="italic">(4)&#160;&#160;&#160;Schedule 1, item 15, page 6 (lines 25 to 27), omit paragraph 123XPAA(3)(b), substitute:</p>
  • <p class="italic">&#160;&#160;(b)&#160;&#160;&#160;if a lower percentage is specified in a legislative instrument made by the Minister for the purposes of this paragraph&#8212;the lower percentage;</p>
  • <p class="italic">(5)&#160;&#160;&#160;Schedule 1, item 15, page 7 (line 26), omit "100%", substitute "50%".</p>
  • <p>This kind of blew my mind. As senators will be aware, this bill was not my responsibility within the party until it got sprung on us this afternoon. In fact, the amount of income that can be quarantined could be as high as 100 per cent. People's entire income can be quarantined. What we are seeking to do with these three amendments that I have sought leave to move together is to reduce the amount of income that can be quarantined to only 50 per cent and to remove the ability of the minister to raise the amount that can be quarantined.</p>
  • <p>In the bill the minister can quarantine up to 70 per cent of a person's income but, under certain circumstances&#8212;and the minister will jump up and correct me if I have this wrong&#8212;the minister can raise the amount to be quarantined to 100 per cent. I am glad that I do not have one of these wretched little cards where somebody thousands of kilometres away can decide on my behalf that my entire income can be quarantined. This is a fairly sensible amendment and I look forward to its unanimous support. I think this actually raises serious human rights concerns. The right to social security is enshrined in international human rights conventions, which make it a fundamental part of the right to an adequate standard of living. Putting in such extreme conditionality as quarantining 70 per cent to 100 per cent of a person's social security income potentially breaches human rights obligations. I look forward to the minister apologising for what is clearly a drafting oversight, because surely this could not have made its way into the bill intentionally.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Chris Evans</p>
  • <p>I know that when Senator Ludlam resorts to irony he is getting tired. I send my regards to Senator Siewert and indicate that we send her our best wishes. I am glad she is not here, because should would be hammering me a lot harder than Senator Ludlam is.</p>
  • <p class="italic">Senator Ludlam interjecting&#8212;</p>
  • <p>No, I just mean she is very good at it. She knows her stuff very well.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Marise Payne</p>
  • <p>Tell him it was a compliment.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Chris Evans</p>
  • <p>Yes, it was a compliment to Rachel. Senator Ludlam can take it any way he wants. The bill sets the default deductible proportion at 70 per cent when a state or territory body refers someone for income management&#8212;the deductible portion is the amount that is subject to income management. As Senator Ludlam said, he is seeking to move that to 50 per cent. The government has not supported that amendment. It is not unreasonable to expect that people would direct 70 per cent of their income support payments towards meeting priority needs such as food, clothing and shelter. It is also, I think, reasonable to restrict people on income management to spending no more than 30 per cent of their Centrelink income on alcohol, tobacco, pornography or gambling. The bill allows the minister to specify a different deductible proportion by legislative instrument, depending on the particular state or territory authority that is authorised to make referrals. I suppose the key point is that this level has been set for the existing child protection measure of income management, so it is at the higher, 70 per cent, mark. It was thought that, given that the referral would be for those referred from the alcohol and drugs tribunal, it was appropriate for it to be at that higher level, as is consistent with existing child protection measures. The government will not be supporting the Greens amendments.</p>
  • <p>Question negatived.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Scott Ludlam</p>
  • <p>The Australian Greens oppose schedule 2 in the following terms:</p>
  • <p class="italic">(6)&#160;&#160;&#160;Schedule 2, page 14 (line 1) to page 23 (line 20), Schedule TO BE OPPOSED.</p>
  • <p>We are proposing to remove the schedule in the legislation relating to the school enrolment attendance through welfare reform measure. Again, this is an issue that I addressed briefly in my second reading remarks. The discussion on school attendance received a great deal of media attention with regard to the intervention&#8212;everybody wants to see kids in school when school is in session. The consultation report used a large number of quotes strongly emphasising the role of parental responsibility in getting kids to school. On reading the report quickly it would seem that there is a widely held belief in communities that parents are sorely and entirely to blame for poor school attendance. However, the number of people holding these opinions is never really quantified, so, in reality, there is no indication of how many people expressed this concern and how many contrary views were expressed.</p>
  • <p>In asking communities what the government could do to encourage school attendance, a specific reference to linking attendance with welfare payments was made. Subsequently, many responses to this issue directly commented on the idea of linking income support to school attendance. It is interesting to note, however, that almost nowhere in the report was this solution offered to deal with the issue of poor attendance. It appears that the government was very keen to focus the conversation towards this outcome, which is at odds with the existing evidence of the effectiveness of such an approach. In essence, it is a kind of prejudging of the outcome: no matter what it was that you were hearing, the government had already, in effect, it appears, made up its mind as to the kind of approach that it wanted to administer.</p>
  • <p>In Senate estimates it was confirmed that the impact of the government's school enrolment attendance through welfare reform measure, which I will refer to as SEAM from here on, is unquantifiable: the results are mixed at best and it cannot be linked to educational outcomes. So I will pause here before continuing my remarks and we will begin with the previous set of amendments. Can the minister provide the chamber with any evidence of any kind&#8212;peer reviewed, anecdotal, written, unwritten, handed in on bits of bark&#8212;that quarantining income or welfare payments pending children's attendance at school actually improves the kinds of outcomes that I understand everybody in here is seeking to achieve?</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>