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senate vote 2020-02-26#2

Edited by mackay

on 2020-03-27 11:33:08

Title

  • Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Income Reporting and Other Measures) Bill 2020 - in Committee - Public and independent review of amendments
  • Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Income Reporting and Other Measures) Bill 2020 - in Committee - *Problem with Hansard data*

Description

  • **NOTE: Although it appears from [Hansard](https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/chamber/hansards/d636e948-ad32-4123-a451-4f3e200901fa/toc_pdf/Senate_2020_02_26_7549.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf) (PDF 2MB, pp 28-29) that this division is on the amendment set out below, the Greens are reported as voting against this division, which doesn't make sense if it was indeed a division on their own amendment.**
  • ---
  • The same number of senators voted for and against the [amendment](https://www.openaustralia.org.au/senate/?gid=2020-02-26.54.1) introduced by WA Senator [Rachel Siewert](https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/senate/wa/rachel_siewert) (Greens), which means it failed. Senator Siewert explained that:
  • > *While I did hear the government say that they're going to review this, I think, and the Greens believe, that the matter needs to actually be in the legislation itself.*
  • ### Amendment text
  • > *(2) Page 2 (after line 14), after clause 3, insert:*
  • >
  • > *4 Public and independent review of this Act*
  • >
  • >> *(1) The Minister must cause an independent review to be conducted of the operation of the amendments made by this Act.*
  • >>
  • >> *(2) The review must start as soon as practicable after the end of 12 months after this Act commences.*
  • >>
  • >> *(3) The persons who conduct the review must give the Minister a written report of the review within 6 months of the commencement of the review.*
  • >>
  • >> *(4) The persons who conduct the review must consult:*
  • >>
  • >>> *(a) income support recipients impacted by the amendments made by this Act; and*
  • >>>
  • >>> *(b) any stakeholders considered relevant by the persons who conduct the review.*
  • >>
  • >> *(5) The review must provide for public submissions as part of the review.*
  • >>
  • >> *(6) The Minister must cause a copy of the report to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the report is given to the Minister.*
  • >>
  • >> *(7) In this section, Minister means the Minister administering the Social Security Act 1991 .*
  • >> *(7) In this section, Minister means the Minister administering the Social Security Act 1991 .*
senate vote 2020-02-26#2

Edited by mackay

on 2020-03-13 14:31:40

Title

  • Bills — Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Income Reporting and Other Measures) Bill 2020; in Committee
  • Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Income Reporting and Other Measures) Bill 2020 - in Committee - Public and independent review of amendments

Description

  • <p class="speaker">Rachel Siewert</p>
  • <p>I do have some amendments, as do others&#8212;the opposition. But first I would like to ask a series of questions clarifying the operation of the legislation. As we heard during the second reading contributions on this bill, there are still a lot of queries hanging over this legislation. While we support it, and the opposition's articulated their in principle support for this legislation, the stakeholders have indicated quite a deal of concern about the very short time frame before this is implemented. I'll come to my first amendment in a minute, which actually deals with that particular issue, but I did want to clarify some of the questions that I think still hang over this legislation. I appreciate the minister did seek, in her summing-up statement, to deal with some of those issues, but I still seek some further clarification. We know that this is supposed to start on 1 July, with the first prefilled forms coming in at the beginning of September. I would like to know, please, how many people are we anticipating that will actually be in scope on 1 September, or during that September period, for being required then to use the prefilled form through the Single Touch Payroll process, rather than just filling out their form themselves?</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Anne Ruston</p>
  • The same number of senators voted for and against the [amendment](https://www.openaustralia.org.au/senate/?gid=2020-02-26.54.1) introduced by WA Senator [Rachel Siewert](https://theyvoteforyou.org.au/people/senate/wa/rachel_siewert) (Greens), which means it failed. Senator Siewert explained that:
  • > *While I did hear the government say that they're going to review this, I think, and the Greens believe, that the matter needs to actually be in the legislation itself.*
  • ### Amendment text
  • > *(2) Page 2 (after line 14), after clause 3, insert:*
  • >
  • > *4 Public and independent review of this Act*
  • >
  • >> *(1) The Minister must cause an independent review to be conducted of the operation of the amendments made by this Act.*
  • >>
  • >> *(2) The review must start as soon as practicable after the end of 12 months after this Act commences.*
  • >>
  • >> *(3) The persons who conduct the review must give the Minister a written report of the review within 6 months of the commencement of the review.*
  • >>
  • >> *(4) The persons who conduct the review must consult:*
  • >>
  • >>> *(a) income support recipients impacted by the amendments made by this Act; and*
  • >>>
  • >>> *(b) any stakeholders considered relevant by the persons who conduct the review.*
  • >>
  • >> *(5) The review must provide for public submissions as part of the review.*
  • >>
  • >> *(6) The Minister must cause a copy of the report to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the report is given to the Minister.*
  • >>
  • >> *(7) In this section, Minister means the Minister administering the Social Security Act 1991 .*
  • <p>The September 2020 date is the earliest date that prefilling can actually commence. So prior to September 2020 there will be none. Then from September 2020 we will continue. Particularly over an intense period to 30 June 2021 we will see an increase in the number as employers come on board. On that basis, it's almost impossible to give you an answer as to the number of prefilled forms that will be available in September 2020 because we don't actually know what the uptake of employers is going to be during this period and how they're going to ramp up on it. In order to report the expanded dataset employers will have to update their payroll activities and this in turn will be dependent upon the software provider. So there are a whole heap of factors that will determine the speed with which employers take up the opportunity to be able to participate in Single Touch Payroll, and that will then have a consequential impact on the number of prefilled forms that will be available over the months from September 2020.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Rachel Siewert</p>
  • <p>Thank you. Do I understand correctly that the ATO doesn't really have an idea about how many employees are going to be ready to use this by the beginning of September? Because it was my understanding that they already have a number of employers that are currently using this process, or are just about to commence on this process. Is that a correct understanding?</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Anne Ruston</p>
  • <p>While I'm getting the specific figures, I also want to reiterate the fact that the prefilling will only commence once Services Australia has thoroughly tested the reporting channels, and the ATO and Services Australia are absolutely confident of the quality of that Single Touch Payroll data and how it is prefilling. I've just been advised that currently there are 11 million people covered off by Single Touch Payroll and we are anticipating that by July 2021 95 per cent of recipients will be covered by Single Touch Payroll. But I can't give you the trajectory from that 11 million people to that 95 per cent of recipients over the 10-month period.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Rachel Siewert</p>
  • <p>It amplifies the concerns that I have and I think some of the stakeholders have that this level of detail is not known. How do we know how much help Services Australia will have to provide for an unknown number of people that are coming onboard, potentially, on 1 September? All of these forms haven't yet been fully tested. I took onboard what you said about talking to a range of cohorts and groups that will be using this process in the run-up to 1 July, but there's a two-step process here. As you've articulated previously, you fill in the form with what you've earned, and you have to look at a form&#8212;this is the second period where people may get caught up with mistakes. There's the transition period, which I want to come back to, and there's, effectively, a second transition period for people as they fill in a prefilled form. That's in a very short time frame around the whole process. We don't know how many people in September will transition a second time and we don't know, therefore, or we're not confident that Services Australia have the number of people onboard to help with that second transition on top of the first transition.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Anne Ruston</p>
  • <p>First of all, the purpose of the legislation here is specifically related to your first question and the first transition&#8212;that is, the transition where people go from reporting earnings to reporting payments received. That has no bearing whatsoever on how they currently report. If they report online, if they report on their phone app, if they report going into a service centre, however they currently report, the only change that we are seeking to achieve by this legislation is that they now report actual money they've received.</p>
  • <p>The second component of what you're referring to is the Single Touch Payroll interface with this change. That is when, if their employer is somebody who has interfaced with the Single Touch Payroll, they will receive a form that has partial information in it, as reflects what their employer has provided to the ATO. In the sense of us knowing how many people at any one time currently are reporting income in a period, we know that about 500,000 people report income in a payment period. We also know that about 1.2 million Australians who are on income support payments will report income during the 12-month period. So for resourcing up Services Australia to enable this legislation to come into effect, we know now exactly how many people will be impacted by this legislation. It will be 550,000 in a particular period, and over the 12 months we will interface with 1.2 million.</p>
  • <p>We are very happy that we understand the resourcing requirements that we will need to assist Australians who currently receive income to be able to report that income as part of their reporting obligations for their fortnightly income support payments.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Rachel Siewert</p>
  • <p>I want to go to the period where people are filling in their prefilled forms. That is one of the areas that came in very substantially during the Senate inquiry, and I know you're aware of that, but you've just said you don't know at the beginning of September how many people will be transferring into this new form. An issue raised was if the form is wrong compared to what they've got on their payslip, or however they know what they've been paid, that's where we'll have some very serious concerns about whether people change what's in there, how they get help. One of the groups that provided advice to the inquiry&#8212;which we touched on in our additional comments to the committee inquiry&#8212;was saying they'll have a 'little pop-up' and there'll be a phone number you can ring, because people are going to be very nervous. The point is that there may be a lot of people on 1 September or a whole lot of people through September that are transitioning. And if you don't know how many people are transitioning in that period of time, how do you know how much support you need? In fact, how can we be convinced that the forms will be there and that you will have the pop-up and a phone line? I want to come back, in a minute, to the question of how people can access support services.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Anne Ruston</p>
  • <p>There are a number of responses to that. Firstly, as I said earlier, the prefilling will only occur as long as Services Australia have thoroughly tested the reporting channels and they are absolutely confident of the quality of the data that is being prefilled. I can give you that absolute commitment.</p>
  • <p>We know that 1.2 million Australians report having received income over a 12-month period. And we know that, in the period between 1 September 2020 and 30 June 2021, we will need to have provided assistance to 95 per cent of them, because that's the estimate of how many people over that 10-month period are going to transition. We will certainly make sure that there is a rump of resources available in September, as soon as we know that the prefill is working the way we want it to work. The prefill may not occur on 1 September; it will occur when we're satisfied that it's working properly. And, as soon as we're satisfied that it's working properly, we will then make sure that we will maximise the resources that are available at that time. We certainly took on board the commentary that came out of the committee that suggested that a little pop-up should come up on the screen, before you actually push the button to submit your form at the end of a pay period, that says, 'This form has been prefilled. Have you checked the data against your payroll slip? Are you comfortable that the data contained in here is truly reflective of your income for the pay period?' So people will have to actively push a button to say yes, they have checked and they understand what they're doing.</p>
  • <p>We also understand that there will be people who may seek to have more information the first time they do it. They may feel a level of uncertainty. Once again, we will make sure, when they go to submit that form, that it really clearly says, 'If you have any uncertainty about doing this for the first time or if you've got any concerns or questions, please contact this number.' In the first instance we will make sure that Services Australia is thoroughly resourced to make sure that, when people contact them, the phone lines are open and accessible and they don't have wait times. This is a transition period, we understand. It's probably not something, once people get used to it, that they're going to need to do in the future, but we clearly understand that the smoothness of the transition period, the adequacy of the information and the support that is provided to people are going to have a very big bearing on the successful initial operation of this particular new initiative.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Rachel Siewert</p>
  • <p>Thank you for further articulating the resources that will be available. There are a couple of flow-on questions from that. How do you determine the system's readiness? I've heard you say clearly, 'If it's not ready on 1 September'&#8212;I take that on board and I think that's a really good clarification. But what's the process for saying, 'Yes, we do think it's ready'? Is there a consultative process? Will there be a final tick from a final test group or something like that? Secondly, in terms of assistance, will that phone line that we've just been talking about be a dedicated phone line just for this particular item?</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Anne Ruston</p>
  • <p>In the sense of a new phone number, it won't be a new phone number because obviously we want people who contact Centrelink to have only the one phone number in their mind. However, two things will happen. One, obviously, is that all Centrelink phone line staff will be trained, informed and skilled up to deal with this as soon as it goes live, as a No. 1 priority. And, of course, when you contact Centrelink, the first thing that you will be asked is, 'Are you calling about this particular transition?' so that you don't have to go through a whole series of 'push 1, push 2' et cetera. But we wouldn't be seeking to use another phone number, because the confusion of having several Centrelink phone numbers is not always sensible. The customers will have access to all the services that they currently have with Centrelink, but all the staff that are in those services will obviously be appropriately trained and up to speed on all of the issues in relation to the transfer.</p>
  • <p>In terms of the specific actions around the consultation and the design and implementation that will be undertaken by Services Australia to assure ourselves that the Single Touch Payroll interface with our system is working, obviously they're operational decisions. We would be making sure that we worked with the recipients to test the system to make sure it was appropriate, and any of the issues that came out of it would be dealt with. So obviously we are going to test the system with real people before it goes live. The specifics of the operational component of it, of making sure that the information's coming through correctly, that it is easy to use and all that would be tested operationally inside the department in the first instance. We would then seek to make sure that the recipients had the opportunity to use it themselves before we went live.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Rachel Siewert</p>
  • <p>I'm going to try and get this done as quickly as possible. That raises more issues for me. With the phone line, the waiting period for Centrelink is huge. There are different lines for different payments, so I don't see why you couldn't have a phone number that pops up with the form, so that they ring that number. People are going to be there with the form, wanting to fill in the form. So I'll ask again why we can't have a specific phone line that's dedicated to this particular process, given the difficulty and nervousness that people will have with this new process?</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Anne Ruston</p>
  • <p>I take on board everything you are saying. The process that we need to undertake post the implementation of this legislation, when we move to the point where we interface with Single Touch Payroll, is still in the stages of consultation. There's still a lot of work that we will be doing with the ATO, with Services Australia and with the people that we are consulting with more generally who will be impacted by this. Much of what we do, in terms of the interface with the recipients and Social Services, whether it is by phone or online or in person, and how that actually works, will continue to be informed by this consultative process that we are currently undertaking. What I am saying is that much of the issue that you're asking me to commit to right now is operational and will be informed over the coming months as this is developed with the tax office. But rest assured that we hear clearly that people require the support to be able to transition through and that we have made available within Services Australia, and will continue to make available, adequate resources to address the issues as they are raised through the consultation process, bearing in mind the information that's come from your inquiry.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>