Wednesday, 29 March 2017
Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2017; Second Reading
I thank all members for their contribution to the second reading debate and, by way of summation of that second reading debate, I will note that the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 seeks to secure the next instalment of remaining unlegislated savings from previous budgets. This bill secures further savings of $2.4 billion over the 2017-18 forward estimates period, building to $6.8 billion over the medium term. This new bill contains three measures from the original omnibus bill, including, firstly, the maintaining of income free areas and means test thresholds for certain payments and allowances at their current levels for three years; secondly, the automation of the income stream review process, which will lead to improvements in the accuracy of income support payment reporting and reductions in customer debts; and, thirdly, the extending and simplifying of ordinary waiting periods for the parenting payment and for youth allowance for a person who is not undertaking full-time study and is not a new apprentice.
The bill also includes a new schedule to maintain the current family tax benefit payment rates for two years at their current levels from 1 July 2017. That measure will achieve savings of about $2 billion over the 2017-18 forward estimates, which will build to $5.5 billion over the medium term. It is important to note that under this new measure there will be no cuts to family tax benefit payments. Indeed, over the two-year maintenance period many families will still see some increases in their payments as a result of increases to particular income thresholds for family tax benefits.
The government has also reversed a previous decision to increase family tax benefit payment rates to offset, in part, the effect of the phase-out of FTB supplements, which was contained in the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill. Not proceeding with that increase in FTB payment rates will reduce costs by a further $2.3 billion over the current forward estimates period compared to the previous social services omnibus savings bill and will reduce costs over the medium term by about $11 billion.
This bill builds further on the $6.3 billion in budget improvements achieved over the forward estimates through the first omnibus savings bill, which passed the Senate on 15 September 2016 and included a saving of $1.6 billion over the forward estimates and $7.1 billion over the medium term gained from the abolition of the family tax benefit supplement for households with incomes of more than $80,000. It is, of course, the government's intention to secure the passage of both this bill and the child care bill so that one may pay for the other.
I would like to acknowledge the very positive way in which the crossbench has worked with the government to deliver this significant reform package that will make a real and positive difference to nearly one million Australian families through improved childcare services, and I commend the bill to the House.