Thursday, 16 August 2007
Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Bill 2007; Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007; Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Bill 2007; Appropriation (Northern Territory National Emergency Response) Bill (No. 1) 2007-2008; Appropriation (Northern Territory National Emergency Response) Bill (No. 2) 2007-2008
Chris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source
Mr Temporary Chairman, I must admit that the fact that we actually started to move backwards was of some concern to me. I knew we were not moving forward quickly, but that we actually managed to go backwards was a surprise and was of concern to me. I also notice that the minister has even more advisers than he started with—and that does not augur well either. I move opposition amendment (3) on sheet 5351:
(3) Page 6 (after line 27), after clause 7, insert:
The Minister must cause to be conducted, as soon as practicable after the first anniversary of the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent, a review of the provisions of Part 3B of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 regarding the application of income management to persons by reason of their being persons in a relevant Northern Territory area.
This amendment seeks to include a clause which provides a review. The amendment requires the minister to cause to be conducted a review on the first anniversary of the act receiving royal assent—the review to be of part 3B of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999, regarding the application of income management to persons by reason of their being persons in a relevant Northern Territory area.
The logic of this is quite simple. As we know, there is a five-year sunset clause, but the minister has the capacity, as I understand, to annually revisit the question of the income management provisions and the areas to which they will apply. We think it is important that the minister formally review the success of the scheme after 12 months. We are going into uncharted waters in terms of income management and applying these measures in communities. It is important that we look as soon as possible at the effectiveness of the measures taken. I think it is important that the parliament gets the opportunity to debate the measures—not just have the government say that it has some sort of internal review—and gets the chance to have a look at whether or not these measures are working and, if they are not, see why not and have some assessment of all these changes. For example, there are a range of initiatives relating to school attendance, and we would want to know whether the measures have had any impact on school attendance—rather than just press on on the basis that we hoped they might and we continued to hold that hope.
It is important that we assess these things. It is, as I say, a major change in arrangements. There are concerns that whole communities are being required to comply with these changes. People are not being assessed according to their own individual behaviour when it comes to these measures; they are actually being required to comply with the system. One of my concerns with the approach is: where is it that we reward positive behaviour? Where are the mechanisms that allow those who do the right thing to be rewarded? Where is that encouragement for personal responsibility in the long term? But that is a more general point.
We believe that the bill ought to contain a formal review after 12 months. I know the minister has given some general undertakings about reviews, but we would much prefer that there be a legislative review after 12 months of the welfare reform and the income management system specific to the Northern Territory.