Senate debates

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013; Second Reading

11:40 am

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

Can I thank colleagues for their contribution to the debate and acknowledge that there are some areas of agreement in the bill that is before us, the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013.

I indicate that I will shortly be moving some amendments to defer the commencement of several measures in the bill in the light of its delayed passage. Colleagues would remember that we got a start on this bill at the end of last year, but obviously did not conclude it.

One key measure in the bill delivers the first stage of the government's commitment to a different approach in addressing problem gambling. Our new direction will provide meaningful and measurable support for problem gamblers and will reduce bureaucracy and the duplication of functions between the Australian government and state and territory governments in this important area.

Most Australians who gamble do so responsibly. But it has to be acknowledged that gambling is a major problem for some people and effective measures are needed to help those people.

The bill will repeal the position and functions of the National Gambling Regulator, along with those provisions relating to supervisory and gaming machine regulation levies; the automatic teller machine withdrawal limit; the dynamic warnings; the trial on mandatory precommitment; and matters for the PC review. The bill will also amend the precommitment and gaming machine capability provisions to clearly express the government's commitment to the development and implementation of these measures in the near future, informed fully by consultation with industry, state and territory governments, and other stakeholders.

In a further step towards reducing bureaucracy, especially easing administrative burdens on business, the paid parental leave legislation will be amended to remove the requirement for employers to provide government-funded parental leave pay to their eligible long-term employees. Employees will be paid directly by the Department of Human Services, unless an employer opts to provide parental leave pay to its employees and an employee agrees for their employer to pay them. This measure will apply from 1 July this year, as indicated in the amendments that will be moved shortly.

The measure in the bill that would have delayed the commencement of the Charities Act 2013 by nine months, from 1 January 2014 to 1 September 2014, will also be withdrawn under the amendments that will be moved. The measure is obviously no longer appropriate because the 1 January commencement date has now passed and the act is in operation.

The bill will also seek to continue income management as a key element of Cape York Welfare Reform, as part of a two-year continuation of the initiative, until 31 December 2015. Cape York Welfare Reform is, as colleagues would be aware, a partnership between the Australian government, the Queensland government and the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership. It aims to restore local Indigenous authority; rebuild social norms; encourage positive behaviours; and improve economic and living conditions in the participating communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge. Since Cape York Welfare Reform began in July 2008, the four participating communities have seen improvements in school attendance, parental responsibility and the restoration of local Indigenous authority.

The bill will implement several measures affecting family and parental payments—the closed Pension Bonus Scheme, the rules for receiving certain payments overseas, the income test treatment of account based superannuation income streams, and certain student entitlements. Lastly, the bill will make some minor amendments, including ensuring that funding under the National Disability Insurance Scheme that is paid into a person's account that is set up for the purpose of managing the funding for supports for a participant's plan cannot be garnisheed for debt recovery purposes—and I am sure that is something that all colleagues would be in very strong agreement about.


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