Senate debates

Wednesday, 11 November 2020


Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Coronavirus and Other Measures) Bill 2020; Second Reading

10:04 am

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

I acknowledge the comments of Senator Keneally and thank her for her kind words. The Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Coronavirus and Other Measures) Bill 2020 includes a number of beneficial measures that are primarily directed at supporting people who've been impacted by the economic consequences of COVID-19. The bill provides additional assistance through two further economic support payments of $250 to around five million payment recipients and cardholders in the lead-up to Christmas and in the New Year as part of the Australian government's response to the pandemic.

From 1 January 2021, amendments are also made so that the six-month period between 25 March and 24 September 2020 will automatically be recognised as contributing to the existing workforce independence criteria for people on youth allowance. This measure supports young people whose path towards demonstrating independence through work has been disrupted by the economic impacts of COVID. The same concessions will be available to Abstudy recipients through the Abstudy Policy Manual. The bill also creates temporary incentives in the income support system to encourage young Australians to undertake seasonal agriculture work to help address concerns across the agriculture sector about immediate workforce availability for the upcoming harvest.

From 1 March 2021, the new criteria will recognise a person who earns at least $15,000 through employment in agricultural industries between 30 November 2020 and 31 December 2021 as independent for the purposes of youth allowance student, subject to a parental income threshold. The same concessions will be available for Abstudy through changes to the Abstudy Policy Manual.

The bill will also introduce a revised paid parental leave work test period for a limited time to enable people to access paid parental leave and dad and partner pay who do not meet the current work test provisions because their employment has been affected by COVID-19. This will enable most individuals with a genuine work history prior to the pandemic to qualify for payments under the paid parental leave scheme.

The bill also makes amendments to address inconsistencies in payments for newborn children available to families affected by stillbirth and infant death by aligning the amounts that eligible families are able to access after a stillbirth or child's death shortly after birth, up to the child's first birthday. These amendments also remove discrepancies within the payment system in respect of multiple instances of stillbirth or infant death with the same family.

Lastly, the bill makes technical amendments to child support law to allow for alternative figures to be used in place of the male total average weekly earnings trend figure and average weekly earnings trend figure for the purposes of child support assessment calculations. From May 2020, the Bureau of Statistics has temporarily suspended publication of trend estimates for all average weekly earnings series due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labour market. Child support law does not currently prevent alternative trend measures to be used. I commend the bill to the Senate.


No comments