Thursday, 22 June 2023
Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management Reform) Bill 2023; Second Reading
As I was desperately trying to do before the last hard marker, I'll continue the second reading summing up speech. Senator Thorpe's dissenting report also recommended a substantive investment in social services and wraparound supports in communities. In last year's budget a significant investment of $158 million was committed for support services in former cashless debit card and income management communities, including for the Northern Territory, where the majority of income management participants are located. That included $7½ million over 2022-23 to 2023-24 to deliver mobile and internet services and digital literacy support in regional and remote Northern Territory communities, including wi-fi connectivity for four Alice Springs town camps. It also included $10 million provided in 2023-24 for other support services in the Northern Territory.
We're working in genuine partnership with communities to co-design a range of targeted services that benefit individuals, families and the broader community. This includes initiatives supporting financial literacy and money management, programs that support pathways to greater economic independence and targeted support to address addiction to alcohol and other drugs.
I also note the recommendation of the dissenting report by the coalition senators, which called for the government to publish key metrics of social harm in relation to communities where the cashless debit card formerly operated. I remind those senators that this bill doesn't deal in any way, shape or form with the cashless debit card or the communities in which it used to operate. However, in response to that recommendation the government does not support it. It is a waste of Commonwealth government resources and a shameful attempt to force the government's attention away from doing what actually works and funding the services which communities have actually said they wanted to see on the ground.
I remind senators that it has been the Albanese government which has extended the existing support services in former cashless debit card communities and has indeed funded new ones. The government is investing over $26.3 million in 2022-23 and 2023-24 for more than 40 established and trusted support services to continue, providing certainty for providers and the community in these locations after the former government failed to fund these services past 30 June this year. There is $23 million to support the creation of economic and employment pathways in the Cape York, Goldfields, East Kimberley and Ceduna regions; $3 million in local brokerage funds for Ceduna, East Kimberley and the Goldfields; and $1.8 million to expand support initiatives in the Goldfields. On top of this funding, the government is also investing an additional $16 million to support priorities identified in the local services plans for each former CDC site to ensure that support services are provided efficiently and are responsive to the unique needs of each of the target community.
It was the Albanese government that actually listened to communities and delivered the support that they wanted to see, and that is something that we remain absolutely committed to. As the minister has said, our focus and our objective as a government remain clear: to empower people in communities and provide individuals and communities with a range of supports that they can choose to use when and how it suits them best. I look forward to further addressing the matters raised in the report and various dissenting reports in the Committee of the Whole. In line with the second of the committee's recommendations I recommend the bill be passed.