Senate debates

Monday, 15 March 2010

Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (2009 Measures) Bill 2009

In Committee

Bill—by leave—taken as a whole.

6:26 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The Greens oppose schedule 3 of the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (2009 Measures) Bill 2009 in the terms set out on sheet 6085:

(1)    Schedule 3, item 2, page 11 (line 26) to page 13 (line 19), item to be opposed.

(2)    Schedule 3, item 7, page 16 (line 14) to page 18 (line 7), item to be opposed.

This relates specifically to the issues that I raised in relation to pre-hearing conferences. I will not bore the chamber with a repetition of my arguments on this other than to deal with a couple of issues that Senator Moore and Senator Stephens raised around the consistency between these and child support processes. As I articulated in my speech in the second reading debate, these are different issues. I can understand why there is a desire to get consistency, but the Greens do not support that desire because we believe that these are very different processes. When you are dealing with child support the cases are more often than not between two parties that are trying to reach agreement. The SSAT process is very different. There an individual is questioning or appealing a decision that has been made by Centrelink. That is a very different process to a negotiated outcome between two parties who are having trouble reaching an agreement over child support. I am not trying to trivialise that. I have been there and I have done that with child support. I understand that system. I do understand the complexities and I know it is very difficult. However, this is a different issue.

We do not agree with the government that you have to have a totally consistent approach across those jurisdictions. The bill might make it easier for the Department of Human Services because it has to deal with, as the minister articulated, three different processes. That is life. These are different and complex issues that deal with individuals’ complex circumstances. So I do not support or agree with that argument. I agree that the bulk of this bill comprises minor amendments, but we do not see these as a minor issue. We see this as a significant issue. We are concerned that this issue will have an adverse outcome on the SSAT process. We appreciate that there has been an increased workload, but we do not agree that the legislation is likely to add in the future to its already increased workload. I agree that, even though the SSAT is designed to be a much more informal process, people do take these processes very seriously. We do not think that this process lends itself to pre-hearing conferences because the circumstances are very different from those which exist in child support.

6:29 pm

Photo of Ursula StephensUrsula Stephens (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector) Share this | | Hansard source

The government does not accept the amendments. We believe that, just as in other cases, those who are seeking to challenge Centrelink decisions should be given the opportunity to have a pre-hearing conference. We believe that it actually opens up the process and, therefore, we cannot accept the amendments.

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that schedule 3, items 2 and 7 stand as printed.

Question agreed to.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.