Thursday, 20 June 2013
Social Security Legislation Amendment (Disaster Recovery Allowance) Bill 2013; Second Reading
On behalf of the coalition I indicate support for the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Disaster Recovery Allowance) Bill. It establishes a new payment, the disaster recovery allowance, but in fact that payment is a replacement of a current payment, the disaster income recovery subsidy. For technical reasons this requirement has emerged and the government has responded by bringing forward this legislation, which amends the Social Security Act 1991, the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 and the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936.
The disaster recovery allowance consists of a short-term fortnightly income support payment for individuals whose income has been affected by a major disaster, whether natural or otherwise. Payments under the DRA are paid at the maximum rate of Newstart allowance, or for those under 22 the youth allowance. Maximum rates are payable depending on a person's circumstances and are paid for a period of up to 13 weeks. The measures replace those which are currently in place and so, if a person operates a small business or is an employee of a small business or farm, that person can receive income support for the period when the business has been flooded out or damaged by fire and recovery action is taken.
I make two points about this change. First, the DIRS is not a measure that was very well promoted or advertised by the government and following some of the recent natural disasters inflicted upon Australia in the last few years relatively few people were aware of the payment being available. I certainly came across a number of businesses which had laid off employees, unaware that they could actually keep them on and pay them this allowance. So it is important that the government take steps to make sure that this new allowance is well known to parties affected by natural disasters in particular.
Although I welcome the $100 million made available in the most recent budget for a number of measures to improve resilience in the Australian community to natural disasters, there is a need to put much greater amounts on the table, one way or another, to allow resilience to be built across the community. I note that this morning the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities produced a white paper entitled Building our nation's resilience to natural disasters, which made that very point and which was made here in Parliament House. I commend both the message in that white paper to the government and the bill to the Senate.
I thank Senator Humphries for his contribution to this debate and support for this very important bill, the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Disaster Recovery Allowance) Bill 2013—and I commend him on his blue tie! I commend the bill to the Senate.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.