Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013; In Committee
I table a supplementary explanatory memorandum relating to the government amendments to be moved to this bill and—by leave—move amendments as circulated in the name of the government on sheet BM461 together:
(1) Title, page 1 (line 13), omit ", charities".
(2) Clause 2, page 2 (table items 2 and 3), omit the table items, substitute:
(3) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 4), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(4) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 5), omit the table item, substitute:
(5) Schedule 1A, page 9 (lines 1 to 5), to be opposed.
(6) Schedule 3, item 36, page 15 (line 25), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 May 2014".
(7) Schedule 3, item 36, page 16 (line 2), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 May 2014".
(8) Schedule 3, item 36, page 16 (line 6), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 May 2014".
(9) Schedule 3, item 36, page 16 (lines 9 and 10), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 May 2014".
(10) Schedule 3, item 36, page 16 (line 15), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 May 2014".
(11) Schedule 3, item 36, page 16 (line 21), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 May 2014".
(12) Schedule 4, item 6, page 17 (line 23), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(13) Schedule 4, item 6, page 17 (line 24), omit "1January 2014", substitute "1July 2014".
(14) Schedule 4, item 6, page 18 (line 1), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(15) Schedule 4, item 6, page 18 (line 4), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(16) Schedule 4, item 6, page 18 (line 8), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(17) Schedule 4, item 6, page 18 (line 27), omit "1January 2014", substitute "1July 2014".
(18) Schedule 4, item 6, page 18 (line 29), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(19) Schedule 4, item 6, page 18 (line 33), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(20) Schedule 4, item 6, page 19 (line 11), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(21) Schedule 4, item 14, page 20 (line 12), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(22) Schedule 4, item 14, page 20 (line 14), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(23) Schedule 4, item 14, page 20 (line 17), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(24) Schedule 4, item 14, page 20 (line 21), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(25) Schedule 4, item 14, page 21 (line 11), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(26) Schedule 4, item 14, page 21 (line 16), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(27) Schedule 4, item 14, page 21 (line 31), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(28) Schedule 4, item 14, page 22 (line 1), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(29) Schedule 4, item 14, page 22 (line 4), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(30) Schedule 4, item 14, page 22 (line 13), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(31) Schedule 4, item 14, page 22 (line 16), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(32) Schedule 4, item 14, page 22 (line 20), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(33) Schedule 6, item 20, page 44 (line 7), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(34) Schedule 6, item 21, page 44 (line 23), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(35) Schedule 6, item 25, page 48 (line 11), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(36) Schedule 6, item 25, page 48 (line 27), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(37) Schedule 6, item 28, page 63 (line 7), omit "1 January 2014,".
(38) Schedule 6, item 29, page 63 (lines 8 to 11), to be opposed.
(39) Schedule 6, item 30, page 64 (line 5), omit "Note 1", substitute "Note".
(40) Schedule 6, item 30, page 64 (lines 9 and 10), omit note 2.
(41) Schedule 6, item 30, page 64 (line 34) to page 65 (line 9), section 1223ABG to be opposed.
(42) Schedule 6, item 39, page 66 (line 25), after "subsection 1061ZVAB(3)", insert "of the 1991 Act".
(43) Schedule 6, item 67, page 76 (line 35), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(44) Schedule 6, item 67, page 77 (line 16), omit "1 January 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(45) Schedule 6, item 74, page 93 (lines 5 and 6), omit the note.
(46) Schedule 6, item 75, page 93 (lines 10 to 24), to be opposed.
(47) Schedule 8, item 1, page 111 (line 11), omit "1 March 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(48) Schedule 8, item 3, page 111 (lines 16 and 17), omit "1 March 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(49) Schedule 8, item 7, page 112 (line 12), omit "1 March 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
(50) Schedule 8, item 9, page 112 (lines 17 and 18), omit "1 March 2014", substitute "1 July 2014".
But I do understand that clauses 5, 38, 41 and 46 will need to be put separately.
Question agreed to.
by leave—I move amendments (6) to (10) on sheet 7456:
(6) Schedule 1, item 6, page 4 (lines 23 and 24), omit "in venues nationally".
(7) Schedule 1, item 12, page 5 (line 26), omit "in venues nationally".
(8) Schedule 1, item 12, page 6 (line 9), omit "in venues nationally".
(9) Schedule 1, item 12, page 6 (after line 15), after paragraph 20(2)(a), insert:
(aa) to ensure that a venue-based voluntary pre-commitment scheme operating in a State or Territory is capable of connecting to a State or Territory wide voluntary pre-commitment scheme that operates within the State or Territory; and
(10) Schedule 1, item 12, page 6 (lines 16 and 17), omit "this capability", substitute "these capabilities".
These amendments go to the question of responsible gambling. Labor in government worked very hard with the community to find a solution but, for various reasons, we were not able to get to the point where we found that solution. But we still strongly hold the view that problem gambling is a very real and a very serious issue in our country. For too many Australians gambling can be incredibly destructive. It affects over five million Australians including friends, families and employers of people with a gambling problem.
We commit to continue to engage with stakeholders to develop effective ways of addressing this very real issue. As a party we need to revisit this issue and determine the best way forward, together with stakeholders from right across the community—and that is what we will do. So today we are moving amendments that will ensure that venue based schemes have the capacity to connect to state-wide schemes.
I indicate that the Greens will be supporting the amendments, particularly the substantive amendment—amendment 9—which is to ensure that a venue based voluntary precommitment scheme operating in a state or territory is capable of connecting to a state- or territory-wide voluntary precommitment scheme that operates within the state or territory. As my colleague Senator Di Natale indicated, we do not support this schedule because we see it as a significant step backwards in addressing this very significant scourge of problem gambling.
So we will not be supporting this schedule; however, we will be supporting this amendment. We understand that the opposition, with this amendment, will be supporting this schedule. We are indicating that we support this amendment but we will still be opposing this schedule because we do not believe this amendment significantly alters or improves the schedule enough for us to support it; but we do think it is a slight improvement, if it goes ahead, and I understand that it is. I hope that makes our position clear.
Can I just get some clarification. For similar reasons to Senator Siewert, I have real concerns about this. Has the government considered, in moving to a voluntary precommitment approach, that the independent research indicates that it does not work? And there is not even a semblance of requiring that machines be mandatory precommitment ready, which was previously the case in the former government's 2012 bill. So I just do not understand the basis on which they can reasonably and credibly say that voluntary precommitment will in any way work to deal with problem gamblers, particularly given the studies we have seen out of Nova Scotia and other jurisdictions that voluntary precommitment does not work.
I am advised that there has not been testing of efficacy of arrangements. There may have been in relation to the technical capacity to deliver arrangements but, in relation to comparing efficacy of voluntary versus mandatory, there has not been.
There you have it: no consideration given to the efficacy of whether it is voluntary or mandatory—efficacy as to how it will help problem gamblers. Honestly, that is absolutely reckless on the part of the government: no consideration given to the effectiveness of swinging towards a voluntary precommitment approach. Consideration being given to even having machines be mandatory precommitment ready might in some way have moderated the behaviour of some venues or the industry as a whole to know that that was something, like the Sword of Damocles, that could fall on them. The fact that there has been no consideration of the efficacy of these measures is truly quite shocking.
Question agreed to.
I move opposition amendment (12) and oppose schedule 5 in the following terms:
(12) Schedule 5, page 23 (line 1) to page 38 (line 10), to be opposed.
This goes to interest charges to be applied to certain welfare debts. This measure from the government proposes to introduce interest charges on certain welfare debts. This includes debts incurred by people on Austudy, Youth Allowance and Abstudy.
Unfortunately, this government has already demonstrated its attitude to students. Frankly, it cannot be trusted on education. The students who will be affected by this measure are already on income support. Many of them are doing it tough. People on these welfare payments are already vulnerable. They do not need further punishment from a government that is already messing with their education for political purposes.
The government claims that the interest charges will encourage debtors to repay their debts in a timely fashion, but in reality it will do the opposite. By implementing interest charges on these debts the government is actually making it harder for people to repay those debts and making it harder for them to make ends meet.
Unfortunately, this government is treating students like political playthings. We have seen this with their approach to schools funding and now we are seeing it with this measure to hurt students by imposing further interest charges on low-income students. So Labor will not support the government's reform.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The question is that schedule 5 stand as printed.
Can I seek clarification. The Greens are opposing this schedule on the grounds that Senator McLucas just outlined. We think this is an appalling approach towards students, and it is revenue raising from students. I would have thought that we are supporting the amendment and therefore are not supporting the schedule as printed?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: I will call Senator McLucas to confirm the position of the opposition. You are opposing schedule 5?
Thank you. I just needed to seek that clarification. The Greens do oppose this schedule. I made that clear when I gave my second reading contribution last year. I have a similar amendment that has been circulated, and it opposes this schedule. Obviously, if this amendment is dealt with now I will not need to move my amendment. But I want to be really clear that we oppose this measure—we will be voting to oppose this measure and supporting the amendment Senator McLucas just moved.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The question is that schedule 5 stand as printed.
I move amendment (4) on sheet 7456:
(4) Clause 2, page 2 (cell at table item 3, column 1), omit the cell, substitute:
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The question is that amendment (4) on sheet 7456 be agreed to.
Question agreed to.
I move opposition amendment (13) on sheet 7456 which opposes schedule 6 in the following terms:
This goes to the question of student start-up loans. We will not be supporting the student start-up loans that have been proposed in the legislation. The measure seeks to convert the current Student Start-Up Scholarship program into an income-contingent loan program to be offered to full-time higher education students in receipt of Youth Allowance, Austudy or Abstudy.
When we were in government we did propose a similar measure. But make no mistake our measure had one purpose alone: to fund the Better Schools Plan. Today, as we know, that plan lies in tatters. Despite going to the election on a so-called unity ticket, when it comes to school funding the government have now walked away from Labor's Better Schools Plan. They have refused to commit the $14.65 billion in additional funding for schools that was promised by the Labor Party. They have given no assurance that the states will not cut school funding. This government cannot be trusted on education, whether it be primary or secondary schools, higher education or vocational education. Now there is no sign that they would use the funds from this measure for education. This is a cut just for a cut's sake, and the Labor Party will not support it. That is why we are opposing its inclusion in today's legislation. We are opposing this, just as we opposed the measures in the higher education support amendment bill, which has been discussed.
The Greens have a similar amendment to this, and that is to oppose this whole schedule. This will have an unacceptable impact on students in this country. Senator McLucas has outlined those concerns, and we support those concerns. We do not believe this is acceptable essentially to fundraise from students. They are students, and students' education is absolutely critical. This threatens it and threatens their access to high-quality education, and for that reason we have circulated a similar amendment. Obviously if this amendment gets up we will not need to move our amendment. We will be supporting this amendment, which means of course that we will be voting 'no' to the schedule standing as printed.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The question is that schedule 6, as amended, stand as printed.
by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) and (5) on sheet 7456, together:
(1) Title, page 1 (line 11), omit "student assistance,".
(5) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 4), omit the table item.
Question agreed to.
I move opposition amendment (14) on sheet 7456:
(14) Schedule 7, page 103 (line 1) to page 110 (line 24), omit the Schedule, substitute:
Schedule 7—Paid parental leave Paid Parental Leave Act 2010
1 Section 4 (paragraph relating to Part 3 -5)
Repeal the paragraph, substitute:
2 Section 6 (definition of acceptance notice )
Omit "section 103", substitute "paragraphs 103(1)(a) and (2)(a)".
3 Section 6 (definition of employer determination )
Omit "section 101", substitute "subsections 101(1) and (1A)".
4 Section 6
non -acceptance notice: see paragraph 103(2)(b).
5 Section 100 (first paragraph)
Repeal the paragraph, substitute:
6 Section 100 (third paragraph)
Repeal the paragraph, substitute:
7 Subsection 101(1)
Omit "under this section", substitute "under this subsection".
8 After paragraph 101(1)(a)
(aa) the employer employs 20 or more employees; and
9 After subsection 101(1)
(1A) The Secretary must make a determination under this subsection (the employer determination) that a person's employer is to pay the person instalments if the Secretary is satisfied, when making the determination, that:
(a) a payability determination that parental leave pay is payable to the person, or an initial eligibility determination for the person, is in force; and
(b) the employer employs fewer than 20 employees; and
(c) the employer has made an election under section 109 to pay instalments and that election applies to the person; and
(d) the person has consented in the claim to the employer paying instalments to the person; and
(e) if paragraphs (b) to (d) are satisfied in relation to more than one employer of the person—the person nominated the employer in the claim as the employer who would be required to pay instalments to the person.
10 Paragraph 101(3)(a)
After "subsection (1)", insert "or (1A)".
11 Paragraph 101(3)(b)
After "paragraph (1)(a)", insert "or (1A)(a)".
12 Subsection 101(4)
Omit "subsection (1)", substitute "subsections (1) and (1A)".
13 Section 103
Repeal the section, substitute:
103 Employer response to notice of employer determination
(1) If an employer is given a notice under section 102 that an employer determination has been made under subsection 101(1), the employer must, within 14 days after the date of the notice, do one of the following:
(a) give the Secretary a written notice (the acceptance notice) that complies with section 104;
(b) apply for a review of the employer determination under Part 5-1 or 5-2.
Note: This subsection is a civil penalty provision (see section 146).
(2) If an employer is given a notice under section 102 that an employer determination has been made under subsection 101(1A), the employer may, within the period referred to in subsection (3):
(a) give the Secretary a written notice (the acceptance notice) that complies with section 104; or
(b) give the Secretary notice (the non-acceptance notice), orally or in writing, declaring that the employer does not accept the employer's obligations to pay instalments to the person.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), the period is 14 days, or such longer period allowed by the Secretary, after the date of the notice given under section 102.
14 Paragraph 106(c)
After "subsection 101(1)", insert "or (1A)".
15 Subsection 108(1) (after table item 1)
16 Subsection 108(1) (table item 2, column 1)
Omit "section 103", substitute "subsection 103(1)".
17 Subsection 108(1) (after table item 2)
18 Section 146 (cell at table item 10, column 1)
Repeal the cell, substitute:
19 Paragraphs 157(1)(b) and 159(1)(b)
Omit "section 103", substitute "subsection 103(1)".
20 Subsections 203(2) and 207(1)
Omit "section 101", substitute "subsection 101(1)".
21 Subsection 207(5)
Omit "section 103", substitute "subsection 103(1)".
22 Subsection 207(5) (note)
Omit "Section 103", substitute "Subsection 103(1)".
23 Application of amendments
The amendments made by this Schedule apply in relation to an employer determination that is made on or after the commencement of this Schedule in relation to a claim for parental leave pay that is made before, on or after that commencement.
This goes to the Paid Parental Leave scheme changes. The legislation the government is proposing seeks to remove the role of the employer in administering paid parental leave for its employees, and give that function to Centrelink. The amendments Labor is proposing today limit the applicability of this measure to employers with 20 employees or fewer. These amendments get the balance right and reflect the sensible position that we took to the 2013 federal election.
Already more than 340,000 women have accessed Labor's Paid Parental Leave scheme—Australia's first paid parental leave scheme—since it was introduced in January 2011. Around 40,000 dads and same-sex partners have accessed Labor's Dad and Partner Pay since this progressive scheme began in 2013. We are very proud of having introduced Australia's first paid parental leave scheme. We note there is a growing chorus of people, including from big business and within the coalition's own ranks, calling on the Prime Minister to shelve the government's unfair and, frankly, unaffordable Paid Parental Leave scheme.
When we designed Australia's first paid parental leave scheme we included the employer role for a number of really important reasons. It was included to help employers retain their skilled staff. It was also a way of enabling women to remain connected to their workplace and their careers when they take time out of the workforce to have a baby or adopt a child. As the scheme progressed we listened to business and understood that in tough economic environments small businesses needed to be able to devote their scarce time to adapting and thriving in a changing economy. That is why we adopted the position reflected in these amendments: to enable small business to streamline administration and have Centrelink administer paid parental leave on their behalf. These amendments strike the right balance. They provide for employers to be able to maintain a relationship with their employees while they are on paid parental leave. They also allow small businesses to choose for Centrelink to administer paid parental leave on their behalf if it suits them.
The government's bill abolishes the role of the employer in its entirety. It does not strike the right balance. It severs that really important link between an employer and its employees. This is not good for women and their families and, frankly, it is not good for employers, and that is why we have made the amendments.
On the previous amendments I resisted the temptation to get to my feet because I think it is pretty self-evident that the amendments related to savings measures that the previous government introduced but no longer supports. Political opportunism is the clear reason why that is the case. We will leave that as read.
I want to briefly rise on the issue of who services the paymaster for the current PPL scheme. I indicate that it was a clear position that the government, when in opposition, took to the last election. The reasons are straightforward: to ease administrative burdens on business; we are seeking to remove the mandatory employer role from the PPL scheme; and employers will still be able to opt in to provide parental leave pay to their employees if both the employer and the employee agree to this arrangement. This measure, we believe, contributes to the government's commitment to reduce red tape for business and responds to feedback from employer groups that the mandatory paymaster role was an unnecessary impost, particularly for small business. This is something that the government feels very strongly about.
I indicate that the Greens original position was to oppose this particular schedule, but, given the ALP's amendment, we will be supporting the ALP amendment because it makes this provision slightly better. We had a number of concerns about this particular schedule. One of them was that it takes the emphasis off this being a workplace right to being more welfare focused. A number of witnesses to the inquiry indicated their concern about that. We continue to be concerned, but this amendment makes this schedule slightly better, so we will be supporting this amendment.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The question is that the amendment be agreed to. We are dealing with opposition amendment (14) on sheet 7456.
Question agreed to.
by leave—I move opposition amendments (15) and (17) on sheet 7456:
(15) Schedule 9, items 1 to 5, page 114 (lines 4 to 19), to be opposed.
(17) Schedule 9, item 10, page 115 (lines 8 and 9), to be opposed.
These amendments go to the Child Care Rebate and the extension of the pause on the annual Child Care Rebate limit. Labor has always been a strong supporter of increased support for Australian families struggling to meet the costs of child care. When we were in government we increased the Child Care Rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. The government has admitted it is planning to freeze the Child Care Rebate cap until 2017. This makes an absolute mockery of any claims that this government wants to make child care affordable for families and it completely undermines the government review of child care.
The government's actions speak far louder than their words. Their actions will push up childcare costs for Australian families already struggling to make ends meet. I cannot see any way that the government can justify freezing the indexation when they have repeatedly argued that it would have a devastating impact on families if they do not implement the Early Years Quality Fund. Labor will oppose this measure.
Senator McLucas, can I be really clear about the amendments you have just moved? You have just moved amendments (15) and (17).
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Senator Siewert, I might be able to assist. We are dealing with opposition amendments (15) and (17) on sheet 7456, and the opposition has foreshadowed that, when it comes to a vote, the opposition will be voting no to the items. They are identical in their terms to your subsequent amendments. The question is that items one to five and 10 of schedule 9 stand as printed.
With that clarification earlier, I did not make our position clear on the reasons for that, so I will take this opportunity, with this consequential amendment, if that is okay with you.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Yes, Senator Siewert.
The Greens, as just indicated, are supporting this amendment. We have similar amendments. To be clear, this is about splitting that particular schedule, because that schedule does two things: it freezes the indexation on family tax benefit A and B—in fact, continues that freeze—and also deals with the childcare amendment. We have split that off. We are dealing with the freezing of the indexation of the childcare amendment, because that will have very significant consequences—whereas the indexation and family tax A and B is continuing that freeze on the upper limit. We thought that was reasonable, in the circumstances, but the freezing of the indexation of the childcare rebate is not reasonable. It impacts on hundreds of thousands of families, parents and their children. So we do not think that is an appropriate measure for the government to be taking.
An honourable senator interjecting—
And, as my colleague just said, it is a break of promise. We also circulated amendments last year opposing the split of this particular schedule, so it could be dealt with in two parts. This is essentially what we are doing now.
I will take the opportunity, since we are pausing here for a moment, to make the observation that this particular measure the government is proposing is one that was put forward by the previous government. The opposition came up with a range of rationales as to why the world is an entirely different place and the commitment can no longer stand. I just wish to note that and do not wish to detain the chamber any longer.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The question is that Senator McLucas's amendment be agreed to.
Question agreed to.
The CHAIRMAN: The question now before the chair is that the bill as amended be agreed to.
Although it is not on the running sheet, because there was some delay in getting the amendment circulated, I have circulated a series of amendments, some of which are no longer relevant, but there are others that are. I cannot move all of the amendments at once on this sheet; I need to deal with all of them separately. I will move amendment (1) on sheet 7462, which relates to the gambling schedule, schedule 1. As I articulated in my contribution in the discussion that we had on the amendments from the opposition, I indicated we would be supporting those amendments because they slightly improve that provision. We do not support this schedule, for the reasons that were very well articulated by my colleague Senator Di Natale. We do not support the weakening of what we already thought was a very weak approach to problem gambling. So we will seek to exclude this particular schedule from this bill.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: These amendments have not been circulated widely as yet and so, to some extent, we are dealing with them on the run. I am advised by the Clerk that amendment (1) and amendment (7) address the same issue—that is, gambling—and that amendment (7) is the matter of substance, whereas amendment 1 is the consequential amendment.
I beg your pardon. These have not been circulated and are not on the running order, so it is slightly confusing, and I will move Greens amendments (7) and (1) first.
We have only just got these, which makes it a little difficult. My understanding is the effect of your amendment (7) and then the consequential amendment (1) would be to remove the schedule completely. Given that, and the amendment earlier made, we will not be supporting your amendments.
I once again apologise. I thought these amendments had been circulated. They were put on my desk quite some time ago. I did indicate some time ago, when I made my second reading contribution, that we would be opposing a number of these schedules. To answer your question, Senator McLucas, the intent of this amendment would be to completely remove that schedule, as I articulated earlier in my contribution. I move Greens amendment (7) on sheet 7462:
(7) Schedule 1, page 4 (line 1) to page 8 (line 9), to be opposed.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: We are dealing with Greens amendment 7. The question is that the schedule stand as printed.
I move Greens amendment (9) on sheet 7462, which relates to schedule 2 of this omnibus bill:
(9) Schedule 2, page 10 (lines 1 to 6), to be opposed.
This relates to income management and, specifically, to the trial in Cape York, with the income management process that is going on there. I think the Greens concerns about income management have been articulated in this chamber on many occasions. We do not believe that this is the appropriate approach. I acknowledge that the income management process and the Families Responsibilities Commission process being undertaken in Cape York are significantly different to those being undertaken in the Northern Territory, however we do not believe that the results up there justify the large expense to deliver that. We do not believe that the impacts that it has on those that are affected by it justify the means. We do not believe that it is worth the investment. We believe a more thorough analysis of that trial should be undertaken, as compared to other approaches that can be taken. And we believe that the broader community needs to have a say on whether they want it to proceed or not.
I also point out that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, when they reported on the Stronger Futures package, made fairly strong comments around income management and on the fact that it intrudes on people's personal freedom and autonomy. We are concerned that the Abbott government is talking about increasing income management. I understand from estimates that there is a report which, if it has not already been handed up, is about to be handed up to the government, on the place-based trials that are going on around Australia.
I continue to get very negative feedback from communities about the impact of income management. It is an extremely expensive process that does not deliver the results but which impacts on people's autonomy and personal freedom. It is seen by many in the community as paternalistic. It is a very expensive program, and we believe that those resources should be spent in a much more effective manner that consults with people and delivers on long-term change. Income management was originally supposed to be short term—applied for a relatively small amount of time—and, supposedly, aimed at changing people's behaviours.
It is not short term. It has been going on for a significant period of time—in fact, since 2007. People's behaviour, in many cases, has not changed. In fact, they have become more dependent on the process. We need to look at long-term change. The continuation of this particular approach results in more of the same, and not learning from the mistakes of the past. We do not believe that this is an appropriate expenditure of resources. We believe that we can better invest those resources in achieving long-term change that does not impinge on people's personal rights and freedoms, that allows them to change their management approach to their resources, and that is intended to change other behaviours. You do not change behaviours by a punitive approach, and this program is a punitive approach.
I do understand that it is different, but it is not significantly different. People end up being income managed. We do not believe it works. We do not believe it is a good investment. We believe that we should be investing those very scarce resources in programs that do work, on an evidence based approach, because that is what delivers the results—not ideology. Income management was always based on ideology. It does not deliver. It should not be part of a modern approach to helping and supporting the most vulnerable in our community. That is why we are seeking to cut this measure out of this bill and why we oppose schedule 2.
I will not take a lot of the committee's time, but I have to put on the record that, in government, we have been strong supporters of the Cape York welfare reform trials. To respond to Senator Siewert's comments, I think there certainly is evidence that we are achieving the objectives of these trials—that is, improving school attendance, restoring local authority, supporting families and, particularly, encouraging parental responsibility and leadership as a part of those reforms.
The Family Resources Commission is central to the delivery of this trial. It has connected with many, many families in Aurukun, Hope Vale, Mossman Gorge and Coen. We are seeing behavioural change. That was the intention of the trial. For that reason Labor will be supporting the government's extension to the dates. That is, essentially, all this schedule does.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: The question is that schedule 2 stand as printed.
Question agreed to.
I move Greens amendment (10) on sheet 7462:
(10) Schedule 3, page 11 (line 1) to page 16 (line 21), to be opposed.
This addresses schedule 3. Schedule 3 relates to the family tax benefit and we are opposed to this schedule. This schedule seeks to limit the eligibility to family tax benefit A so that it can only be paid in respect of children aged over 16 until the end of the calendar year in which they finish senior secondary school. The amount of money saved over four years is relatively small, but during the committee inquiry we heard, I think, enough evidence to question the effectiveness of this schedule. It is a savings measure but it could have particular impacts on certain students because of the way it is being applied. Once students finish secondary school and before they go on to a possible university entrance, there is a period of time between the end of the financial year and when they start tertiary education. The issue here is that, for some students who do not get into university, there may be a period of time when they do not have any financial support. We are concerned that low-income families in particular would be most hit by this.
While in theory it sounds like a good, easy saving for the government, it could have consequences, albeit for a relatively small number of students, but those students, in low-income families that do not have that support, are always going to be the most vulnerable. Those families rely on that sort of support. For that reason, we believe this amendment is ill conceived. We are concerned about those most vulnerable low-income students—or sometimes they may in fact not be students because they do not get entrance to either tertiary education, meaning they are in the process of looking for work, or other forms of study. We are concerned, basically, about unintended consequences. So we do not support this schedule and believe it should be deleted from this package in this bill.
I move Greens amendment (11) to schedule 4 on sheet 7462:
(11) Schedule 4, page 17 (line 1) to page 22 (line 22), to be opposed.
This schedule relates to the period of Australian working life residence. It changes the period for pensioners who were born overseas and their period of working life in Australia. I was contacted by a number of people who were concerned about this measure and the impact it may have on them. We are concerned that it is changing the rules. Therefore, given the impact it potentially has on people who have been working for a significant period of time, particularly as we know how hard it is for older Australians to find work, we believe this represents an extra degree of uncertainty for pensioners and that it has an unfair impact on older Australians who have been working here a significant period of time and made a significant contribution to our economy. So we do not support this amendment to the legislation. We oppose this measure and seek to delete it from the package which, as I said, makes up this omnibus bill.
The rest of the Greens amendments either were contingent on the success of the first amendments, which, of course, went down in a screaming heap, or were dealt with when the committee considered the opposition amendments.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.