Wednesday, 31 July 2019
Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Cashless Welfare) Bill 2019; In Committee
Both the opposition and the Greens have amendments, but I have some questions of a general nature. I'm wondering if we could deal with those first and then proceed to some of the amendments?
The CHAIR: Sure. We're in the hands of the Committee of the Whole.
First off, the minister made some comments in her closing statement, and I'm wondering if she could provide or perhaps take on notice the references for some of the comments she made around some of the figures, because some of those sound like new figures, and it would be very helpful to have them. Can I ask the minister to take that on board? My understanding was that the next report from the University of Adelaide's work was due in June. I'm wondering if my understanding is correct and, if so, has that report been made available to the government yet?
The department has undertaken consultation with all of the communities for community trial sites. I also personally have had discussions with a number of members of one of the communities in Western Australia, in your home state in the Goldfields, in relation to their concerns that were raised about the specifics of the process for financial exemption.
I can confirm that a number of people who were on the card were consulted through the process. I could not be specific as to whether any of those were seeking or intending to seek exemptions through this process, so I can't give you the exact details of the nature of the individuals that were spoken with and consulted with. But I can say that there were a number of people in each of the trial sites that were interviewed and consulted with in relation to the exit mechanism.
Much of the consultation was taken prior to the commencement of the process. We didn't actually seek out people who weren't on the card. Anybody who actually had been granted a wellbeing exemption obviously wouldn't be on the card, so we didn't speak to them particularly. But, whether there were people within the cohort of people that were consulted with who were on the card who would have intended and believed they were eligible for the new exit mechanism, I am unaware of the specifics of the number of those people that were consulted with. I'm not sure if that information is available, but I will certainly try and find out.
That would be appreciated. I take your point about opt-out, although I know my office was getting phone calls prior to the opt-out about how we understood the opt-out process was going to work. I presume that they were phoning the department. I'm aware there are a number of people who have been applying for the wellbeing process. That's why I ask that particular question, because I know that my office has been helping a number of them. I've got specific questions to clarify a number of things. Do we start that process now?
The CHAIR: Yes, Senator Siewert. You can certainly ask questions, make statements or put your amendments through this Committee of the Whole.
I'm seeking some clarification about how the exit arrangements are going to be interpreted, because that's what people are looking for. Minister, you made a reference to a guide. Is it your intention to provide further interpretation about how people interpret the criteria in that guide, and when is it likely that the guide will be available?
The information that is required for anybody who's making application to be exempt from the card will be contained as part of the package that they will be provided access to as part of their application form. We'll make it available through their online portal or, alternatively, for those people who don't feel comfortable with doing it themselves or doing it electronically, these services will be available to assist them through the exit process through their providers in their local communities. But attached to that application process will be a set of guidelines to enable them to see the process they need to go through and the information they need to provide. At the same time, we will before using a person from the Department of Social Services to assist them, if they require assistance, to talk them through how they make that information available to them.
There are a number of things I want to follow up on, just in that one answer. Do you envisage that someone from DSS will help with that process over the phone, or could someone also go into the Centrelink office in, say, Kununurra to obtain support with the guide? Is that also the sort of thing you see happening?
Just in clarification, it would be more likely that the local partner in the community is where the person would receive that one-on-one assistance. Equally, if they are happier to use our services, there will be telephone services available to them, and substantial online information. We recognise that sometimes connectivity and capacity prevents people from using a purely online service.
Community organisations or contractors within the community that are contracted by Indue to provide the service. Basically, there will be opportunity within the community—with the existing services provided for the operation or issues that a person on the card might have, not necessarily about this—for people to go and see the service providers, who will have the opportunity to assist them. They will also be able to phone and do it online.
This is the sort of thing I'm being asked about. If I want to get the form, I can go online. Many community members who may be trying to apply for an opt out don't have access to a printer or even a computer. A lot of people do their communications on mobile phones, but it's very hard to fill in these sorts of forms on mobile phones. I don't have to go to an NGO to get the form—can I go to Centrelink and get a physical copy of the form?
Yes, you can. The new suite of technology being put into all of the Centrelink offices will provide you with that bank of access, so the person in Centrelink can assist the person to get access to it online.
Thank you. Then they'll be able to get the guide. Have you got a list of things that you consider necessary for meeting the criteria? Is there documentation? Will they have to go somewhere to get somebody to verify what they're doing for the health and safety of the person and the community? It's those harder things to prove that I think will be concerning people, how they satisfy those criteria.
One of the things that we are currently in the process of doing is working through what is going to be the most streamlined and easiest way for us to make a determination about someone's preparation to exit the card if they're currently on it. Because, as you would understand, many of these situations are quite different to each other, we've actually taken a much more case-by-case approach on how this might be managed. I take your point. That's not the question you're asking. We will provide a guide that will outline what a normal, non-complicated process would be for the average person who would seek to come in and get the exemption. But we are also very mindful—and this is why we are particularly mindful about putting on determined time frames—that sometimes there is a level of complexity to get the information, and, because people are not able to provide the information, there is difficulty in accessing the information. Under a normal set of circumstances, the criteria and the process which the person needs to follow and the evidence that would be required for the exemption application would be clearly set out in the guidelines. Obviously, somebody will be there to help them through that. We also put on record that we understand that sometimes it's not a straightforward process, and, for those cases, we intend to put in a case-by-case process that could sit around more complicated cases.
In terms of the issue I brought up during my second reading contribution, I see a potential conflict with the wellbeing provision. For example—and this is where I've had a little bit of experience—where someone has poor mental health and applies for a wellbeing exemption, how will that interact with the opt-out provisions where they talk about the health and safety of the person and the community? If I just apply for a wellbeing exemption, will that be considered in and of itself?
The conditions that exist around the exit provisions under the basis of wellbeing will remain the same. I thank you for raising the question. It would be my interpretation that the wellbeing provision would be considered a higher level of exit priority simply because you're talking about somebody's personal wellbeing as opposed to, I suppose, a more straightforward financial capability exemption. You would have to prioritise somebody's health and wellbeing above financial circumstances, so I think the wellbeing one would go first.
Before I get on to some specific questions, I want to follow up on Senator Siewert with two questions. How many people have contacted the department to come off the card? And I want to seek some clarification about who will help people get off the card?
Thank you very much, Senator Brown. One thousand and fifty-four people have made a phone call to the relevant number seeking information or advice about the process. In terms of who will assist, it would depend on the individual as to what sorts of services they are seeking. At the moment, anybody who is currently on an Indue card, or the cashless debit card, has access within their community to locally based service providers that can assist them with any issue that they might have with their card. Those people will remain available to them to assist them in the process if they choose to seek an exemption, whether it be on the wellbeing criteria or the financial criteria. Equally, we will also make sure that assistance to exit is available by phone and there are provisions online, to give the person who is wishing to seek the exit provision a choice in the way that they make their application.
You might have to give me an example of going to a location, but I want to know: is exiting off the card going to be provided only online or by phone? Or are there services—and what are those services?—that will help people exit off the card?
Just as an example, Centrecare is a provider that we use in Kalgoorlie. Centrecare provides all the services and resourcing to somebody who is currently on the cashless debit card in that particular trial region. These services are provided in all the sites, but I'm using that as an example, because you asked for an example. So, if the individual who is seeking a financial exemption wants one-on-one assistance in making their application, they can make an appointment, they can go into Centrecare in Kalgoorlie and they can sit down with a person in Kalgoorlie and have them assist them in filling out the form—even to the point of assistance with interpretation, for example, because obviously we want to make sure that we are assisting them in their mother language.
Yes; they already are. We already have translation and language services that are available in these communities. If the person went in there and wanted the maximum level of assistance to enable them to make the application, they could go into one of these places and have somebody sit with them and take them through the whole process and tell them what information they need to provide and possibly then assist them in accessing that information as well.
I now want to go to some questions around cost of the CDC. Perhaps you could provide how much has been spent to date on the CDC in total and in each location; how many people are currently on the card in total and in each location; the per-person cost of the card to date; and how much the government will spend across the forward estimates on the cashless debit card combined with expenditure to date—so, the total expenditure.
The costs of the card across all the trial sites, which include implementation, providing additional funding to existing services to provide the wraparound services that were identified as being needed, and communications, for the period up to 30 June 2018, was $34.2 million. Unfortunately I don't have the site-by-site costs broken down for you. There are approximately 12,000 participants on the card, but I can provide you with the numbers for each of the individual sites. And $126 million is budgeted over the forward estimates for the ongoing CDC program.
I can't, because some of the costs are shared across all the areas, and others are site-specific. I'm certainly happy to take on notice to see how much more granular I can be in the information you're asking for. I'm more than happy to provide that to you, but at the moment I'm not entirely sure that I'm going to be able to provide the exact information you're asking for.
Okay. I appreciate that undertaking—that you should be able to provide some cost information, based on a region. If you could provide that, that would be great. But you would be able to provide figures on how many people in each location.
Obviously we can do an extrapolation of the number of people that are currently affected by the card and the amount of money that's been spent on the trial and I could say to you that, on average, it was X amount per person. But one of the things that I can absolutely assure you of is that the variation in the costs of assisting individuals with the card vary quite significantly.
I now want to ask some questions around outages and the operation of the card itself. How many people have been impacted by the cashless debit card outages to date? Where have the outages occurred? What is the longest outage? How does the minister expect people to buy groceries and pay bills on time if the card is not working? How many people have missed payments or incurred overdue charges because of card outages? I ask these questions because, as you would be aware, Minister, there have been confirmed reports of card outages preventing people from shopping using their card.
I suppose one point would be that there are often outages that occur through external forces, whether it's a power outage or because an EFTPOS terminal from a bank is down or the technology within a particular facility is down. We wouldn't necessarily have any information that relates specifically to outages that were outside of our control. But what I will take on notice and provide you with information on is if there have been any card-specific outages—in relation to the technology or the use of the card specifically—that have prevented somebody from being able to use it in a facility where they would've expected to be able to use it. I'll get that information, and, once we've got it, we'll seek to provide the further detail in terms of the implications of those outages. But my advice is that, in the majority of times that people have been concerned about their inability to use their card, nobody would've been able to use any cards, because the outage was actually a more general community-wide outage—as I say, whether it was a power outage or a failure of an EFTPOS system.
I accept that nobody would've been able to use cards. But other people have other means of buying basic requirements—I'm just putting that on the record—as the minister would know. Have there been any complaints to the department, by the services that are funded to assist people on the CDC or by shop owners, about outages?
Yes. Any complaints around outages from shop owners, from people that are actually on the card or from community organisations that are assisting people on the card that have come and complained to them.
In terms of the specific details, I'm happy to take that on notice and provide you with detailed information on the breakdown of the kinds of numbers that we're getting from those particular cohorts. But I am advised that it is not a high number of the communications that come to us that relate to the implications of outages.
Whilst the government's policy position remains consistent—and that is that we will be using the information that we've collected through the reviews of these trial sites to make any decision on further activity of the cashless debit card in Australia—no decisions have been made at this stage, so the policy remains the same.
I was actually thinking you were referring to it more broadly. Since the re-election of the Morrison government, there are some processes that still have to be undertaken in developing the legislation to enable those people who are currently on the BasicsCard in the Northern Territory and Cape York to move over onto the cashless debit card. So whilst the intention is quite clear, the legislative instruments to enable that to happen have not passed through this place as yet.
I just want to confirm that you've made no decision as to how you'll choose a card provider. Is it open tender or would you consider rolling it over to Indue or have you not made that decision?
Whilst I don't have the exact details in front of me, what I can assure you is that any procurement process that is undertaken by the government in the provision of any service will be undertaken subject to the appropriate procurement guidelines, of course. But I don't have any further detail of that in terms of exactly how that process is going to occur or when it's going to occur—and obviously understanding that we need to get legislative authority from this place before we can proceed anyway.
Can you give me some information around what Indue charges the government for each card issued, and how much profit does Indue make from the cashless debit card?
I'm advised that it's less than $1,000, but I would have to take on notice the details. I may not even be able to get access to that information but I certainly will take the question on notice and provide the information that I am able to. In response to a previous question you asked that I took on notice but no longer need to, the number of participants in the four trial sites are: Goldfields, 3,326; East Kimberley, 1,517; Ceduna, 932; and Bundaberg and Harvey Bay, 5,524.
Can the minister confirm the major banks declined to participate in the trial, and was this because the big banks have concerns about the way the government is rolling out this program?
You'll have to excuse me, because I wasn't party to the original negotiations in this area. My understanding was that the original trial sites were quite small, Ceduna being by far the smallest. The banks saw the small scale of the trial as not being something that they were necessarily particularly interested in participating in. That was the reason given to us by the banks, I understand, at the time that we sought their involvement.
I have a few more questions before I either hand over to Senator Siewert or actually move an amendment. Does the minister think that every person on the CDC is incapable of managing their affairs? Does the community think that every trial site has adequate services, such as health, education, early intervention, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and job creation?
One of the things that was so important about the standing up of this particular trial initiative was the fact that it was co-designed with and we worked very closely with the communities, bearing in mind that the four communities that are participating in the trial voluntarily put forward their communities to be part of the trial. We worked very closely with those communities to ensure the outcomes we're seeking to achieve, which are better community outcomes, as listed. I don't need to repeat them all to you; they have previously resulted from a prevalence of drug, alcohol and gambling addiction and abuse. We work with the communities to make sure that those outcomes are appropriate and that the people are being appropriately targeted to make sure we deliver the good outcomes the community have requested by voluntary participation in this particular program.
What was your second question?
Yes—the adequacy of the services. One of the things we did do as part of the process of setting up these trials was to make additional funds available to many of these wraparound services that, in many instances, already existed within the communities. But we saw that, with the introduction of a new way of seeking to get people to manage their financial affairs and the consequences of that, additional funding was needed to assist them with those wraparound services. So the answer is yes.
I listened very closely to your response, but certainly since the start of the rollout there has been a considerable number of people who have actually withdrawn their support for the cashless debit card, and we heard that in some of the contributions here today. Minister, I'm sure that you and the department would be fully aware of that. So my question goes to the services that have been provided to trial site communities. What conversations have those communities had with either the minister or the department around issues that they have with a lack of wraparound services or wraparound services that are not adequate or services not actually being there at all?
Sorry for taking so long to answer, but it's an important question. As part of the rollout of the trial and the assessment of the outcomes that the trial is delivering, we review all services that relate to the outcome criteria we're dealing with, which you referred to, whether they be domestic violence services, police services or the like. We do that every year. Where it is identified that additional services are required, we seek to work with the state governments and other partners in these trials to make sure that the adequacy of the services is addressed.
I thank you, Minister, for that response, but my question was about any complaints that have been directed to the minister or to DSS. But before you respond to that part of the question, can you guarantee that there are drug and alcohol rehabilitation services in every trial site location?
I'm advised that, yes, we do have in each of the trial sites drug and alcohol services that are available to participants. It appears from the advice that I am receiving from the agency, who are closer to the coalface on this than I am, that we receive very few complaints, but obviously when we do receive complaints they are taken seriously and are addressed—and anything will be put into part of the review if it relates specifically to the availability of the services that you're referring to.
This potentially is my last question. Can you take on notice to provide a list of the complaints, where the complaint was made from and the nature of the complaint?
I want to get this clear. Do you want complaints in relation to the provision of services, so anybody who has made a complaint about the inadequacy of the service that was provided to them to deal with the issue that they brought forward, the issue that is one of the outcomes that are targeted as part of the use of the card?
Essentially, yes. I'm trying to get an understanding—and we talked about wraparound services earlier—of whether the services that have been provided in every trial site are adequate and whether communities or community leaders have come back to you or the department about the fact that whatever has been provided, if it is being provided, is not adequate. I would like to know where that complaint came from, which location.
Yes, sorry. I'm trying to reorganise a committee meeting that I'm supposed to be chairing right now, so I apologise. I want to chase up the alcohol and drug services. I realise it might be a bit hard to give me off the top of your head an update on which services are funded or available in each of the trial sites, what they're funded for and which ones are new services that have been provided through the funding of the trial process.
Thank you. I want to go back to my line of inquiry about the criteria. I want to now go back to being able to manage your financial affairs. I wonder what specifically will be required there. Will someone with financial management qualifications be providing the advice to the secretary? I'm particularly interested in this because what I consider good financial management by someone on a low income may in fact be very different to what someone with a lot of income can do. For example, I know from personal experience that, when living on a very low income, you sometimes don't pay a bill on time, because you can't afford it. You know you have until a certain time after the due date to pay it, so you pay another bill because this one is just becoming due and you are about to get your power turned off and then you will pay this one. You're managing your money because you have very little. People who don't understand how people on low incomes manage their money and manage to make ends meet may see that as poor financial management.
Thank you very much, Senator Siewert. I think what you raise here is the specific nature of dealing with many of these issues on a case-by-case basis. Going to the analogy you've just made: nobody's going to get a bad credit rating for paying their bills a bit late; you only get a bad credit rating if you don't pay your bills at all and you fall into default and you end up, through the process, getting put on a reach. So, I take very clearly your point on the degree to which financial management imprudence is interpreted. Looking at the holistic suite of issues, as part of this legislation we'd be seeking for someone to be able to demonstrate—I clearly take on board your point about the interpretation of financial management and the necessity for the person who's making the determination within the department to take on board the issues you raised about low-income earners and how they manage their money. So I suppose what I can say is that I believe that for this to be able to work it needs to be able to have the level of nuance that you're referring to, and case-by-case management. There will be a whole heap of people who will tick the box on every occasion and it will be fine, but there will just need to be a level of leniency provided for the demonstration of the example you just gave.
I think I was just drawing an analogy to suggest that your analogy of somebody who paid their bills late really did not warrant the tagging as being a bad financial manager. I was probably using that as an example of what I think society would accept was a bad financial manager. There was not meant to be any link between the two.
Thank you for that clarification. What sort of documentary evidence around being able to manage your financial affairs is it envisaged will be required for someone to be able to demonstrate that they can manage their money?
My mistake—I apologise. I correct the record; I didn't actually mean Indue themselves. But the interface between the person who's on the card and Indue goes through a local service provider, like Centrecare, and I think I was referring to the Centrecare type of organisation.
I think the concern that at least some people in the community would have is that if they had to go to Indue for advice they'd see that as a conflict of interest. I want to go to the issue I raised around the health and community worker not having a direct professional relationship with the trial participant. How would you intend to deal with that—that is, ensure that somebody who is asking for someone's exit application to be reconsidered, for them to be put back on the card, is in a position to make an informed recommendation, through professional contacts, for that to happen? How can you guarantee that?
You raise a very good point, particularly—because we're talking about small communities in many instances—about whether the person's actually talking as the community worker or whether they're just talking as a member of the community. I think we would seek to make sure here that if anybody—a community worker or a health worker—made a recommendation that somebody who had exited the card should no longer be exited, or somebody who wasn't on the card should be on the card, then that would probably trigger an investigation, but that in and of itself would not be sufficient for any action to be taken. If a health worker or a community worker made an application to the Department of Social Services to indicate that someone should be on the card that would trigger us checking but it would not in and of itself. They must only do that in their professional capacity. I understand your point about how you define between professional and non-professional, but it certainly would not be in and of itself sufficient to have the person put back on the card.
I understand what you've said. You built that into the process. It's a reconsideration—not automatically back on the card. My concerns is for a person who has received an exemption there's a degree of trauma going then. Somebody's now said, 'I need to go back on the card.' That person hasn't any professional relationship to me. I haven't gone to see them at the health clinic. I haven't accessed the service that they may be working in, because a community worker could be someone working in an NGO, for example. I don't have any professional relationship with them. They just rang up the department, or did whatever the process will be, and now I'm faced with proving all over again that I meet all the criteria. I really don't see how that's fair.
I probably gave you the wrong answer to the previous question in not understanding. A trigger to reassess somebody's eligibility for being exempt could only be triggered by a community health worker or allied service worker if they were making that recommendation in their capacity as a worker in relation to the individual that they were referring.
Just so I've got it clear, there will be something on the form that someone has to fill out to say,' I saw this person for this reason,' and that will then ensure it won't be considered unless that box is ticked. Thank you.
I'm not sure I'm quite down to the kind of detail to say if there's a box on the form, but, yes, they must have a relevant and direct professional relationship with the person whom they're referring.
I apologise. It sounded like I was talking literally, but I was talking figuratively. But I take the point. I will now ask about the wellbeing exemptions. One of the things with the wellbeing exemptions—and I'm glad this is being tightened up—is the issue about how the serious risk is being interpreted. Will there now be some guidance for people when they're applying for the wellbeing exemption? I do appreciate there hasn't been a lot of guidance there, so it's been a bit hit and miss quite frankly. Will there be some guide to participants about what information they need to provide?
Thank you, Senator Siewert. As a reflection of some discussions that we've been having with you in the development of this, we quite clearly saw that a clearer set of guidelines or criteria in relation to the wellbeing exemption was needed. In reformatting this, assuming we're successful in getting these amendments through this place today, we would make sure that the same sort guidelines and clarity of what was required sat alongside the wellbeing exemption as well as the financial one.
My understanding is that it would be a very significant part of the process. Although the interaction with a social worker as part of the process would still remain. But, obviously, medical evidence would be the highest form of support.
Thank you. I will go on to the review process. I would like to get a bit of clarity around how that process will operate. I understand that the process is reviewable. Is it going to be the usual review process under social security law?
Hopefully I'm answering the right question here. Obviously, social security law applies across anything that we do, but what we're seeking to do as part of this new process is actually to put an internal review process into the Department of Social Services to enable them to be able to deal, within the agency at a higher level than the standard determination may well be made, with any complaints or determinations that are not agreed with. This will mean that only those cases that are of a more significant nature will end up having to go to a higher authority like the AAT.
The internal review process already exists within Social Services but, in effect, what it would be is a review by somebody much more senior within the agency. Obviously, the delegated power for determinations rests with the secretary but, realistically, the secretary is not going to be doing all the detail. So the internal review process enables the person an opportunity to have the determination reviewed by somebody much higher up in the organisation.
Can I ask about the data that's provided. In both of these processes, quite sensitive data will be provided. What arrangements are in place to make sure that the data is adequately protected? How long will the data be stored for? Or will it be destroyed after the decision-making process?
All data that is collected by the Department of Social Services is collected in accordance with the Privacy Act, and we also have a set of privacy principles that exist within our agency because of the sensitivity and the quantum of personal information we have about people. Also in the Social Security (Administration) Act, there are a number of provisions that provide very clear circumstances in which information could be used for any other purpose apart from the purpose for which it was provided. I'm more than happy to provide you with those details if you'd like.
I suppose that it's pretty much a catch-all term, so that we can consult as broadly as possible. But in terms of the specifics that you're asking for: community leaders, community service providers, the community participants—it really is very much at the broadest possible, catch-all level in terms of the consultation that can occur. But in the specifics, as I say, it is community leaders, community elders, participants, providers, and current participants, most importantly.
As part of this process of co-design, one of the things that is really important is to make sure that we continue to work with the individual communities about how they would like the consultation to occur within their particular areas. Whilst we absolutely support the concept of consultation and the importance of it for this particular project, we'd probably be seeking to tailor our consultation processes so that they meet the desires of the individual community. We'd certainly be working with the community participants, the elders, suppliers, providers et cetera, to make sure that the consultation covered the broadest range of people possible but also that the process of consultation reflected what that community wanted and whether the people in that community wanted to participant in that consultation.
I want to go back to some comments you made earlier, Minister. You gave the example of Centrecare in Kalgoorlie. If I'm a CDC person in Kalgoorlie and I want to get off the card, how do I know to go to Centrelink and who in that agency is going to help me with the form?
As part of the process, we would make people on the card aware of the changes—that we hope will pass through this chamber today—through the normal communication process. Many of the people that we are talking about also constantly interact with places like Centrecare in Kalgoorlie and would know well to approach them, and they do constantly have meetings with them anyway.
We weren't planning on sending a specific letter. I'm a bit nervous of letters, as you might well imagine, but we would certainly provide a form of communication to the people on the card to make sure they were aware that the provision now existed.
I want to know what form that is going to take. My second question is, whilst I do appreciate some people on the card in the Goldfields region would be in contact with Centrecare, if they are not and they front up to the counter, who specifically is Centrelink going to provide? Is it the financial counsellor? And how do I know, as a cashless debit card holder? You will send them some form of communication that says, 'You can apply to come off the card.' Will there be a list in the Goldfields region of agencies I can contact if I can't do it online?
Anybody that's currently on the card would be aware of their service provider, within their region, that they would engage with if they had any other issue in relation to the card. There is nobody in any of these sites that doesn't already have a place that they would know to go to if they needed to change any of their conditions or get information, have assistance provided et cetera. That already exists. But part of the guidelines associated with the two exemption categories that we are seeking to amend and have reinserted into the bill today would have all of the information sitting alongside how they should progress, if they wished to avail themselves of this particular provision.
Thanks, Minister. You have been very clear about saying the information would be alongside any other information they get, and I think we all accept that. My issue is, when I go into Centrecare in Kalgoorlie, I need to be assured that there is someone there able to assist me in my application if I'm not able to do that myself. I'm asking who it is in Centrecare or which department it is. Is it their financial counselling department? Is it the drug and alcohol service? Is it the domestic violence service? Which service would I be asking for when I walk into that Centrecare office in Kalgoorlie?
If someone walked in and they fronted up at the counter at Centrecare in Kalgoorlie and said, 'I would like to apply for an exemption,' there will be people in that office who have the specific skills and responsibilities to assist somebody who wanted that particular assistance. The other people that sit within that agency that may be more specific to the provision of information that they may need to fill out that form would obviously be accessed, but there are particular people who are the first interface that would assist them with their application process.
Minister, you've said there are specific people within that Centrecare office. Are they funded on behalf of the government to undertake this work to assist people who want to put an application in to come off the card? Centrecare has specific services for which it is funded—domestic violence, financial counselling, accommodation and so on. Where does this person come from out of those separate departments, and has Centrecare been specifically funded to do this work?
Yes, it is.
The amendments that the opposition are putting forward on sheet 8731 will require the department to make a decision on the application to leave the card within 21 business days, and there is a stop-the-clock provision to extend the time when further information is requested from the applicant. We believe that this is a fair amendment because people should be able to get off the card in a timely fashion and get on with their lives. I recommend the amendment.