Senate debates

Thursday, 12 November 2020


Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Omnibus) Bill 2020; Second Reading

12:45 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Omnibus) Bill 2020. The purpose of the bill is to introduce a number of technical and administrative amendments that go to compliance and the sharing of information.

One of the measures in this bill is to put beyond doubt that an offence is to Services Australia generally, not just to a particular officer of the agency. This change is proposed in the context of online service delivery, where an officer may not actually be providing the information. It will also require a person served with a formal notice or summonsed by a royal commission to produce documents or information, or to give evidence, to comply with that requirement. It will require this, even if the document or information is protected by secrecy provisions in social security and related law. This will ensure that the Department of Social Services and related agencies will participate fully in the disability royal commission and future royal commissions. The change will put the department in the same position as any other person served with a requirement by a royal commission under the Royal Commission Act. The bill will also make a range of technical amendments to correct errors and anomalies and to repeal obsolete provisions.

While Labor supports these changes, all Australians will never forget the government's dismal record when it comes to social security. This is the government which has previously sought to make it so painful and so difficult for Australians to access income support that they just give up. And I want to take a brief moment to note in this place a number of developments we have learned through Senate estimates in relation to our social security system. We've learned that the number of people on unemployment payments will surge to 1.8 million by December. This is an increase of 300,000 on previous projections. In four years time, that figure is expected to remain at almost one million.

With so many Australians on unemployment support, and more expected to lose their jobs, it is simply unfair and unreasonable for the government to be cutting the coronavirus supplement, for the second time, at Christmas. For all of its demonisation of social security recipients, the government forgets that they spend at their local and small businesses. It means that local and small businesses have more to spend on wages and jobs. Labor reiterate our call for the government to provide a permanent increase to the base rate of unemployment support.

12:47 pm

Photo of Zed SeseljaZed Seselja (ACT, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Finance, Charities and Electoral Matters) Share this | | Hansard source

I would just point out in response to that that the government has delivered the greatest level of social support in our history during this crisis here, which goes to our strong support for a social safety net.

The Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Omnibus) Bill 2020 makes technical and administrative amendments to support service delivery, and will update Social Services portfolio legislation to remove obsolete provisions and to correct errors. The bill will amend portfolio secrecy provisions to require the Department of Social Services and Services Australia to comply with notices issued by royal commissions where the notices require the production of information protected by those secrecy provisions. The bill will update some offence provisions in the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 so that it is clear that the offences apply in circumstances where a claim is processed by an automated system within Services Australia.

Lastly, the bill makes minor technical and administrative amendments to social security law and other Social Services portfolio legislation, and makes related minor consequential amendments to other legislation. The amendments remove obsolete provisions, correct errors, update legislation and improve the operation of legislation to support service delivery. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.