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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 8959

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (11:53): I am into general questions but they are going to my amendments, though I have not formally moved them.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Particularly (3) and (4)?

Senator BERNARDI: Particularly amendments (3) and (4), which are about the debt due to the Commonwealth.

Minister, you spoke about the penalties for noncompliance. At one level, as it says in the bill's explanatory memorandum, 'parents who fail to attend appointments/workshops with Centrelink without a reasonable excuse' and who do not 'attend a rescheduled appointment/workshop' can have their income support payments suspended. I think that is under clause 17 of the bill. If they then fulfil their obligation they get those released with full back pay. That is for individuals. But those who come under the second clause of this bill, about families, do not, from my reading of this, have any penalties whatsoever attached to them. If they fail to comply with a plan, which is their only obligation, the only penalty attached is that they may be required to go more frequently to interviews where there is further noting that they have failed to comply with the plan. That is not really a penalty in any meaningful sense. At one part of this, a teenage mother—and I presume it applies just to teenage mothers, which may beg another question in a moment—can lose their payments until they comply, but when it is in regard to a family they may not. Indeed, there is no penalty attached to it once they have done their plan. Is my reading of this correct and, if not, could you please tell me what the penalties are if someone creates a plan and then fails to comply with it under the two different scenarios?