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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21789


Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Children and Youth Affairs) (6:11 PM) —I move:

That the requested amendments be not made.

The schedule of requests from the Senate for the amendments to the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Extension of Time Limits) Bill 2003 involves extending the time limits for making past period claims and for payments of top-ups by a further 12 months. The changes would also allow the tax file number link between Centrelink and the ATO which facilitates the reconciliation process to remain open for an additional 12 months. Consequential changes consistent with the further 12-month extension are also requested for the application provisions in the bill so that the amendments cover the 2000-01 income year and the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.

The government opposes these changes to the bill. The bill already gives families an extra 12 months in which to make family tax benefit and child-care benefit lump sum claims and to receive a top-up payment of family tax benefit. This will give families up to two years after the end of an income year to claim their entitlements. Two years is a very generous timetable, particularly when compared to time frames applied to other welfare payments. Extending the time frame by an additional 12 months—that is, giving customers three years to claim or receive a top-up payment—is not needed. The majority of customers lodge within two years of the end of the income year. As well, the proposed amendments would weaken the purpose of the payment, which is to assist with the cost of raising children. Families need this support when they are raising children, not three years later.

In relation to extending the time frames to the 2000-01 income year, it would not be possible to identify all family tax benefit customers who missed out on lump sum payments or top-ups to their family tax benefit as a result of lodging their tax returns late for the 2000-01 income year. This is because the tax file number link between Centrelink and the ATO that facilitates the income reconciliation process for the 2000-01 income year has already been broken in accordance with the current legislative requirements.