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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 2485

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations) (16:25): As with Senator Cormann, in incorporating elements of my speech in reply to speed up this process, there were some points that might address his question and assist.

Senator Cormann: It is a very unfortunate gag, isn't it?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Senator Cormann, I could focus on your interjection rather than the subject matter that you are seeking, but I am sure you would rather I address the latter than the former. Indeed, I think I have some detailed statistics with respect to the amount of time the Senate has been able to focus on legislation this week that I could spend some time on. But let me respond to the issues raised. Could the proposed section 35 set-off of the FMA Act be used to set off amounts owed by an individual to the Commonwealth, with a social security payment that would be made to that individual? The response on that point is: no. Proposed subsection 35(2) of the FMA Act provides that certain payments are exempt from being used for a set-off action. That is, amounts cannot be set-off against payments by the Commonwealth that would be inalienable or absolutely inalienable—being wording that appears in legislation for entitlements to payments such as section 1061EK of the Social Security Act 1991 or section 66 of the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010, which make an advance social security payment and a paid parental leave instalment absolutely inalienable.

With respect to the point about proposed section 35 being able to be used to override an agreed arrangement between a taxpayer and the tax office, such as a repayment schedule, where an arrangement has been agreed between a taxpayer and the tax office, made pursuant to the Tax Administration Act 1953 or other statutory mechanism, there would be generally no ability to use the set-off provision to override any such arrangement.

On the further points, I would suggest Senator Cormann refer to the further remarks I incorporated.