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Thursday, 16 October 2003
Page: 21622

Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Children and Youth Affairs) (9:07 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Social Security Amendment (Further Simplification) Bill 2003 forms part of the measures being undertaken to give effect to the government's commitment to implement a simpler and more coherent social security system.

The primary purpose of this bill is to consolidate the rules relating to rent assistance in the current rate calculators in chapter 3 of the Social Security Act 1991 in a proposed new part 3.7 of that act.

Currently, rent assistance provisions appear in many different locations in the act and there is much unnecessary duplication of corresponding provisions. Under the proposed changes, the general and specific rules for calculating rent assistance in relation to all social security payments will be in the one place. Simpler consolidated rules for rent assistance will benefit Centrelink customers. It will be easier for Centrelink staff to work out a customer's entitlement to rent assistance and to explain the basis of the calculations to customers.

As the consolidation of the provisions is essentially part of a housekeeping process by the government in relation to the social security law, customers will continue to receive the rent assistance that they currently receive under the existing provisions. There are a small number of minor changes to bring the law into line with current administrative practices, to ensure that the law reflects what people are currently receiving. The principal minor change to the rent assistance provisions is in relation to the payment of rent for temporarily separated couples for all social security payments and for respite couples other than those on pension rate calculator A. It is proposed to adopt a uniform rule for all rate calculators that accords with current administrative practices, so that it does not matter which partner pays or is liable to pay the rent in respect of the premises or lodgings.

The bill also deals with a number of other minor amendments.

First, the definition of compensation affected payments is amended. The amended definition will include certain supplementary payments which are paid as a result of a person being eligible for a social security pension, allowance or benefit. Other amendments ensure that these supplementary payments are recoverable from people who also receive an economic loss compensation payment. The changes will apply after 1 July 2004 but only for customers who receive both the social security supplementary payments and compensation payments from and after this date. Some small program savings will result from these changes.

Second, for consistency, the definition of `independence' which currently applies to all youth allowance customers will now also be applied to disability support pension youth customers. This will result in a small number of customers receiving a higher amount of disability support pension payment.

Finally, there is a number of minor technical amendments being made to clarify the operation of the income and assets test provisions of chapter 3 of the Social Security Act.

I present the explanatory memoranda to this bill.

Debate (on motion by Ms Macklin) adjourned.