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Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Page: 12288


Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR (Minister for Employment Participation) (9:08 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Workers compensation—increasing death benefits

The government will amend the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 to increase the amount of death benefits payable under the Australian government’s workers compensation scheme.

One-off lump sum death benefits will increase from $225,594 to $400,000 and weekly periodic payments for dependent children will increase from $75.10 to $110.00. Both payments will be indexed by the wage price index issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The increases will bring death benefits more closely into line with those provided under state workers compensation schemes. This will make it fairer for families of employees, particularly for those whose employers have joined Comcare from state schemes.

The estimated increase in death benefits of $6.1 million over four years will be met from Comcare’s existing premium pool. As agencies continue to improve their occupational health and safety practices, it is expected that there will be no net impact on the fiscal balance.

Social Security—expanding the Assurance of Support qualification provisions

The bill will amend the Social Security Act 1991 to extend to sickness allowance and parenting payment (single) the provision which prevents a person from receiving payment while there is an assurance of support in force and the assurer is willing to support the person.

As a result, a person who is subject to an assurance of support will not qualify for sickness allowance or parenting payment (single) where their assurer is willing and able to provide them with an adequate level of support and it would be reasonable for them to accept that support.

This will bring the qualification provisions for sickness allowance and parenting payment (single) into line with those for most other income support payments which are not payable to a person who is subject to an assurance of support.

These changes will protect social security outlays by ensuring that migrants who are subject to an assurance of support, and who become the single parent of a young child or become unable to work due to a temporary illness or injury, seek support from their assurer in the first instance rather than turning to the social security system for assistance.

Migrants will still be able to qualify for sickness allowance or parenting payment (single) if their assurer is unwilling or unable to provide them with an adequate level of support or it would be unreasonable for them to accept that support. This will ensure that migrants and their families are not placed in financial hardship if they are unable to receive support from their assurer.

The extension of the assurance of support qualification provisions to sickness allowance and parenting payment (single) is consistent with the January 2008 reforms to the Assurance of Support Scheme, which, among other things, added sickness allowance and parenting payment (single) to the list of payments that are recoverable under the assurance of support program.

Social Security—Rent Assistance

The government will also make minor technical amendments to the Social Security Act 1991 to ensure that rent assistance received by the partners of recipients of Austudy is taken into account in the calculation of the recipients’ own rent assistance.

The amendment will limit an entitlement to the partnered rate in circumstances where the partner already receives rent assistance in their own right and will align the calculation of rent assistance for Austudy recipients with the calculation of rent assistance for other income support recipients.

The amendment also clarifies that a partner with a rent increased benefit includes a partner who is in receipt of a payment under the Abstudy scheme, which includes an amount of living allowance which is increased to take account of rent.

There is no impact to the funding for rent assistance, which was costed at $87 million over four years from 1 January 2008.

Other amendments

The bill will also make other minor technical amendments to the Social Security Act 1991 and the Social Security (Administration) Act 1991 to rectify incorrect, redundant or omitted references, including consequential amendments which were inadvertently omitted from the social security law. Minor technical amendments will also be made to the Social Security (International Agreements) Act 1999.

Debate (on motion by Mr Wood) adjourned.