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Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Page: 3026


Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) (9:22 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill introduces one measure from the 2008 budget on family tax benefit and two further non-budget measures from the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs portfolio.

The budget measure is part of the Better Targeting and Delivery of Family Tax Benefit package. The measure will streamline the administration of family tax benefit by removing from 1 July 2009 the option of claiming payments through the tax system.

Only around seven per cent of current family tax benefit customers claim through the Australian Taxation Office. Removing the tax system option for delivery of family tax benefit payments will simplify the system, reduce duplication in delivery of the payments, and improve consistency for claimants.

The choice of payment in fortnightly instalments, including end-of-year top-ups if applicable, or in an annual lump sum, will remain through Centrelink and Medicare. Furthermore, there will be no change in payment rates from this change in delivery arrangements.

Information will still be exchanged between the Australian Taxation Office and Centrelink to ensure entitlements are as accurate as possible. Adjusted taxable income will continue to be used for family tax benefit income testing and end-of-year reconciliation processes. Tax refunds will also continue to be available to offset family tax benefit debts, and vice versa. In most of these administrative respects, the family tax benefit system will continue to work in the way customers are familiar with.

This bill includes an important non-budget measure foreshadowed by the government in its announcement on 23 October 2008 in response to the recommendations of the Northern Territory Emergency Response Review Board. This measure will ensure people subject to the Northern Territory income management regime have access to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and Administrative Appeals Tribunal appeal mechanisms afforded to other Australians in relation to their income support and family payments.

Further measures from the same response will be introduced in the 2009 spring sittings, as announced.

Lastly, the bill makes amendments to implement part of the government’s announced reforms to the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program, which aim to improve employment participation for Indigenous Australians.

The amendments will provide new CDEP participants commencing on or after 1 July 2009 with access to the CDEP program while receiving income support payments, instead of CDEP wages from CDEP providers.

The amendments will mean that new CDEP participants will not receive the CDEP Scheme Participant Supplement as such participants will be able to claim other additional benefits through the income support system. The amendments will allow continuing CDEP participants to receive CDEP wages from CDEP providers, and the CDEP Scheme Participant Supplement, until 30 June 2011, when continuing participants will transfer to income support.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Lindsay) adjourned.