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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4200

Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) (5:52 PM) —I would like to first of all thank all members for their contribution to the debate on the specifics of the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Digital Television Switch-over) Bill 2009 and also on the broader topic of the switch-over to digital TV. The specifics in this bill, insofar as they relate to information for pensioners to help them with the switch-over, are within my portfolio, but the broader policy responsibility for the switch-over resides with the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. I will certainly ask the minister to examine the issues raised by members during today’s debate and respond to each of you accordingly.

This bill will amend the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 to facilitate the Digital Switch-over Household Assistance Program. This results from the government announcing a timetable detailing the region-by-region switch from analog transmission to digital transmission for free-to-air television broadcasters in Australia. We do expect that the switch-over will be completed by the end of 2013.

Some households, of course, will need to obtain new equipment so that they can receive digital television broadcasts. It ought to be a straightforward and inexpensive task for the majority of Australians, but some viewers may require practical, in-home assistance with the installation of necessary equipment. As a result of that, the government have announced that we will commence an assistance program in regions switching from analog to digital transmission between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2011, to make sure that Australians requiring in-home assistance are not disadvantaged. These regions are the television licence areas of Mildura-Sunraysia in regional Victoria, regional South Australia and regional Queensland. The switch-over in these initial regions will provide valuable information to improve the switch-over for the rest of Australia.

The amendments proposed in this bill will enable the Digital Switch-over Household Assistance Program to be provided to households in these regions. The legislation will allow Centrelink to use information it holds regarding recipients of age pension, disability support pension and carer payment to determine qualification for the Digital Switch-over Household Assistance Program. Additionally, Centrelink needs to be able to give the information about qualified Centrelink customers to the contractors selected to provide the Digital Switch-over Household Assistance Program. The amendments will allow Centrelink to use information currently within their systems to advise customers of their qualification for, and to invite them to participate in, the Digital Switch-over Household Assistance Program.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and their contractors will be provided only with the information that is strictly required for the carrying out of the Digital Switch-over Household Assistance Program, and strict procedures and appropriate precautions will be in place when handling a customer’s personal information. Specific information about the customer’s age, payment type, disability or marital status will not be provided. I commend the bill to all members and once again thank everybody for their contribution.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.