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Thursday, 18 March 2010
Page: 2925

Mr SHORTEN (Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services and Parliamentary Secretary for Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction) (9:33 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill introduces an important measure from the 2008 budget supporting Australia’s carers. The bill also introduces two non-budget measures.

The carers measure in this bill is the final instalment of the government’s legislative commitment from our response to the Report of the Carer Payment (child) Review Taskforce, Carer Payment (child): A New Approach. These changes are part of a $294 million package from the 2008 budget to better support carers of children with disability and serious medical conditions.

The Improved Support for Carers legislation was introduced and passed in 2009. The centrepiece of that legislation was a new assessment process to determine qualification for carer payment paid in respect of a child. Central to this new assessment process was the introduction of the Disability Care Load Assessment (Child) Determination 2009.

The government is now pleased to introduce further amendments that will deliver consistency in the assessment of carers of children for carer payment and carer allowance.

This Disability Care Load Assessment (Child) Determination will now also be used for qualification purposes for carer allowance, bringing consistency to, and improving the overall efficiency and effectiveness of, assessments for carer allowance and carer payment paid in respect of children under 16. As is currently the case, the list of recognised disabilities will also continue in determining eligibility for carer allowance.

The government recognises the demands on carers and we are pleased to introduce also an amendment that allows carers a further three months after the child or children they are caring for turns 16 in which to complete the Adult Disability Assessment Tool to test their eligibility for carer allowance (adult).

Presently, when a child in respect of whom a carer is qualified for carer allowance turns 16, the carer loses their carer allowance unless they have been assessed and given a successful rating under the Adult Disability Assessment Tool. Under these changes, the carer has up to three more months more in which to have the care receiver assessed and rated under the Adult Disability Assessment Tool.

A similar provision in relation to carer payment was introduced in 2009, and this amendment will align the provisions for carer allowance and carer payment paid in respect of children.

This bill will also include some minor improvements to the income management provisions in the social security law on administrative matters such as appropriation, debt recovery and financial transactions.

For example, one of the amendments will apply when a third party organisation that holds income managed funds for a person, such as a community store, ceases to operate. Under current legislation, those amounts become debts to the Commonwealth and the person cannot be reimbursed until the debt recovery process is finished.

The amendment will make sure the customer can be reimbursed from the Consolidated Revenue Fund before the debt recovery action is completed. Then, once the debt recovery action has been completed, any recovered funds from third parties will be recredited to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Further income management amendments will include fixing some current debt recovery inconsistencies between people’s income managed funds and their substantive payments under the social security law. They will also remove any ambiguity about the appropriation for income management payments, and align the reimbursement processes for unauthorised transactions under the BasicsCard with the electronic funds transfer code.

Lastly, the bill will make amendments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 to ensure a reliable income stream for the Indigenous Land Corporation, which is established under that act. The corporation’s purpose is to help Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders to acquire and manage Indigenous-held land so as to provide economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits.

The Indigenous Land Corporation’s main source of funding in a financial year is a payment, made from the land account established under the act, equal to the realised real return on the investments of the land account in the previous financial year. Over the past several years, the value of payments to the corporation from the land account has fluctuated because of changes in the value of the realised real return. These fluctuations have caused difficulties for the corporation in long-term strategic planning.

The government is committed to securing for the Indigenous Land Corporation a more reliable level of funding. To achieve this, the bill introduces a guaranteed annual payment, of $45 million from 1 July 2010, and indexed for later years according to the consumer price index. The bill will also provide for additional payments to be made to the corporation where the actual capital value of the account exceeds the real capital value of the land account. The amount to be paid is the excess above the real capital value. The real capital value of the land account will be maintained. An independent review of the effectiveness of the funding arrangements after three years is also introduced.

Debate (on motion by Mr Wood) adjourned.