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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 12143

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsCabinet Secretary, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation) (10:33): In the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Further 2012 Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2012, several measures from the 2012 budget are introduced. There are also some non-budget amendments that clarify current policies and improve the operation of existing legislation. Before I speak to those measures, I thank the member for Blair for his excellent contribution to the debate.

The Gillard government provided $11.8 million in the 1012 budget to extend the Cape York welfare reform trial for 12 months to 31 December 2013. Aiming to restore local Indigenous authority, encourage positive behaviours and improve economic and living conditions, the trial is a partnership between the communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge; the Australian government; the Queensland government; and the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership.

The trial began in July 2008 and has made some positive differences in the lives of Indigenous people in Cape York. The welfare reform communities in the Cape have seen improvements in school attendance, care and protection of children and community safety. A key plank of the Cape York welfare reform is the Family Responsibilities Commission, which is established under Queensland government legislation. Local family responsibility commissioners hold conferences with community members and refer people to support services. When necessary, they arrange income management.

Under the current rules, a person can be subject to income management under the trial only after a decision by the Family Responsibilities Commission made before 1 January 2013. Under this bill, that date is extended to 1 January 2014. The extension provides an opportunity to build upon the success of the initiatives already underway. The Queensland government has also committed to continuing its support for the trial and to introducing legislation to extend the operation of the Family Responsibilities Commission.

This bill provides a significant boost to Indigenous education by amending the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 to increase the act's legislative appropriation. The increase will amount to around $16 million combined for the 2012 and 2013 calendar years. This change will allow the continuation of existing initiatives under the act and the commencement of new initiatives announced in the 2012-13 budget.

Among the new initiatives that will be funded by the increased appropriations for 2012 and 2013 are the expansion of the Sporting Chance Program, Teach Remote stage 2, student education trusts delivered as part of the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial and initiatives that support teachers, professional development and frontline services to improve Aboriginal children's access to quality education. Under the existing Sporting Chance Program, sport and recreation are used to increase the engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in their schooling. Participation in sporting teams or access to certain intensive high-quality sports-focused learning and development are used to reward students for good school attendance or engagement. New school based sports academies will now be established and operated to deliver the program for secondary school boys. There will be additional programs for secondary school girls.

Additional Commonwealth funded assistance under the Teach Remote stage 2 initiative will help with building a high-status, high-quality, committed and competent teacher workforce in remote Indigenous communities that are under the National Alliance of Remote Indigenous Schools. With additional funding, the student education trusts measure that forms part of the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial will also be extended for 12 months. These trusts are a financial management service that gives parents and caregivers from the remote Indigenous communities in the Cape York area support and encouragement to save for their children's education costs from their early years through to tertiary education.

The bill also introduces some non-budget amendments to clarify current government policies and improve the operation of existing legislation. Some of these make up a package of minor amendments to improve the operation of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal in the social security, child support, family assistance and paid parental leave jurisdictions. As an example, some amendments will enable Social Security Appeals Tribunal members to release protected information to relevant authorities in certain circumstances where there is a threat to the life, health or welfare of the person.

Privacy protections for information and documents will also be improved, including allowing the principal member of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal to issue a non-disclosure order that applies to any information or documents obtained by a person at any time during the review process. Amendments also extend confidentiality obligations to all people providing services at the hearing of the review. The objective of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal is to provide a mechanism of review that is fair, just, economical, informal and quick. Amendments clarify that this objective is to be pursued by the principal member in performing his or her functions and using his or her powers under the legislation.

The bill amends the child support legislation to confirm the longstanding policy and administration where the amount payable under a parent's child support assessment is reduced because the court decides that the payer is not a parent of one of the children in their assessment but the payer remains liable for another child in the assessment. Lastly, minor drafting clarifications are made to portfolio legislation, including the schoolkids bonus legislation and the family assistance clean energy legislation consistent with existing policy.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

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