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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10299

Ms MACKLIN (JagajagaMinister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister for Disability Reform) (09:02): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill introduces several measures from the 2012 budget, along with some non-budget amendments that clarify current budget policies and improve the operation of existing legislation.

Extending Cape York Welfare Reform Trial

In the 2012 budget, the Gillard government provided $11.8 million to extend the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial for 12 months to 31 December 2013.

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. It aims to restore local Indigenous authority, encourage positive behaviours and improve economic and living conditions.

To date, the trial has made a real and lasting difference in the lives of Indigenous people on the cape. Since it began in July 2008, the Cape York welfare reform communities have seen improvements in school attendance, care and protection of children, and community safety.

The Family Responsibilities Commission, which is established under Queensland government legislation, is a key plank of Cape York welfare reform. Local family responsibility commissioners hold conferences with community members, refer people to support services and, when necessary, arrange income management.

Currently, 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.

This bill extends that date to 1 January 2014. The extension provides an opportunity to build on the success of the initiatives already underway.

I am pleased that the Queensland government has agreed to continue funding for the Family Responsibilities Commission and will extend the Queensland legislation governing the operation of the commission.

An evaluation of the trial is currently underway and will help inform future efforts in Cape York.

Indigenous education payments

In a significant boost to Indigenous education, the bill also amends the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 to increase the act’s legislative appropriation—by around $16 million combined for the 2012 and 2013 calendar years.

The increase to the 2012 and 2013 appropriations reflects the continuation of existing initiatives and new initiatives announced in the 2012-13 budget.

The increase in the appropriations for 2012 and 2013 will continue existing initiatives and provide funding for several new initiatives, including 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 front-line services to improve Aboriginal children’s access to quality education.

The existing Sporting Chance Program uses sport and recreation to increase the engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in their schooling. Students are rewarded for good school attendance or engagement through participation in sporting teams or access to certain intensive, high-quality, sports focused learning and development. New school based sports academies will now be established and operated to deliver the program for secondary school boys, and there will be additional programs for secondary school girls.

Additional funding under the Teach Remote Stage 2 initiative will expand Commonwealth funded assistance 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.

Additional funding will also extend for 12 months for the Student Education Trusts measures that form part of the Cape York Welfare Reform Trial. The Student Education Trusts are a financial management service whereby parents and care givers from the remote Indigenous communities in the Cape York area are supported and encouraged to save for their children’s education costs from their early years through to tertiary education.

Non-budget amendments

The bill also introduces some non-budget amendments to clarify current government policies and improve the operation of existing legislation.

These include 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. For example, some amendments will enable Social Security Appeals Tribunal members to release protected information to relevant authorities in certain circumstances where there is a risk to the life, health or welfare of a person.

Amendments also improve privacy protections for information and documents. The Social Security Appeals Tribunal principal member will be able 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 powers under the legislation.

Amendments are made by this bill to 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 a 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.

The policy is that the total amount previously paid for the period (including amounts paid for the child that was found to be not theirs) would be applied to their child support liability for any remaining children in the case, and any child support debt for those children. Any excess child support they paid may be recovered from the payee by applying for a court order under the existing child support legislation.

Finally, minor clarifications are made to portfolio legislation, including the Schoolkids Bonus legislation and the family assistance clean energy legislation—consistent with existing policy.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.