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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8321


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (12:37): I speak in support of the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. I will concentrate particularly on schedules (3) and (4). As the previous speaker said, there are a number of sensible amendments that update disability provisions to make sure that we enhance the integrity of the social security and veterans affairs legislation in this country. There are a number of important changes and the first schedule deals with one of these. It makes sure that parenting payment recipients can access bereavement allowance following the death of a partner, giving them a helping hand in circumstances where they are going through the grief and difficulties that arise with the loss of a loved one.

Historically, that first schedule has provided no financial advantage in transferring between types of payment. The bill gives parenting payment recipients access to a bereavement allowance, from 1 January 2012, following the death of their partner. It is a degree of compassion that means for a period of 14 weeks they can receive additional financial support, which they would need. It is difficult for people who go through these circumstances. There are added expenses, including funeral expenses, associated with the death of a partner and so this is a sensible, compassionate and charitable way to improve the lot of people in communities across the country.

The second schedule deals with the special benefit. This deals with circumstances which make it a sensible arrangement for provisional partner visa holders to have the same requirements as other new migrants who have a more restricted access to a special benefit. This is a matter of aligning the circumstances of different people. Other new migrants not only have a waiting period but also have to demonstrate financial hardship and a change of circumstances outside their control. We are changing the circumstances for provisional partner visa holders to make sure that those two factors are now taken into consideration. It makes sure that the system is consistent across the country. (Quorum formed) The coalition—who said these reforms are necessary and would have been passed if they were on the Treasury benches—are not interested in reform of disability legislation and are not interested in reform to improve the integrity of the system. The member for Cowper should hang his head in shame for calling a quorum in these circumstances. This is important reform. The previous speaker could not get here in time with his notes and it just goes to show the utter contempt and disregard the coalition have for sensible legislative reform.

I will talk briefly on the third aspect, the very sensible asset test exemption income stream. It clarifies the period in which a person must provide a new actuarial certificate on lifetime and life expectancy income streams and is a sensible reform as well. There is a termination change in schedule 6 of the social security legislation. We know that this is important because people are made redundant and redundancy payments are taken into consideration with social security payments. That is why this schedule is important.

The final two schedules I will briefly focus on deal with issues of impairment tables for disability support pensions and with the disability advocacy services. This bill removes outdated impairment tables for the disability support pension and enables the minister to introduce a new impairment table through a disallowable legislative instrument. This gives effect to the 2009-10 budget Better and Fairer Assessments measure. The reform of disability care and support has been a priority of this government, and I welcome the Productivity Commission report that we saw recently. The national disability insurance scheme, which this government has shown significant commitment to by putting $10 million on the table to support technical policy work in this regard, and the new COAG select council of ministers, which will be established and lead to greater reform in this area, are indications, along with the advisory group to the select council, that this government is committed to repairing the dysfunctional system of disability support in this country.

There are changes to the impairment tables, and they were announced in the 2009-10 year. The tables were last reviewed in 1993 and they contain a number of anomalies and inconsistencies—for example, assistance can be provided for hearing aids but that is not included in the assessment for hearing impairment. Visual assessment is assessed with glasses as well. There are a number of disability advocacy groups. The advisory committee recommended a thorough review, and it was found that the impairment tables were right out of date. The report recommended that new impairment tables be used for eligibility for disability support pensions from 1 January 2012. These tables are brought in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the World Health Organisation's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health.

The final aspect I want to touch on relates to issues concerning disability advocacy service. The bill introduced a third-party certification quality assurance system for disability advocacy services. We have had a long commitment to making sure we look after the most vulnerable sections of our society, and we have made a commitment in this regard. Stronger quality assurance for disability advocacy services is important. Development of a robust quality assurance system is really important for people in the disability support sector. The third-party certification quality assurance system in this bill has been successfully in place since about 2002, and we think this will be improved with this legislative reform.

I am very strongly committed to making sure people in my area of Ipswich and West Moreton who have been disabled—and we have had a long history with large numbers of people suffering from disability in our area—are cared for properly. This goes back to the days of the Challinor Centre, which is an institution that in its first guise was an asylum for people who were previously described as 'lunatics'. That place is currently the location of the University of Queensland Ipswich campus. From that time and the de-institutionalisation that took place in the eighties and nineties, the low cost of housing meant that Ipswich and the rural areas outside were areas for a large number of people with disabilities and their carers to live. In fact, Carers Queensland told me not long ago that I had in Blair the largest number of carers in Queensland for any federal electorate.

So this is an important reform of the national disability insurance scheme. Anything that deals with disability service is extremely important for my electorate. I am putting on a national disability insurance forum in my electorate for people to come to. For any constituents who are listening, they can contact my office and we will give them the details of that. Later this year I will be running what we call the Blair Disability Links at the Brassall Shopping Centre. It is an expo where all the disability support groups across the electorate of Blair can come. They provide services and information. I congratulate the Brassall Shopping Centre, who have been the supporters of this, and I urge everyone in my electorate to contact me about the important activities of the Blair Disability Links and the national disability insurance scheme forum that we will be having in the next few months.

I support this legislation. I think it is good for our system and it is good that we care for those with disabilities.