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Monday, 19 March 2018
Page: 1531


Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (21:37): I do understand what the government is trying to do here. The problem—and ACOSS pointed this out during the Senate inquiry—is that it is not necessarily as clear-cut as people wilfully not meeting their requirements. It's just not that clear-cut, and in their submission they said:

The proposed system relies very heavily on drawing a clear distinction between people who are willing to comply but face difficulties, and people who wilfully and repeatedly avoid activities requirements. Our … experience … has taught us that distinctions are in fact more blurred, people's circumstances do change, and many vulnerabilities go unreported. Discretion to tailor responses to non-compliance is essential to ensure that any compliance system remains humane.

That was from ACOSS's submission to the inquiry into the bill. I've had the experience of meeting and talking to a lot of people who have in fact suffered penalties from the current system. It is true that it's not so clear-cut either that you deliberately don't do something or that in fact you've made that clear-cut decision, 'Well, I'm just not going to comply.' There are really blurred areas here, and the system as it stands at the moment doesn't really account for or deal with those. As you said, they'll go back to zero and, because it's not all that clear-cut, they could start racking up those demerit points again and be in the same cycle and off income support again, and it could happen relatively quickly. This is an attempt to ensure that doesn't happen. What are you doing to ensure that it doesn't happen?