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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
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Government Response to Report

Government responses to parliamentary committee reports (pursuant to Senate standing order 166)

The responses read as follows—

Australian Government response to the Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines:

Final Report

November 2016

Government Response to Senate Select Committee Report on Wind Turbines

Recommendation

Government Response

Recommendation 1:

6.5 The committee recommends that an Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound (IESC) be established by law, through provisions similar to those which provide for the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development.

6.6 The provisions establishing the IESC on Industrial Sound should state that the Scientific Committee must conduct 'independent, multi-disciplinary research into the adverse impacts and risks to individual and community health and wellbeing associated with wind turbine projects and any other industrial projects which emit sound and vibration energy'.

The Government supports the establishment of an Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines.

As per the Government's commitment to cross bench senators in the context of the agreement on the passage of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Act 2015, the Government has established a multidisciplinary Independent Scientific Committee (ISC) via ministerial appointment, to provide research and advice to the Minister for the Environment and Energy and the Minister for Health on the impact of sound, including low frequency and infrasound, from wind turbines on the environment and human health.

As detailed in its terms of reference, the ISC will:

Provide advice on the development of Australian methodologies and frameworks in sound measurement and standards for wind farms, including in the field of infrasound and low frequency sound.

Provide advice on innovation in cost-effective, continuous sound monitoring of wind farms.

Provide advice on options for wind farm operators to maximise transparency such as by providing information on wind speed, operational statistics, operating hours and sound monitoring.

Monitor and periodically review progress in understanding the potential health impacts of wind farms and comment on further possible research developments to support standards and measurement protocols.

In undertaking its role, the ISC will:

Complement the work of the National Wind Farm Commissioner to identify needs and priorities for monitoring efforts to deliver transparency of information.

Bring together partners to inform their work, including linking to the work being undertaken through the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Provide an Annual Report to the Australian Parliament reporting on delivery against its Terms of Reference and other achievements.

Recommendation 2:

6.9 The committee recommends that the federal government assign the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound with the following responsibilities:

develop and recommend to government a single national acoustic standard on audible noise from wind turbines that is cognisant of the existing standards, Australian conditions and the signature of new turbine technologies;

develop and recommend to government a national acoustic standard on infrasound, low frequency sound and vibration from industrial projects;

respond to specific requests from State Environment Protection Authorities for scientific and technical advice to assess whether a proposed or existing wind farm project poses risks to individual and community health;

provide scientific and technical advice to the relevant State Health, Environment and Planning Minister to assess whether a proposed or existing wind farm or industrial project poses risks to individual and community health;

provide advice to the Clean Energy Regulator on whether a proposed or existing wind farm project poses health risks to nearby residents;

provide advice to the federal health minister on whether a proposed or existing wind farm or industrial project poses health risks to nearby residents;

publish information relating to the committee's research findings; and

provide to the federal Minister for Health research priorities and research projects to improve scientific understanding of the impacts of wind turbines on the health and quality of life of affected individuals and communities; and

provide guidance, advice and oversight for research projects commissioned by agencies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation relating to sound emissions from industrial projects.

The Government supports the establishment of an Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines.

Refer to proposed Government Response to recommendation 1.

Recommendation 3:

6.12 The committee recommends that the following provision be inserted into a new section 14 of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000: If the Regulator receives an application from a wind power station that is properly made under section 13, the Regulator must:

seek the advice of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound whether the proposed project poses risks to individual and community health over the lifetime of the project; and

confer with the federal Minister for Health and the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer to ascertain the level of risk that the proposed project poses to individual and community health.

If the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound finds that the wind power station does pose risks to human health, the Regulator must not accredit the power station until such time as the federal Minister for Health is satisfied that these risks have been mitigated.

The Government notes this recommendation.

The Government notes that wind farm approvals are a matter for individual State and Territory governments.

State Government planning regulations require a noise monitoring regime as part of wind farm development approvals. State guidelines also set out these requirements at both approval and operational stages.

The Government will table the Senate Select Committee Report on Wind Turbines for discussion with the State and Territory governments at the next COAG Energy Council meeting.

 

Recommendation 4:

6.15 The committee recommends that a provision be inserted into Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 stipulating that wind energy generators operating in states that do not require compliance with the National Environment Protection (Wind Turbine Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise) Measure (NEPM) are ineligible to receive Renewable Energy Certificates.

The Government notes this recommendation.

The Government notes that wind farm approvals are a matter for individual State and Territory governments.

Recommendation 5:

6.20 The committee recommends that the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound (IESC) establish a formal channel to communicate its advice and research priorities and findings to the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth). The IESC should explain to enHealth members on a regular basis and on request:

the national acoustic standards for audible noise and infrasound and how these standards are set and enforced to monitor industrial projects;

the methodology of its research and findings relating to how infrasound and vibration can impact on human sensory systems and health; and

research priorities and possible strands of research that the National Health and Medical Research Council (a member of enHealth) could fund and commission.

The Government supports this recommendation.

The ISC will report jointly to the Minister for Health and the Minister for the Environment and Energy on work undertaken in accordance with its terms of reference. It will also communicate its findings to the Environmental Health Standing Committee on a regular basis and on request.

Recommendation 6:

6.25 The committee recommends that the proposed Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound develop National Windfarm Guidelines addressing the following matters:

a national acoustic standard on audible sound (see recommendation 2);

a national acoustic standard on infrasound, low frequency sound and vibration (see recommendation 2);

a national standard on minimum buffer zones (see recommendation 6);

a template for State Environment Protection Agencies to adopt a fee-for-service licensing system (see recommendation 9, below);

a Guidance Note proposing that State Environment Protection Authorities be responsible for monitoring and compliance of wind turbines and suggesting an appropriate process to conduct these tasks;

a Guidance Note on best practice community engagement and stakeholder consultation with the granting and holding of a licence conditional on meeting this best practice;

a Guidance Note that local councils should retain development approval decision-making under the relevant state planning and development code for local impact issues such as:

o roads;

o national standards for visual and landscape impacts;

o aircraft safety and lighting;

o indigenous heritage;

o birds and bats;

o shadow flicker;

o electromagnetic interference and blade glint; and

o the risk of fire.

6.26 As per recommendation 4 of the committee's interim report, eligibility to receive Renewable Energy Certificates should be made subject to general compliance with the National Wind Farm Guidelines and specific compliance to the NEPM.

The Government supports the development of national wind farm guidelines.

The Wind Farm Commissioner will oversee, with appropriate input from the ISC, the updating of the Draft National Wind Farm Development Guidelines (July 2010) and promote their use by state and territory authorities. The range of issues to be considered in the guidelines will be consistent with the scope of the current draft guidelines.

The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 was amended by the Australian Parliament in June 2015 following the outcomes of the 2014 Renewable Energy Target Review.

 

Recommendation 7:

6.29 The committee recommends that the Australian Government amend the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act Regulations 2000 to enable partial suspension and point in time suspension of renewable energy certificates for wind farm operators that are found to have:

breached the conditions of their planning approval;

had their operating licence suspended or cancelled;

establish powers to be used when breaches of statutory obligations occur that require energy generators to 'show cause'; and

link the issuing of renewable energy certificates with certified net greenhouse gas reduction in the electricity sector.

6.30 The committee recommends that the Clean Energy Regulator cannot accredit a power station until it is wholly constructed, fully commissioned and all post construction approval requirements have been met.

The Government notes this recommendation.

The Government notes that wind farm approvals are a matter for individual State and Territory governments.

Recommendation 8:

6.37 The committee recommends that all State Governments consider shifting responsibility for monitoring wind farms in their jurisdiction from local councils to the State Environment Protection Authority.

The Government notes this recommendation.

The Government notes that this is a matter for individual State and Territory governments.

The Government will table the Senate Select Committee Report on Wind Turbines for discussion with the State and Territory governments at the next COAG Energy Council meeting.

Recommendation 9:

6.46 The committee recommends that State Governments consider adopting a fee-for-service licencing system payable by wind farm operators to State Environment Protection Authorities, along the lines of the system currently in place in New South Wales.

The Government notes this recommendation.

The Government notes that this is a matter for individual State and Territory governments.

The Government will table the Senate Select Committee Report on Wind Turbines for discussion with the State and Territory governments at the next COAG Energy Council meeting.

Recommendation 10:

6.53 The committee recommends that the federal Department of the Environment prepare a quarterly report collating the wind farm monitoring and compliance activities of the State Environment Protection Authorities The report should be tabled in the Federal Parliament by the Minister for the Environment. The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound should coordinate the receipt of State data and prepare the quarterly report. The Department of the Environment should provide appropriate secretarial assistance.

The Government supports this recommendation in part.

Consistent with the Government's commitment to cross bench Senators the National Wind Farm Commissioner will publish documents on:

The location of existing and proposed wind farms across Australia.

Planning and environmental approvals in place for each wind farm including links to state and territory planning approvals and authorities.

Renewable Energy Certificates received in respect of each wind farm.

Data on wind farm operations including operating times, wind speeds, power output and sound monitoring.

Recommendation 11:

6.57 The committee recommends that the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) continue to monitor and publicise Australian and international research relating to wind farms and health. The NHMRC should fund and commission primary research that the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound identifies as necessary.

 

The Government supports this recommendation.

NHMRC will continue to monitor national and international research relating to wind farms and health and update its Statement: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health (2015) as required. Since the Committee's report was completed, the NHMRC has awarded grants totalling $3.3 million for two projects to improve the evidence base of the effects of wind farms on human health.

NHMRC will consider for funding research applications that address the research gaps identified by the ISC. As with all NHMRC funded research, applications will be assessed according to rigorous independent expert review processes to ensure that only the highest quality research is funded.

Recommendation 12:

6.61 The committee recommends that under circumstances where the regulatory framework provided for pursuant to recommendations 8 and 9 cannot be enforced due to a lack of cooperation by one or more states, a national regulatory body be established under commonwealth legislation for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing wind farm operations.

The Government does not support this recommendation.

The Government will not duplicate or override existing statutory responsibilities relating to wind farms of other jurisdictions.

Recommendation 13:

7.84 The committee recommends that the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) conduct a performance audit of the Clean Energy Regulator's (CER) compliance with its role under the legislation. In particular, the committee recommends that the CER examine:

the information held by the CER on wind effectiveness in offsetting carbon dioxide emissions at both 30 June 2014 (end of financial year) and 3 May 2015;

the risk management and fraud mitigation practices and processes that are in place and whether they have been appropriate;

whether all public monies collected in respect of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 are appropriate;

whether there are financial or other incentives, including but not limited to, the collection of public monies under the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 that are distorting the CER's role in achieving the objectives of the Act; and

whether the expenditure of public monies by the CER has been appropriately focused on achieving the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 objectives.

The Government notes this recommendation.

The ANAO adopts a consultative approach to its forward audit program, which takes account of the priorities of the Parliament, as advised by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, the views of entities and other stakeholders. The program aims to provide a broad coverage of areas of public administration and is underpinned by a risk-based methodology. The final audit program is determined by the Auditor-General.

The Government has conveyed this recommendation to the Auditor-General.

Recommendation 14:

7.88 The committee recommends that the Australian Government direct the Productivity Commission to conduct research into the impact of wind power electricity generation on retail electricity prices.

The Government notes this recommendation. The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) produces an annual report on retail electricity price trends. As part of their analysis, the AEMC separates out all the different cost components of retail electricity prices, including the cost of the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET). In the annual report the impact on retail prices from the LRET is available by jurisdiction.

While the AEMC's annual report does not distinguish between wind and other large scale renewables, nonetheless, with wind representing around two thirds of the LRET, the AEMC's analysis is strongly indicative of wind's impact on retail bills.

As such, the Government does not believe further analysis is required by the Productivity Commission at this time.

Recommendation 15:

7.105 The Renewable Energy Target should be amended so that all new investments in renewable energy between 2015 and 2020 will be eligible to create renewable energy certificates for a period of no more than five years. Existing investments in renewable energy should be grandfathered so that they continue to receive renewable energy certificates under the Act subject to annual audits of compliance.

7.106 The Government should develop a methodology for renewable energy projects so that they can qualify for Australian Carbon Credit Units. The Government should develop this methodology over a five year period in consultation with the renewable energy industry and the methodology should consider the net, lifecycle carbon emission impacts of renewable energy.

7.107 If the Government does not adopt the above changes, the Government should instead limit eligibility for receipt of Renewable Energy Certificates to five years after the commissioning of turbines.

The Government does not support this recommendation.

The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 was amended by the Australian Parliament in June 2015 following the outcomes of the 2014 Renewable Energy Target Review. The Government remains committed to the 33,000 GWh target out to 2030.

 

Government Response to the Australian Labor Party Senators ' Dissenting Report

Recommendation

Government Response

Recommendation 1:

1.43 Labor Senators recommend that the Federal Government not proceed with the recommendations made to it in the majority report.

1.44 Labor Senators further recommend that the Federal Government reassure the wind energy industry, which is both an important source of income and employment in rural areas and a vital means of abating Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, that it is not intent on preventing its further development based on unsubstantiated claims of negative health, environment and economic impacts.

The Government notes this recommendation.

 

Recommendation 2:

1.45 Labor Senators recommend that the Federal Government publicly acknowledge that:

wind farms are an important means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Australia's electricity sector, thereby contributing to our greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals;

the health impacts of fossil fuel extraction and generation are acknowledged by the medical and scientific community;

there are no causal links between wind turbines and impacts on human health;

the wind industry is a growing industry at a time when Australia's manufacturing sector is undergoing significant change and downsizing and that it provides valuable employment opportunities in regional Australia; and

the continued growth of the renewable energy industry, including wind, is a positive thing for Australia's economy and its environment.

The Government notes this recommendation.

 

Recommendation 3:

1.50 Labor Senators recommend that state governments ensure that local governments are adequately resourced to undertake their monitoring and compliance roles under state planning laws.

The Government notes this recommendation.

The Government notes that this is a matter for individual State and Territory governments.

Recommendation 4:

1.52 Labor Senators recommend that state and territory governments consider the codification of community engagement guidelines based on the Clean Energy Council's Community Engagement Guidelines for the Australian Wind Industry to ensure a greater level of community confidence and input is generated by wind farm planning, construction and operation.

The Government notes this recommendation.

The Government notes that this is a matter for individual State and Territory governments.

 

Recommendation 5:

1.55 Labor Senators recommend that state and territory government consider reforming the current system whereby wind farm developers directly retain acoustic consultants to provide advice on post-construction compliance.

The Government notes this recommendation

The Government notes that this is a matter for individual State and Territory governments.

Australian Government response to the Senate Economics References Committee report: Australia's Innovation System

December 2016

Introduction

The Senate Inquiry into Australia's Innovation System (the Inquiry) was conducted by the Senate Economics References Committee (the Committee). The aim of the Inquiry was to identify and examine the challenges to Australian industries and jobs posed by increasing global competition in innovation, science, engineering, research and education. The Committee delivered its final report on 3 December 2015. This report is to be read in conjunction with an interim report and an issues paper authored by Professor Roy Green, tabled together on 19 August 2015.

The Australian Government's vision for the future is for a strong, dynamic and digitally sophisticated economy—one that is characterised by a network of globally engaged, high growth businesses that innovate, exploit falling entry costs to markets and successfully integrate into global supply chains. This new economy is powered by skilled and educated Australians working in rewarding and well-paying jobs. Public support for the key components of the innovation system—including education, science and research, market frameworks, and infrastructure—has proven historically vital for economic growth throughout the most successful industrialised countries. To secure Australia's future economic prosperity, a serious, long term approach to catalysing and supporting innovation is required.

The National Innovation and Science Agenda (the NISA), released on 7 December 2015, is the start of a long-term plan by the Government to secure Australia's future economic prosperity. It recognises that innovation is a major driving force for productivity, growth and jobs. The NISA sets out the Government's vision for Australia's innovation, research and science ecosystem. It is designed to spur innovation and entrepreneurship, enhance cutting edge national research infrastructure, address barriers to success and enable Australia to seize the opportunities afforded by innovation. The NISA will help to build internationally competitive and sustainable businesses, extract greater commercial value from our strong research outputs, increase our productivity and afford Australians high skilled employment opportunities. The Government will continue to advance the innovation agenda by increasing efforts and pursuing new opportunities under future NISA activities.

In 2016-17, we are on track to provide $10.1 billion to support research and experimental development. This is an increase of 3.55 per cent on the Budget Estimate of $9.7 billion in 2015-16. Over the last ten years, Government support for R&D has increased by 52 per cent —from over $6.6 billion to $10.1 billion. As part of this, the NISA contains measures worth more than $1.1 billion.

The Government has established Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) as the new independent body responsible for advising the Government on all science, research and innovation matters. ISA's first task is to undertake an audit of Australia's science, research and innovation system to inform the development of a 2030 Strategic Plan for the Australian innovation, science and research system. The plan will identify investment priorities and specific areas for policy reform for the Government to consider to improve Australia's innovation system. The Committee's report will be a useful information source for ISA in undertaking this work.

The Government thanks the Committee, Professor Green and all those assisting the Inquiry for their contributions to this matter of vital national interest.

Response to recommendations

Recommendation 1: The Committee recommends that the Australian Government commits to maintaining stable, coherent and effective administrative arrangements for innovation policies and programs, based on a long-term strategic framework and a target to lift investment in research and development to three per cent of GDP.

Recommendation 2: The Committee recommends the establishment of an independent government agency with a mandate to administer and coordinate innovation system policies and programs. Such a body would be responsible for maintaining a continuous and consistent approach to innovation policy across the whole of government.

The Government agrees with the Committee's recommendations to establish an independent government agency to administer and coordinate innovation policies, and to maintain effective administrative arrangements for innovation policies and programs, based on a long-term strategic framework.

Innovation ecosystems are inherently complex and require a flexible approach to ensure new opportunities and challenges can be acted on. In order for these systems to perform effectively to deliver increased productivity and competitiveness, governments must develop consistent and stable policies for innovation. Stability does not mean innovation initiatives ought not to be subject to review or improvement. Innovation policies need to be multifaceted, adaptive and address the entire innovation cycle to achieve genuine change at a national level. They also need to be aligned with a long term strategic framework, evaluated against comprehensive and quantifiable social and economic targets, and delivered transparently and efficiently.

This policy approach will be achieved through the implementation of the NISA and the establishment of a new independent body, ISA, which will be responsible for advising the Government on all science, research and innovation matters. ISA complements the Commonwealth Science Council, which will continue to advise Government on high level science challenges facing Australia. ISA will be supported by a CEO accountable through the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science to the new Innovation and Science Committee of Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister. This committee, supported by ISA, will ensure a consistent and whole-of-Government approach to innovation and science policy.

The Government notes the Committee's recommendation regarding a 3% target for R&D relates to combined public and private investment. It is important that Australia has effective policies which drive new private expenditure on R&D and create a supportive environment to encourage industry to lead the way on R&D expenditure, for the benefit of both industry and the broader economy. This is being achieved through measures under the NISA supporting new investment and capital formation in innovative businesses, for example:

New arrangements for Venture Capital Limited Partnerships. The Government has made a number of reforms to the venture capital regime to make it more internationally competitive and attract greater levels of venture capital investment. These reforms include making available a tax concession for investment in new Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnerships to incentivise investments in businesses at the early and growth stages of the startup life-cycle. In addition, other changes made to the venture capital regime will allow managers to undertake a broader range of investment activities and enable a greater diversity of investors to participate.

Tax incentives for early stage investors. New tax concessions are now available to incentivise investors to support early stage innovative companies with high-growth potential. These concessions can be claimed by eligible investors from the 2016-17 income year for investments in qualifying early stage innovation companies. The aim of these new tax incentives is to promote a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation by connecting innovative startup companies with investors who offer the funds and business experience needed to develop concepts and commercialise ideas.

Biomedical Translation Fund. The Government is establishing the new $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund to translate our world-leading health and medical research from the laboratory to the marketplace. The Government is providing $250 million to be at least matched by private capital. The Fund will draw on fund managers selected through a competitive process, to bring at least matching funding from the private sector for investment in promising biomedical innovation and commercialisation.

As of 2013-14, Australia's gross expenditure on R&D (businesses, government, private, non-profit and higher education sectors) was $33.5 billion, or 2.12% as a proportion of GDP. In 2016-17, we are on track to provide $10.1 billion to support research and experimental development. This is an increase of 3.55 per cent on the Budget Estimate of $9.7 billion in 2015-16. Over the last ten years, Australian Government support for R&D has increased by 52 per cent, from over $6.6 billion to $10.1 billion.

Government support for R&D includes support provided through the R&D Tax Incentive, which was recently reviewed by an independent panel in order to identify opportunities to improve its effectiveness and integrity, including sharpening its focus on encouraging additional R&D spending by the private sector. The Government is considering the findings of the review, which were released to the public on 28 September 2016. The Government has also asked Australia's Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO, to chair an expert working group to develop the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap.

Recommendation 3: The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, as part of its long-term innovation strategy, includes policy options to address the structural and strategic barriers that inhibit innovation, including: measures to enhance collaboration and the free flow of knowledge between the university system and the private sector; increasing the size of the research and development workforce employed in industry; and ensuring that public funding to support science, research and innovation is long term, predictable and secure.

The Government agrees with this recommendation. The Government's role is to ensure there is a clear pathway for potential entrepreneurs to test new ideas in the market, find the talent and capital they need to scale, and learn through doing. The NISA has introduced a number of complementary measures which address this recommendation, for example:

Innovation Connections. As part of the Entrepreneurs' Programme, Innovation Connections has expanded its existing services to further drive industry-focussed collaboration between researchers and small to medium sized enterprises. The expanded programme provides additional facilitators and grants; supports graduate and post-graduate placements in business; and supports business researcher placements in publicly funded research agencies. These partnerships will foster the development of new ideas with commercial potential and will assist businesses identify the knowledge gaps preventing their growth.

Linkage Projects scheme. The Government is reforming the Australian Research Council's Linkage Projects scheme to stimulate more collaboration between universities and businesses. From 1 July 2016, both researchers and industry partners will be able to take greater advantage of opportunities for collaboration through a continuous application schedule. This will encourage more partnerships between universities and businesses, and help generate more products and services to benefit business, the economy and society.

Maintaining world class research infrastructure. The Government will invest $2.3 billion over the next 10 years in cutting-edge national scale research infrastructure, which will ensure a stable and predictable pipeline of funding to support world class research by providing leading edge national research infrastructure.

New research funding arrangements for universities. The Government is introducing new, streamlined research funding arrangements and is providing an additional $50 million per year (indexed) for universities to improve Australia's rate of collaboration between industry and universities. These new arrangements give more emphasis to success in industry and other end-user engagement, while continuing to ensure our world-leading, high quality research performance. The Government will consult with universities and other stakeholders on updated guidelines for new arrangements, which will commence on 1 January 2017.

CSIRO Innovation Fund. The CSIRO Innovation Fund will boost the commercialisation of research through an early stage innovation fund of up to $200 million to support new spin out companies from Australian research institutions, and a $20 million expansion to CSIRO's accelerator programme to include other publicly funded research organisations, with 20 universities already participating.

Global Innovation Strategy. The Government is investing $36 million over five years in a Global Innovation Strategy to improve Australia's international innovation and science collaboration. The strategy will provide seed funding for Australian businesses and researchers to collaborate internationally on research and promote an open-market approach to industry-research collaboration. There is also a regional component, which will support multi-economy collaboration on shared regional challenges. The Government has established five 'landing pads' (in San Francisco, Tel Aviv, Shanghai, Berlin and Singapore) to support entrepreneurial Australians and market-ready startups by providing an operational physical space to access the talent, mentors, investors and a wider connected network of innovation hubs in those locations.

Ensuring the public investment in innovation is supported by a framework to encourage complementary long-term investment by Australia's private sector is a key priority of this Government. The ISA 2030 Strategic Plan will identify investment, infrastructure priorities and areas for consideration by the Government in order to ensure Australia is positioned to secure its future economic prosperity.

Recommendation 4: The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, working in collaboration with State and Territory governments, adopt a range of measures to support the role of local and regional innovation ecosystems.

The Government agrees with this recommendation. The Government has a vital role in ensuring that the new jobs and other gains that flow from innovative new technologies and business models are shared across Australia. Creating a strong national innovation ecosystem is only possible with well-developed and supported regional ecosystems, particularly for areas of Australia built on traditional industries undergoing technological and globalised disruption.

Several of the NISA measures are of broad application and support the role of local and regional innovation ecosystems. For example, many of the measures listed above will help businesses and entrepreneurs attract investment and launch knowledge-based businesses to reach global markets from anywhere in Australia. In addition, the Government is investing $23 million through the Incubator Support initiative to support building local and regional innovation ecosystems. It will help grow the next generation of innovative businesses by offering matched funding to: support the development of new incubators in regional or sectoral areas with high innovation potential; boost the effectiveness of incubators, including support to expand their services and engage a Commercialisation Adviser; and provide access to top quality research and technical talent through secondments of national or international experts.

Additionally, the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments are already progressing a number of measures to support local and regional innovation systems. The Commonwealth, State and Territory Advisory Council on Innovation (CSTACI), which comprises officials from the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, and the New Zealand Government, aims to improve the effectiveness, integration and coordination of the national innovation system. They provide advice to all governments on their innovation policies, activities and programs.

Recommendation 5: The committee recommends that the education system be accorded a central focus in the Australian Government's long-term innovation strategy, thereby acknowledging the central importance of the interplay between the STEM subjects and the humanities, social sciences and creative industries.

The Government agrees with this recommendation. It is crucial that Australia nurtures and taps into the entire pool of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and entrepreneurship talent in our population, while acknowledging the important role of humanities arts, and social sciences, to support a more innovative, inclusive and prosperous economy. This includes improving women's STEM workforce participation and economic independence. The development of creative capacities across the workforce and in society more broadly will be vital for the generation and successful commercialisation and uptake of new ideas.

As part of the NISA, the Government is investing $48 million to inspire all Australians, from pre-schoolers to the broader community, to engage with STEM and participate in further study. The Government is also investing $51 million to help Australian students to embrace the digital age and better prepare for the jobs of the future. Online computing challenges, ICT summer schools, competitions and support for teachers and school leaders will lead to improved STEM literacy. In addition, the Government is investing $13 million to encourage more girls and women to embark on and remain in STEM-related careers within science and research institutions, as well as STEM-based and entrepreneurial industries.

Australian Government response to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report:

Bridging our growing divide: inequality in Australia The extent of income inequality in Australia

December 2016

Community Affairs References Committee

Bridging our growing divide: inequality in Australia The extent of income inequality in Australia

Australian Government response to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report

Commonwealth of Australia 201X ISBN 978-1-925504-23-1

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Bridging our growing divide: inequality in Australia The extent of income inequality in Australia

Government Response

Overview

The Australian Government thanks the committee for the report.

Income inequality is a highly complex and increasingly contested area of the policy debate across much of the developed world. In discussing this issue, it is important to consider the appropriate role for governments in both alleviating poverty and reducing inequality through the tax and transfer system, as well as in supporting growth across the broader economy. It is also timely to consider more recent income inequality data that has been released since the committee tabled its report which shows an improvement across a number of key metrics.

Role of governments

Like most other governments, the Australian Government directs assistance through the welfare system to those who need it most. In fact, the Australian tax and transfer system is among the most progressive in the world in that assistance is overwhelmingly directed to low income earners. According to the 2009-10 Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) Household Expenditure Survey', the poorest 20 per cent of Australian households, on average, receive welfare payments and social services worth more than eight times what they pay in taxes.

The Australian Government's economic approach is focused on delivering continued prosperity for current and future generations of hard-working Australians, to enable those Australians to benefit from their own efforts and to target help to those who most need it. To that end, the Australian Government's budget repair measures are designed to reduce debt and deficits and increase the ability of the Government to respond to economic shocks in a way that supports continued economic growth and employment.

The Australian Government notes that significant progress has been made in the budget repair task since the opening of the 45th Parliament. More than $20 billion worth of budget repair measures have been legislated with the support of the Senate, including measures from the 2014-15 Budget included in the Budget Savings (Omnibus) Act 2016 which passed with the support of the Opposition. Further measures that have passed and contributed to the Australian Government's budget repair task include fair and sustainable superannuation reforms legislated with the support of the Opposition that target concessions to those who aspire to be self-sufficient in retirement.

In the 44th Parliament, the Australian Government also undertook significant pension reform that will make the pension more sustainable and affordable. The Australian Government appreciates the support of Senators, including the Australian Greens, for the passage of this reform through Parliament and welcomes the Australian Labor Party's recent decision to reverse its opposition to this reform. However the Australian Government is aware that policies adopted by the Opposition would have resulted in $16.5 billion in higher deficits over

1 ABS Cat No. 6530.0

Australian Government response to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report

the course of the forward estimates, placing greater pressure on Australia's credit rating, raising the cost of borrowing, and making it more difficult for the Australian Government to direct resources to those in need.

One of the most useful ways governments can address inequality is to support economic growth to generate growth in employment and income. The best form of assistance is to help welfare recipients into employment. A key component of the 2016-17 Budget, the Government's National Economic Plan for Jobs and Growth, will ensure Australia continues to successfully transition from the mining investment boom to a stronger, more diversified, new economy. Supporting economic growth will ensure that we can readily respond to future external shocks and can continue to provide assistance to those who need it through well-targeted transfer payments and social services into the future.

While the economy still grew by an encouraging 1.8 per cent through the year, it is not sustainable that real GDP contracted by 0.5 per cent in the September quarter. The Australian economy is growing faster than every G7 economy other than the United Kingdom, slightly better than the United States and Canada and just above the OECD average, highlighting the work we must do to maintain and improve our competitiveness.

Non-mining investment remains subdued and this is one of the biggest challenges we face. We need to support businesses to invest in this country. The Australian economy needs investment that will provide more working hours and higher wages for employees and do its part to take the place left from the decline in mining investment.

The Australian Government plans to assist those businesses, especially small businesses via the Enterprise Tax Plan. Through the Enterprise Tax Plan, the Australian Government is providing the support these companies need to back themselves, back their employees and expand into new products and markets. The Parliament's support for measures to boost investment and growth in the Australian economy will assist the Australian Government in its goal of alleviating poverty and associated inequality.

Recent data

Since the committee tabled its report, data has supported the notion that income inequality outcomes in Australia have continued to improve since the Global Financial Crisis.

For example, on 21 May 2015 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report comparing different measures of inequality across the developed world, titled In it together. Why less inequality benefits al12.

The report found that income inequality in Australia has increased by substantially less than many comparable OECD countries over the past 30 years and some key inequality measures have actually fallen since the Global Financial Crisis. In addition, the OECD found that the ratio of average income of the top 10 per cent compared to the average income of the bottom 10 per cent in Australia is below the OECD average.

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey3 released in December 2015 also supports the view that income inequality outcomes have improved recently. In the five years to 2012, the HILDA survey showed increases in mean and median

2 OECD, 2015

http://www.oecd org/social/soc/in-it-together-why-less-inequality-benefits-a11-9789264235120-en.htm

3 Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (2016) https://www.melbourneinstitute.cornidownloads/hilda/Stat_Report/statreport_2016.pcif

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incomes as well as modest improvements across the p90/p50 and p50/p10 income ratios4 and the Gini coefficient, compared with the five years to 2007.

The HILDA Survey also found that the percentage of Australians in both relative and absolute poverty has fallen since the Global Financial Crisis. In particular, the proportion of the population below the absolute poverty line of $17,592 (defined as an income poverty threshold which has its real value held constant over time rather than adjusted for changes in average living standards, as at December 2014 prices) has fallen from 12.9 per cent in 2001 to 3.9 per cent in 2014, an almost 70 per cent decline.

4 The p90/p50 ratio refers to the ratio of income of the 90th income percentile compared with the 50th income percentile; likewise the p50/p10 ratio refers to the income of the 50th income percentile compared with the 10th income percentile.

Australian Government response to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report

Government response to the committee ' s recommendations

Recommendation 1

The committee recommends that there should be analysis of income inequality in Australia as a result of budget changes. The evidence provided to the committee raises issues around the best way to provide this analysis. There has been support for this work to be undertaken by the Treasury or the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The committee believes that consideration should be given to the most effective process to achieve this analysis.

The Australian Government does not agree with this recommendation.

Distributional and cameo analyses are already published in the Budget to illustrate the effects of policy changes on different household types. There is a range of other information already available, including the ABS Survey of Income and Housing, and OECD and World Bank reports on inequality and income.

A number of other independent bodies also publish analysis of inequality in Australia.

Recommendation 2

The committee recommends that the Australian Government not proceed with the following 2014-15 Budget measures, to avoid further hardship for Australians in receipt of income support payments:

in Schedules 1 to 8 of the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 4) Bill 2014, measures that:

— maintain at their current levels for three years the income free areas for all working age allowances (except student payments) and the income test free area for Parenting Payment Single, from 1 July 2015;

— maintain at their current levels for three years several Family Tax Benefit (FTB) free areas, from 1 July 2015;

— maintain at their current levels for three years the income free areas and other means tested thresholds for student payments, including the student income bank limits, from 1 January 2015;

— maintain the standard FTB child rates for two years in the maximum and base rate of FTB Part A and the maximum rate of FTB Part B, from 1 July 2015;

— revise the FTB end of year supplements to their original values and cease indexation, from 1 July 2015;

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Recommendation 2 (continued)

— limit FTB Part B to families with children under six years of age, with transitional arrangements applying to current recipients with children above the new age limit for two years, from 1 July 2015;

— introduce a new allowance for single parents on the maximum rate of FTB Part A for each child aged six to 12 years inclusive, and not receiving FTB Part B, from 1 July 2015;

— extend and simplify the ordinary waiting period for all working age payments, from 1 January 2015;

— cease the pensioner education supplement, from 1 January 2015;

— cease the education entry payment, from 1 January 2015;

— extend Youth Allowance (Other) to 22 to 24 year olds in lieu of Newstart Allowance and Sickness Allowance, from 1 January 2015;

— require young people with full capacity to learn, earn or Work for the Dole, from 1 January 2015; and

— remove the three months' backdating of disability pension under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986, from 1 January 2015.

in Schedules 1 and 2 of the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 5) Bill 2014, measures that:

— index all pensions to the Consumer Price Index only from 20 September 2017;

— maintain for three years the current income test free areas for all pensioners (except Parenting Payment Single), and the deeming thresholds for all income support payments, from 1 July 2017;

— reset the income test deeming thresholds for single income support recipients ($30 000), pensioner couples ($50 000), and a member of a couple other than a

pensioner couple ($25 000), for social security and veterans' entitlements, from 20 September 2017; and

— increase the age pension qualifying age and the non-veteran pension age from 67 to 70 years, by six months every two years, commencing 1 July 2025.

cessation of payment of the seniors supplement for holders of the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card or the Veterans' Affairs Gold Card, from 20 September 2014 (Schedule 1 of the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Seniors Supplement Cessation) Bill 2014.

The committee recommends that the proposed changes to the HECS HELP study assist scheme and the proposed GP co-payment do not proceed.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

Australian Government response to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report

The Government has taken steps to repair the Budget with sensible savings and a prudent approach to spending. The aim was to restore fiscal sustainability and confidence in our public finances, and help improve economic conditions for business, families and individuals.

The Government has introduced a range of measures to rein in spending, improve the sustainability of Australia's social safety net, whilst encouraging those who can support themselves to do so.

In the 2015-16 Budget, the Government announced that it would not proceed with some 2014-15 Budget measures and announced alternative policies that ensure the welfare system is targeted and sustainable.

The Government reversed the measures to index pensions and pension equivalent payments to movements in the Consumer Price Index only, reset the deeming thresholds and maintain pension income test eligibility thresholds and deeming thresholds for three years. It replaced these measures with a new measure to rebalance the, assets test parameters, which will provide additional assistance under the assets test to non-homeowners and people with more modest assets, and will provide less support to those who are better off. The 2015-16 Budget also included a measure to cap the level of income from defined benefit income streams that can be excluded from the income test at 10 per cent.

The Age Pension is a critically important safety net for many Australians. It is our Budget's biggest item of expenditure, $45 billion a year. The Government's pension reform passed the Senate with the support of the Australian Greens in the last Parliament. The Opposition opposed this saving only to reverse its position in the lead-up to the 2016 election (at the same time as reversing its opposition to the abolition of the School Kids Bonus). These pension reforms will make the pension more sustainable and affordable. Changes to the Age Pension assets test from 1 January 2017 will provide more support to people assessed under the assets test to non-home owners and those who have more modest assets.

On 21 October 2015 the Government announced that it would reverse unlegislated FTB measures from the 2014-15 Budget and introduce measures to restructure FTB payments to give better targeted assistance to families, encourage workforce participation and fund the Jobs for Families child care package.

On 2 December 2015 the Government introduced the Jobs for Families child care package and the FTB Bills to Parliament. Together these Bills aim to provide increased fortnightly support to families to manage their day to day living expenses, and encourage increased workforce participations.

On 31 August 2016 the Government introduced and subsequently passed the Omnibus Savings Bill to Parliament. This bill contained a range of savings measures including: pausing the Family Tax Benefit and Paid Parental Leave income tests; introducing an income limit for the FTB Part A supplement; removing exemptions from the working age payments waiting period for newly arrived residents; aligning the pension means testing arrangements with residential aged care arrangements; and discontinuing the HECS-HELP benefit.

In passing this bill the Government agreed it would no longer proceed with the

2015-16 measure to increase Family Tax Benefit Part B for families with children less than one year of age.

5 These Bills were prorogued on 15 April 2016. The Jobs for Families package and the FTB Bills were then introduced into the 45th Parliament on 1 September 2016.

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The Parliament has passed the following legislation which relates to family payments, the Disability Support Pension, seniors and student support:

Budget Savings (Omnibus) Act 2016;

Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015;

Social Services Legislation Amendment (Defined Benefit Income Streams) Bill 2015;

Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Act 2015;

Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Act 2015;

Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Measures) Act 2015;

Social Services and Other Legislation; Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 6) Act 2014; and

Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Seniors Supplement Cessation) Bill 2014.

The Government is committed to maintaining Australia's world class student loans scheme, so as to ensure students have affordable access to higher education and do not face any upfront costs. The Government is consulting further on its higher education reforms and has decided that higher education funding arrangements will remain unchanged in 2017 pending the outcome of this process.

The Government has also indicated that, following wide consultation on Medicare reform, it is not proceeding with the GP co-payment.

Recommendation 3

The committee recommends that the Australian Government review the level of working age payments to examine the rate of payment to the poverty line.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

The Government commissioned an independent Reference Group chaired by

Mr Patrick McClure AO to review Australia's welfare system (the McClure Review). The review's purpose was to identify how to make Australia's welfare system fairer, more effective, coherent and sustainable and encourage people to work. The final report, A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes was released on 25 February 2015. The Final Report included analysis and advice on the adequacy of income support allowances.

The Government is carefully considering its response to the McClure Review.

Australian Government response to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report

Recommendation 4

The committee recommends that the Australian Government establish a consultation process to engage key stakeholders in discussions on how to set minimum levels for social security payments in Australia, including Commonwealth Rent Assistance payments and student assistance payments. In determining the optimal basis for benchmarking payment levels, these discussions should consider the merit and weight to be placed on each of the following measurements:

replacement rates;

poverty lines;

budget standards; and

financial stress indicators.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

The Government is carefully considering its response to the McClure Review. Recommendation 5

The committee recommends that the Australian Government urgently review the amount of funding allocated to Financial Crisis and Material Aid including for the provision of Emergency Relief and Food Relief (including over the forward estimates), to ensure that vulnerable Australians in need are able to access assistance.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

The Government provides a range of services to support vulnerable families and individuals. This includes around $250 million a year under the Families and Children Activity which provides support to families to improve the wellbeing of children and young people to enhance family and community functioning, as well as increasing the participation of vulnerable people in community life. In addition, the Government provides $100 million per year to the Financial Wellbeing and Capability Activity which supports people to address basic needs in times of financial crisis; manage serious debts and move out of financial difficulty; build basic budgeting and financial literacy skills; and access savings and credit options aimed at people on low incomes.

The Government also supports vulnerable Australians through funding for housing and homelessness. In 2016-17, the Australian Government will provide $6.8 billion to support the housing needs of vulnerable Australians. This includes $4.5 billion to around 1.3 million individuals and families through Commonwealth Rent Assistance, $1.3 billion to the states and territories through the National Affordable Housing Agreement, $310 million to support affordable rental housing under the National Rental Affordability Scheme and $115 million, matched by the states and territories, for the provision of homelessness services under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.

On 9 December 2016 the Government announced $117.2 million for a Transitional 12 month National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, commencing 1 July 2017. This funding will provide certainty for frontline services, while the Commonwealth, state and territory

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governments work together on longer-term homelessness reforms, including a funding framework.

The Government is always looking at ways to ensure more efficient and effective ways for delivering grants, reducing red tape and increasing flexibility for service providers, through the Department of Social Services' New Way of Working for Grants. This includes innovative Data Exchange (DEX) which will allow the Government to effectively monitor outcomes funded organisations are achieving.

Recommendation 6

The committee recommends that in its response to the findings of the Review of Australia's Welfare System, the Australian Government ensure that those facing the greatest hardship are better off.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

The Government is carefully considering its response to the McClure Review.

Recommendation 7

The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government establish a series of national and regional rental indexes to track the increase of rents. The committee recommends that consideration, including of cost implications, be given to indexing Commonwealth Rent Assistance according to the geographically most suitable index.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

Recommendation 8

The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government develop National Urban Planning Guidelines ensuring that new and existing developments have access to public transport, health, education and other services.

The committee also recommends that the Commonwealth Government develop National Planning Guidelines that all new housing developments have a minimum target of affordable and public and social housing for low income and other disadvantaged groups.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

The states and territories are primarily responsible for planning and development.

The Commonwealth is working closely with the states and territories to review planning and zoning regulations to make housing supply more responsive — through consideration of payments to states and territories for competition and productivity-enhancing reforms.

On 29 April 2016 the Prime Minister the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, together with the Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, released the Smart Cities Plan. The Smart Cities Plan sets out the Government's vision for our cities — metropolitan and regional — with a focus on smart investment, smart policy and smart technology.

Australian Government response to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report

Smart Policy will be driven through City Deals — a new framework for partnering with all levels of government to identify clear goals for a city and deliver a co-ordinated investment plan for growth. Through City Deals the Government will work more closely with state and local governments to address inequality in Australia by linking transport infrastructure to land-use planning to enable Australians to have access to employment, health and education services. City Deals will also address housing supply and affordability by encouraging appropriate densities and greater diversity of housing options, and coordinated land releases for residential development.

Smart investment in infrastructure is needed to meet the needs of our growing cities and the Government has committed to a $50 billion infrastructure investment program to 2020. Long-term planning for investment in the right infrastructure in the right locations is key to linking people to jobs, services and opportunities and is a pillar of a strong and prosperous Australia.

Smart technology can help solve the challenges we face in planning our cities and the Government has announced a $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs program to fast-track innovative technology solutions for our regional and metropolitan cities.

The Smart Cities Plan will position our cities to succeed in the 21st Century economy. It is a plan for supporting productive, accessible, liveable cities that create jobs and growth, with a clear focus on serving the Australian community.

Recommendation 9

The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government reconsider its decision to terminate the Youth Connections programme and other youth transition programmes. These programmes should be continued or at least rebadged. The focus of the programme must remain on one on one mentoring to help young people to overcome the barriers that make it difficult for them to stay in, or return to, school or training.

The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government establish TAFE programmes that build on the mentoring approach of the Youth Connections programme. The objective of this approach at TAPE level is to ensure that young people remain engaged in vocational training and are able to identify and pursue their employment options.

Recommendation 10

The committee recommends that Australian schools—particularly those in regions of socio-economic disadvantage—establish alliances with employers and vocational education providers to deliver programmes that encourage young people to remain at school, develop contact with employers and support young people to transition to the workforce or further education or training. These programs should encourage employers and vocational education institutions to take a lead role in designing courses that identify future job opportunities for these young people.

The Australian Government does not support recommendation 9 and notes recommendation 10.

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The Government is committed to helping young Australians overcome challenges to participating in work and study. Young Australians need the right assistance and encouragement to learn new skills, become job ready, get a job, and stay in a job.

Under the Government's National Economic Plan for Jobs and Growth the 2016-17 Budget included around $840 million over four years for a Youth Employment Package that aims to give young job seekers the employability skills and real work experience they need to get a job. The package will help up to 120,000 young people. The central feature of the Youth Employment Package is the Youth Jobs PaTH (Prepare-Trial-Hire), which consists of employability skills training, a voluntary "internship" placement of four to 12 weeks, a Youth Bonus wage subsidy for employers and the employer mobilisation strategy to encourage participation in the initiative by employers.

The new Youth Bonus wage subsidy (the Hire stage of the Youth Jobs PaTH) can be combined with support available under the Australian Government's existing Australian Apprenticeships Incentive Program, providing a strong incentive for employers to take on a young job seeker in an Australian Apprenticeship. The Youth Employment Package also includes measures to encourage young Australians to start a business and create their own job. From December 2016, pathways for young people to pursue entrepreneurship will be enhanced by:

Two-week 'Exploring Being My Own Boss' workshops and complementary placements, for up to 12 weeks, that will support young people in gaining a greater understanding of what self-employment entails.

Entrepreneurship Starter Packs and online hub "SelfStart" will be introduced to bring together information about existing services and programs in a way that will engage young people. "SelfStart" will be hosted on the jobactive.gov.au website. An Entrepreneurship Starter Pack "marketing product' will promote "SelfStart".

New Encouraging Entrepreneurship Facilitators will promote entrepreneurship and join up available services and programs (such as jobactive, the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS), microfinance services and start-up incubators). The Facilitators will operate in Cairns, Hunter, including Newcastle and Launceston and North East Tasmania — all regions with high youth unemployment.

An additional 2,300 NEIS places per year and broadening of NEIS eligibility to provide access to the training and mentoring elements of the NEIS program to job seekers not on income support.

In the 2015-16 Budget the Government also announced a new investment of $331 million for a Youth Employment Strategy as part of the Growing Jobs and Small Business package. This included a new $322 million Transition to Work service (of which $212 million was new funding) to assist young people who have disengaged from work and study and are at risk of long-term welfare dependence. The service is designed to improve the work readiness of young people aged 15 to 21 and will help them get into work (including apprenticeships or traineeships) or education.

The Youth Employment Strategy also included a new investment of $106 million for intensive support for key groups of vulnerable job seekers including disadvantaged young people with mental health concerns and vulnerable young migrants, and Empowering YOUth initiatives to test innovative approaches to assist young people at risk of long-term unemployment.

Australian Government response to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report

A further $14 million Early School Leaver policy will help improve the education outcomes for early school leavers by ensuring they are working or studying.

The Government is investing higher levels of school funding than ever before, a record $73.6 billion in total Government funding to all schools across Australia. Schools support young people to develop the foundation skills they need to get a job. The Government places a high priority on education and schooling that is flexible, allowing students to follow various pathways to further education, employment or training. The Government has been working with states and territories, who have the primary responsibility for school age students at risk of disconnecting from education and training. The Government is being fiscally responsible in ensuring that there is not duplication of services between Governments. For example, Labor's Youth Connections program (that ceased in 2014) had 74 per cent of participants under the age of 17, which are all being supported by the states and territories.

The implementation of the Preparing Secondary Students for Work framework, a framework for vocational learning and vocational education and training (VET) delivered to secondary students will assist states and territories with a best practice model. The framework provides clarity on the purpose and expected outcomes of undertaking vocational learning activities, or more formal VET programmes, and identifies the need for collaboration in bringing schools and employers together to improve vocational outcomes for secondary students.

The Government is committed to training that is high quality and delivers real skills for jobs. In recognition of the need to revitalise industry engagement in the national training system, on 21 April 2015, the Government announced a new model for Training Package Development for Australian Industry. This new approach will place industry at the centre of training product development and in overseeing training product content, and ensure the quality of VET qualifications is retained. This will strengthen industry and employer participation in training package development and review by providing clear channels for input which will ensure training aligns with jobs in the economy. The Government's P-TECH Pilot brings local employers and local schools together. Students study Australian curriculum subjects like maths, English and science alongside site visits, industry mentoring and employer projects, which help students to build connections between what they are learning in their classrooms and the real jobs to which they aspire. The Government has committed $4.6 million to extend the program to a further 12 sites in addition to its original two.

The Australian Government is investing around $900 million over the next four years in the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network to make it easier for employers to recruit, train and retain apprentices and better support individuals to succeed in the proven earning and learning pathway apprenticeships provide. From 2015, Apprenticeship Network providers have been contracted to deliver an enhanced suite of individually tailored services to targeted Australian apprentices and employers. This support includes mentoring and pastoral care as well as the provision of advice and guidance on additional training and specialised support options for Australian apprentices and employers. Apprenticeship Network providers provide advice and support services tailored to the needs of employers and apprentices throughout the apprenticeship lifecycle — from pre-commencement to completion ­through:

Universal services for all employers and apprentices, providing essential administrative support, payment processing and regular contact; and

Targeted services for employers and individuals assessed as needing additional support to complete the apprenticeship.

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The Government has also committed $3 million to development of a new Career Education Strategy to support students in planning and preparing for transitions to work.

Through Tailored Assistance Employment Grants (TAEGs) the Government provides support to connect working age Indigenous Australians, including youth, with real and sustainable jobs. TAEGs support activities that help Indigenous Australians to overcome disadvantage in the labour market and connect them to employment, gain experience that builds work readiness, and contribute to the broader community. TAEGs also assist Indigenous students transition from education into sustainable employment, through providing funding to organisations to support Indigenous students in secondary education stay engaged in school and work towards apprenticeship and/or traineeship qualifications that result in sustainable employment.

The Indigenous Cadetship Support programme links Indigenous students undertaking their first undergraduate degree with employers who provide students with an annual 12 weeks minimum paid work placement and ongoing employment once they graduate. Whilst this programme is not specifically targeted at youth, a large majority of undergraduates are aged less than 25 years.

Recommendation 11

The committee recommends that the Office of the Age Discrimination Commissioner articulates a National Jobs Checkpoint Plan, with costings, that can be put to the Commonwealth and State governments for their consideration. These costings should emphasise the savings that will arise from a preventative approach where older workers can move smoothly to training opportunities and further work, as distinct from these workers being made redundant and reliant on income support payments.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

The Government is committed to helping all Australians participate, and recognises that many older workers need support to remain in employment longer or to return to work if they choose.

Measures announced as part of the Growing Jobs and Small Business package in the 2015-16 Budget will also increase the opportunities for mature age job seekers to find and move into work. The Restart programme, which supports employers to hire unemployed workers aged 50 years or over, has been strengthened to better meet their needs. From 1 November 2015, employers will be able to receive up to $10,000 over 12 months, rather than two years and from January 2017 over six months rather than 12 months. Flexibility has been introduced to the wage subsidy payment arrangements to help businesses with the upfront costs of hiring and training staff. Employers will be able to receive wage subsidy payments from the time the job seeker starts in the job and receive regular instalments to meet their business needs. The amount and timing of payments will be negotiated between the employer and employment services provider.

Further, the Government recently created the office of Ambassador for Mature Age Employment to help drive greater awareness amongst employers of the business benefits of hiring older workers and help open new doors for job seekers. On 24 June 2015, the

Hon Susan Ryan AO, currently the Age Discrimination Commissioner, was appointed to the position. Commissioner Ryan also played a key role in leading the 'Willing to Work: National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination Against Older Australians and Australians with Disability. The National Inquiry examined practices, attitudes and Commonwealth laws that

Australian Government response to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report

deny or diminish equal participation in employment of older Australians and Australians with disability. The Inquiry Report was released on 2 May 2016.

The Government has consulted with Commissioner Ryan on the National Jobs Checkpoint Plan. A pilot based on the broader Plan targeting employed workers aged 45 to 54 tested delivery models and uptake. The Government funded the Skills Checkpoint Pilot for Older Workers. The pilot operated from November 2015 until May 2016 and an evaluation to inform further decisions about career advisory services has been undertaken and is currently under consideration by the Government.

Recommendation 12

The committee recommends that the Australian Government assess the success and the financial and social benefits of programmes that provide individualised support for the long term unemployed and those at risk of long term unemployment. Pending this analysis, the committee recommends that the Australian Government consider the case for funding these programmes on a more secure, longer term basis.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

The Government is committed to increasing the workforce participation of all Australians as the ability to work and earn an income is a foundation of Australian life.

The Government recognises that long-term unemployment imposes economic and social costs on individuals, their families and the broader community, and people who are unemployed for long periods of time often find it harder to return to or gain employment.

The Government is taking action to ensure job seekers are not at risk of being long-term unemployed, welfare dependent and disconnected from society, especially young Australians facing multiple barriers, including mental health concerns.

The employment service, jobactive, which commenced on 1 July 2015, offers a range of assistance for long-term unemployed job seekers, including:

case management so job seekers are ready to take up and keep a job, and outcomes focused payment structure for providers;

stronger participation requirements and opportunity to participate in Work for the Dole so that job seekers can be more job-ready;

an Employment Fund that can be accessed by jobactive organisations to help job seekers with work-focused training that is suited to the skills that employers need and work-related expenses;

post-placement support to help sustainable employment; and

wage subsidies.

The Growing Jobs and Small Business package announced in the 2015-16 Budget comprises a range of measures to help employers take on long-term unemployed job seekers, build employability skills, particularly for young people, including:

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the new $322 million Transition to Work service (of which $212 million is new funding) to provide intensive assistance to young people who have disengaged from work and study and are at risk of long-term welfare dependence;

a new investment of $106 million to provide intensive support for vulnerable job seekers most at risk of long-term unemployment, including:

the Empowering YOUth Initiatives which provides funding for not-for-profit community organisations to trial innovative ideas for getting young people at risk of welfare dependency into jobs;

the Parents Next initiative which will help parents living in disadvantaged locations to prepare for employment before their youngest child turns six;

- employment support for young people with mental illness which will trial new models of individual support to improve employment outcomes for young people with a mental illness; and

- the Transition Support for Young Refugees and Other Vulnerable Young Migrants measure which assists young humanitarian entrants and other vulnerable young migrants to make a successful transition to work.

Recommendation 13

The committee recommends that as part of the planned discussions leading to a White Paper on taxation reform in 2015, the federal government have regard to how the existing tax system is affecting inequality in Australia. This should include an analysis of existing tax concessions.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

The Government's objective is to achieve a better tax system that delivers taxes that are lower, simpler and fairer. This includes legislating tax cuts for middle income earners to ensure they did not move into the second highest tax bracket.

A key reform achieved recently was the Government's changes to superannuation. These reforms improve the fairness, sustainability, flexibility and integrity of the retirement income system. The changes improve flexibility by creating a level playing field for every Australian to give them the opportunity to make full use of their concessional contributions cap no matter how they are employed.

The superannuation changes will help people with irregular pay or who have spent time out of the workforce giving them a chance to 'catch up' on their concessional contributions if they have low superannuation balances. Superannuation reform will improve fairness by ensuring individuals with the lowest taxable incomes don't pay more tax on their concessional superannuation contributions than on their take-home pay.

The changes improve sustainability by preventing the superannuation system from being used for tax minimisation or estate planning purposes and ensuring broadly commensurate treatment for all Australians across the superannuation system — whether in an

accumulation or defined benefit account. These reforms better target superannuation tax concessions to hard-working Australians who aspire to be self-sufficient in their retirement.

Australian Government response to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report

Government response to the Australian Greens ' additional recommendations

Recommendation ' I

The committee recommends that the Australian Government increase the level of working age payments to ensure that Australians who are not in paid work are not living below the Henderson Poverty Line. All income support payments must be:

benchmarked to broader community living standards; and

indexed to movements in wages as well as prices.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

Working age allowance payments such as Newstart Allowance are designed to provide a safety net for people who require financial assistance, while maintaining incentives for people to join or return to the workforce where they are able. Working age payments are not intended to provide the same standard of living as people on pensions or wages.

Recommendation 2

The committee recommends that, as part of the planned discussions leading to a White Paper on taxation reform in 2015, the federal government consider the impact of tax reform on the ability to address inequality, including taxation concessions of superannuation contributions, earnings and withdrawals, and impact of capital gains.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

The Government's objective is to achieve a better tax system that delivers taxes that are lower, simpler and fairer. Reforms to superannuation announced in the 2016-17 Budget and legislated in November will improve sustainability by better targeting superannuation tax concessions to Australians who aspire to be self-sufficient in their retirement.

Recommendation 3

The committee recommends that, as part of the planned discussions leading to a White Paper on taxation reform in 2015, the federal government consider tax arrangements that improve affordability and increase the supply of housing.

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

The Government considers that the key to addressing housing affordability is to ensure that housing supply is better able to respond to increases in housing demand and is currently working with states and territories to address this. The Affordable Housing Working Group, established by Heads of Treasuries, is looking into ways to improve the supply and provision

Bridging our growing divide: inequality in Australia The extent of income inequality in Australia

of affordable housing through innovative financing models. At the Council of Federal Financial Relations Meeting on 2 December 2016, Commonwealth, state and territory Treasurers considered the report of the Affordable Housing Working Group and agreed to the report's recommendations, in particular the establishment of a bond aggregator taskforce. The taskforce will design a bond aggregator model and report to Heads of Treasuries by mid-2017. Treasurers have asked Heads of Treasuries to report back to the next Council meeting on potential options to improve housing supply and affordability.

Australian Government response to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report

Government response to the Coalition Senators ' recommendation

Recommendation 1

That the Senate implements the Government's agenda to build a strong and prosperous economy for the benefit of all Australians.

The Australian Government agrees with this recommendation. The Government notes the support of the majority of the Senate in passing budget repair measures that total more than $20 billion in the 45th Parliament, The Government has been pleased to work with the Parliament to achieve sensible, lasting reforms that create jobs and grow investment. In summary, the Government's actions to address inequality include:

Since the 2014-15 Budget, the Government has introduced two subsequent Budgets which introduced further measures to ensure that Australia's tax and welfare system are carefully calibrated to deliver help to those who need it most, as well as encourage the economic activity that is the basis for increasing the prosperity of all Australians.

These measures also address further recommendations of the committee:

The Government's innovative $752 million Youth Jobs PaTH Programme will help young job seekers to move off welfare and into employment.

— Changes to the Age Pension mean that from 1 January 2017, changes to the assets test will provide more support to people assessed under the assets test who do not own their home and those who have more modest assets.

— Reforms to superannuation will improve sustainability by better targeting superannuation tax concessions to hard-working Australians who aspire to be self-sufficient in their retirement. These reforms will better position the superannuation system to meet the key challenges over the rest of the twenty-first century, including the ageing of our population.

In relation to consultation with stakeholders on welfare measures, the Government continues to engage with relevant stakeholders to deliver lasting reforms that break the cycle of welfare dependency, give those who can work every opportunity to do so, and ensure help is given to those who need it.

The Government has also focused efforts on City Deals, including regional cities, working with local, state and territory governments to make cities more productive and liveable. These City Deals will address inequality in Australia by improving the infrastructure that enables Australians to have access to employment, health and education services, and affordable housing.

The Government looks forward to building on these reforms to deliver more jobs, higher earnings and sustained economic growth for the benefit of hard-working Australians and their families.

Australian Government response to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade report:

Food for thought: improving health and nutrition in the Indo-Pacific region

DECEMBER 2016

Government Response

Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

Inquiry into development partnerships in agriculture and agribusiness in promoting prosperity, reducing poverty and enhancing stability in the Indo-Pacific region

Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government:

Develop a stronger regional policy and funding focus under Australia's Official Development Assistance program on both nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive activities; and

Consider announcing Australia's new Indo-Pacific nutrition policy and funding focus at the forthcoming Nutrition for Growth Summit, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in the second half of 2016.

Response

Noted

The Australian Government's development policy, Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, enhancing stability provides the policy setting for Australia's nutrition investment under the aid program. Nutrition is addressed under both the 'agriculture, fisheries and water' and 'education and health' investment priority areas, recognising that good nutrition is a precondition of human development and economic growth.

Australia's aid program adopts a multi-sectoral approach to nutrition. Nutrition is integrated within health, agriculture, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education, social protection and humanitarian interventions, as reflected in Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) aid sector strategies. Practical guidance is provided for staff on how to design, implement, monitor and evaluate programs across multiple sectors for nutrition results through operational guidance notes and staff training. For example, the Strategy for Australia's aid investments in agriculture, fisheries and water (February 2015) is supported with an operational guidance note on Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture. This note supports DFAT activity managers to integrate nutrition considerations in agricultural programming. It provides step-by-step guidance from analysis, program design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation, with examples and links to further resources.

The current policy and guidance has resulted in a growing number of both nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive investments in the Indo-Pacific region. Some recent examples are as follows:

Australia is investing in the Pakistan Partnership for Improved Nutrition that enables Pakistan to scale-up and sustain an effective response to malnutrition

by supporting provincial governments to prepare and implement nutrition

plans, and provide nutrition services (such as nutrition supplements) that are known to reduce malnutrition in women and children.

Australia's Aid Investment Plan for Timor-Leste (2015-16 to 2018-19) prioritises a multi-sectoral approach to nutrition across investments in health, agriculture, market development, and water and sanitation. Under the Timor­Leste 'Farming for Prosperity Program' (TOMAK) technical support is being provided to farmers to grow more nutritious crops to improve health and food security, while increasing their capacity to effectively engage profitable export markets.

To strengthen multi-sectoral linkages, DFAT has recently committed to develop a research program supporting global engagement on women's economic empowerment that will include a focus on childcare standards and delivery of integrated health, nutrition and education by care providers. DFAT will continue to seek opportunities to strengthen its programming focus on nutrition in our region.

The latest Nutrition for Growth (N4G) event was held in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016. The Australian Government recognises the importance of global and regional fora, such as the N4G events, in generating consensus among like-minded donors to respond to the challenges of nutrition. The Government will continue to explore opportunities to build consensus around, and advocate for, improved nutrition policies, including through participation in fora such as the World Health Assembly and future Summits as appropriate. The Government continues to report on both nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive expenditure as reflected in the 2016 Global Nutrition Report.

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government:

n continue to support and scale up aid innovations aimed at improving nutrition outcomes, including through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's innovationXchange;

Give priority support to innovative aid partnerships and approaches that leverage private sector finance and expertise in support of improved nutrition outcomes; and

Focus the above efforts, in particular, on finding solutions that help address the 'double burden' of malnutrition and obesity in the Pacific region.

Response Supported

The Australian Government recognises that innovative approaches and partnerships are essential to address the challenge of malnutrition (both under and overnutrition) in our region. Australia's Official Development Assistance continues to support innovative investments in nutrition that leverage new technologies, approaches and partnerships, including with the private sector. This work is informed by research and learning relevant to country and regional contexts.

For example, in Timor-Leste the Australian Government is funding a pilot project, the Nutrition Collective Impact Program (HAMUTUK) that uses targeted messaging through mobile and wireless platforms to monitor and change nutrition behaviours. In addition, the Tongan First 1,000 Days health promotion program uses SMS

messaging and mobile applications to change nutrition behaviours among mothers and pregnant women, and supports the remote management, self-management and treatment of gestational diabetes mellitus. Australia's aid program will draw on lessons learned from these pilots and other research to inform future investments and will seek to bring successful innovations to scale.

In August 2016 the Government announced support for an innovative new partnership in Indonesia through the DFAT Business Partnerships Platform. This partnership aims to support mothers to improve feeding practices and child nutrition and is an opportunity for women entrepreneurs, namely private midwives, to grow small business as distributors of micronutrient powders.

DFAT's innovationXchange is focussed on improving nutrition outcomes and has commenced a global innovation challenge on improving health and nutrition called 'LAUNCH Food'. A challenge statement has been developed in consultation with Pacific communities, industry, academia, whole of government, indigenous and development experts. The challenge seeks food innovations that improve the supply of nutritious food and innovations that encourage people to make good food choices. Such innovations could include new food products, programs, technologies, business and delivery models, alternative models of production, financial instruments or new

communications and marketing approaches that have the potential to improve nutrition outcomes.

To generate ideas for development innovation from the Indo-Pacific region, DFAT partnered with the President's Office of Timor-Leste to execute a regional food innovation workshop. During the workshop, policy, business and development innovations were showcased, with a view to cross-fertilising learning. Thought leaders and social entrepreneurs from Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific also brainstormed new ideas potentially suitable as applications for LAUNCH Food.

DFAT's innovationXchange has made a commitment to pilot up to six innovations from LAUNCH Food. The process has attracted a network of over 100 companies, governments and organisations with the potential to attract finance beyond the Australian Government's contribution. USAID has already committed US$400,000 to this challenge.

The Australian Government has been proactive in refocusing its nutrition approach to take into account the double burden of under and overnutrition in the Pacific region. The Government will continue to work with Pacific Island countries in identifying culturally appropriate and innovative solutions, including through LAUNCH Food, to address this challenge.

Recommendation 3

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government commit to strengthening existing whole-of-government co-ordination on nutrition, including through:

Designating a central Australian Government 'DFAT point of contact' for all of Australia's international engagement on nutrition (including through Australia's aid program); and

Developing an intersectional strategy (e.g. engaging education, agriculture, health, women's empowerment, climate change, and credit support) to guide all of Australia's international policy and program engagement on nutrition, including both nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive investments under the Australian aid program.

Response

Partially supported

The Australian Government recognises the importance of effective whole-of­government co-ordination on matters of policy. Consistent with a whole-of­government approach to development, DFAT currently coordinates with other government departments for an integrated and collaborative approach to nutrition development under the aid program. This approach draws on the resources of several departments and agencies based on their comparative strengths and areas of expertise with each leading on matters within its area of responsibility. It is considered the most efficient means of drawing on each department and agency's resources. This also allows stakeholders to directly engage with technical experts on their specific areas of responsibility on nutrition rather than indirectly through a central point of contact. The Government agrees to seek opportunities to strengthen the existing whole-of-government co-ordination on nutrition but does not support designating a central Australian Government 'DFAT point of contact'.

As outlined in the response to Recommendation 1, Australia's 2014 development policy, Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, enhancing stability, and DFAT's aid sector strategies provide the policy settings for nutrition investments under Australia's aid program. These aid sector strategies were released during 2015 with additional guidance to DFAT staff provided through operational guidance notes. Guided by these policies, the Australian aid program adopts a multi-sectoral approach to responding to the double-burden of malnutrition, including in the health, education, agriculture, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and social protection sectors. The Government does not consider that an intersectional strategy would necessarily provide a higher level of priority, additional resourcing or benefit, to nutrition under the aid program and may disrupt effort already undertaken under the existing policy settings.

Recommendation 4

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider taking a leadership role in co-ordinating an effective donor response to the specific challenge posed by the health 'double burden' in the Pacific region, including through:

Developing strategies to combat malnutrition—both undernutrition and overnutrition—a high priority for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, in particular through regional fora such as the Pacific Islands Forum;

Lobbying strongly for Pacific Island countries to join the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, to help ensure that the region's 'double burden' becomes a priority in its forward agenda;

Commissioning a major 'stocktake' of nutrition interventions that are currently being pursued by lead aid donors and relevant international organisations in the Pacific region, with a view to assessing how future co­ordination and collaboration on nutrition issues between these key players could be improved and expanded;

Supporting innovative and effective public health education campaigns in Pacific Island countries including creative engagement of local media, to promote healthy dietary choices; and

Strengthening the evidence base to inform future policymaking by:

Driving regional efforts to improve the availability and use of reliable and timely data on relevant nutrition indicators;

Working to strengthen nutrition data collection and analytical capacity among partner countries in the region; and

Encouraging and supporting researchers across a range of disciplines to focus more on nutrition issues in the Pacific region.

Response

Partially supported

The Australian Government will continue efforts to support Pacific Island Countries in addressing the double burden of under and overnutrition in the region. The Government draws on Australia's unique position as the major donor to foster collaboration at a country and regional level to ensure our investments are effective and complement the efforts of other donors. This includes support to the implementation of the Pacific Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) Roadmap which was endorsed by Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers and Pacific Health Ministers in 2014. A key strategy of the Roadmap is to reduce the consumption of unhealthy food and drinks linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other NCDs through targeted taxes, better regulation and improved public understanding of drivers of NCDs.

Australia collaborates with key development partners such as the Pacific Community, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Asian Development Bank and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on nutrition, health, education, water and sanitation, agriculture and fisheries in the Pacific—each taking the lead on different aspects of development to address the challenges which cannot be managed by any one partner. For example, FAO is coordinating development of a Global Action Plan for accelerated action to address food and nutrition challenges facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS)—in response to adoption of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (S.A.M.O.A.) pathway at Apia in September 2014.

As a member of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, the Australian Government is supportive of Pacific Island Countries joining the movement where it aligns with a country's development priorities, resources and capacity. For example, Australia supported Papua New Guinea (PNG) to officially join the SUN Movement in April 2016 in alignment with its nutrition strategy.

Australia supports Pacific Island Countries to implement effective public health education campaigns. For example, in Solomon Islands, Australia's assistance to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services includes nutrition training for health workers and health promotion campaigns. In Tonga, the First 1000 Days program provides public outreach that includes breast feeding, nutrition and physical activity counselling. The LAUNCH Food challenge should also stimulate innovative ideas for public health education campaigns to promote healthy food choices in the Pacific.

The Australian Government recognises the importance of reliable and timely data to support evidence-based decision-making and will continue to support activities to strengthen the evidence base for nutrition responses in the Pacific. For example, Australia provides bilateral program support for health information systems in Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Samoa. In Samoa, Australia funded a Demographic Health Survey module on child under-nutrition (2014) which was the first national survey on child under-nutrition in Samoa since 1999. The Australian Government's innovative partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies under the Data for Health initiative is working in both PNG and the Solomon Islands to improve data collection and to help governments use data to improve the targeting of health services. Regionally, Australia is supporting the development of the Healthy Islands

Monitoring Framework for reporting to the Pacific Health Ministers on progress towards the Pacific's Healthy Islands Vision. This includes nutrition indicators and is aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Australian Government Response to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee Report

Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (2015 Budget Measures) Bill 2015 — Schedule 2.

January 2017

PREFACE

The Government welcomes the opportunity to provide a response to the Senate Inquiry Report on the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (2015 Budget Measures) Bill 2015 — Schedule 2, and acknowledges the useful work and recommendations of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee in conducting this Inquiry.

In terms of responding to the recommendations, the following responses have been used throughout this document.

Response

Definition

Agreed

The Government agrees to the recommendation

Agreed in principle

The Government agrees with the underlying principle of the recommendation but has outlined an alternate approach to what has been recommended

Partly agreed

The Government agrees with one part of the recommendation but not the remainder of the recommendation

Not agreed

The Government does not agree with the recommendation

Noted

The Government notes the intent of the recommendation

Not applicable

Government action on the recommendation is no longer required

Recommendation 1

2.38 Subject to the satisfactory completion of the alternate dispute resolution (ADR) trial in NSW and the ACT, the committee recommends that ADR be extended to all other states and territories.

Response: Agreed.

The national roll-out of ADR at the Veterans' Review Board has commenced. ADR has continued in the NSW / ACT registry and is available for all applications lodged in Victoria or Tasmania on or after 30 September 2016. It will be progressively rolled out to other registries starting in early 2017.

Recommendation 2

2.39 The committee recommends that the Explanatory Memorandum be amended to remove any confusion or misunderstanding as to how the single review pathway will function.

Response: Agreed.

This recommendation was actioned, with changes to the Explanatory Memorandum drafted for this Bill as recommended.

Recommendation 3

2.40 The committee recommends that Schedule 2 of the bill be re-referred to the committee for further consideration.

Response: Not applicable.

A Government amendment was made to remove Schedule 2 to the Bill and the amended Bill was passed and received Royal Assent on 11 December 2015.

The Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (2015 Budget Measures) Act 2015 contained only 2 schedules—Amendments to the Veterans' Vocational Rehabilitation Scheme and the regulation making power to allow for the reinternment of dependants buried at Terendak military Cemetery in Malaysia.

The Government re-introduced legislation to give effect to the single appeal pathway in the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Single Appeal Path) Bill 2016 which was passed by the House of Representatives on 2 March 2016, and introduced to the Senate the next day. That Bill lapsed with the prorogation of Parliament on 15 April 2016.

Legislation to give effect to the single appeal pathway was introduced again on 31 August 2016, as Schedule 24 to the Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016, which was passed by the Senate on 15 September 2016 and received Royal Assent on 16 September 2016.