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Thursday, 23 June 2011
Page: 3775

Senator ARBIB (New South WalesMinister for Sport, Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development and Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness) (17:05): I thank senators for their comments. I thank coalition senators and coalition members of the other place for their support for this bill.

The bill introduces a number of 2011-12 budget measures and one non-budget amendment. This legislation was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday—and again I thank the opposition for their support. The government is a strong supporter of the family payment system and has added to the system since coming to government: through the 50 per cent childcare rebate; Australia's first national paid parental leave scheme; the education tax refund, which in this budget includes school uniforms from 1 July; and, in this year's budget, substantial increases to family payments for families with older teenagers in secondary education. The government also believes in a sustainable and targeted family payment system that will continue to support Australian families for many years to come.

This bill delivers a number of measures to help make the family payment system more sustainable for the long term. The first measure lowers the maximum child age of eligibility for family tax benefit part A from 24 to 21 from 1 July 2012. This change will bring family tax benefit part A into line with the reduction in the youth allowance age of independence from 1 July 2012. This will ensure that the family payment system continues to support families while the dependent children are in study or training, while recognising that young people aged 22 and over are considered independent. The second measure builds on reforms announced in the 2009-10 budget that better targeted the family payment system to focus on low- and middle-income families. In the 2009-10 budget, indexation on the upper income limits for family tax benefit parts A and B and the baby bonus was paused. This bill will extend indexation pauses on higher income limits for some family assistance payments for a further two years. In addition, indexation of the paid parental leave income limit will not commence until 1 July 2014.

Under the third measure, indexation of family tax benefit end of year supplements will also be paused for three years, from 1 July 2011. This will keep the end of year supplements at their current level for the next three entitlement years. The current supplement amounts are $726.35 per child for family tax benefit part A and $354.05 per family for family tax benefit part B.

The bill also introduces a 2010-11 budget measure which reforms assessments for the disability support pension. It has been brought forward as part of the 2011-12 budget to start on 3 September 2011 rather than 1 January 2012. The new assessment procedure for the disability support pension will help people with disabilities return to the workforce, wherever possible, by focusing on their ability rather than their disability. The new assessment procedure will require most people to have tested their future work capacity by participating in training or work related activities in order to be qualified for the disability support pension. This require­ment will not apply to people with a severe impairment. People with a severe disability or illness who are clearly unable to work will be fast-tracked so that they receive financial support more quickly and will not need to have participated in a program of support.

The final 2011-12 budget measure contained in this bill is an amendment that enables the extension of the income management element of the Cape York welfare reform trial and is a partnership between the communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge, the Aust­ralian government, the Queensland govern­ment and the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership. The Queensland government is currently leading a process of consultation with Cape York communities in relation to a proposed extension of the trial for an additional year, to 1 January 2013. In the 2011-12 budget, the Australian government provided $16.1 million for this extension.

While these consultations take place, the government is moving to put in place the amendments required to Commonwealth legislation to enable any extension of the trial. It is important to proceed with these enabling legislative changes so that any extension of the trial is not delayed and the four Cape York communities are not adversely affected. Changes to Queensland government legislation would also be required in order for the trial to be extended.

This bill also includes a minor non-budget measure which clarifies that the Public Works Committee Act 1969 does not apply to Aboriginal land trusts established in the Northern Territory under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Land trusts were never intended to be Commonwealth authorities to which the Public Works Committee Act applies, and this amendment puts that position beyond doubt.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.