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STANDING COMMITTEE ON COMMUNITY AFFAIRS
28/04/2009
Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (2008 Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2009

CHAIR —I welcome officers from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided. As departmental officers you will not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy, although this does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policy or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted. We have not got a submission from you. Has anyone from the department been delegated to make an opening statement?

Mr Southwell —No.

CHAIR —Okay. We will go to questions. You have heard the previous witnesses. We will have some general questions from Senator Siewert and Senator Humphries first and then we will make sure that these questions are given.

Senator SIEWERT —I am wondering if we could just knock off that question about schedule 1. The National Welfare Rights Network at the bottom of page 2 of their submission say that they hope that you are not removing the option of going for a past period claim through Centrelink or Medicare.

Mr Southwell —No, there will still be the option of making past period claims or lump sum claims through Centrelink or Medicare.

CHAIR —Maybe we will keep on with that part of the bill, the family payments area. I know there will be questions on the CDEP, but if senators have questions on the first part of the bill we will do that first. Mr Southwell, we asked the Welfare Rights Network whether they had asked you about that issue and they said they had not. Have you had questions from organisations such as the National Welfare Rights Network on the proposed changes that you have had to respond to in the last couple of months?

Mr Southwell —In relation to FTB?

CHAIR —Yes.

Mr Southwell —Not that I am aware of. There was a meeting with Welfare Rights fairly recently, I understand, but no FTB questions were relayed on to us.

CHAIR —Okay, I was just interested in that.

Senator SIEWERT —In that case, I have finished with schedule 1. I want to move on to schedule 2, which is access to the external appeal rights.

CHAIR —Senator Humphries, do you have anything on schedule 1?

Senator HUMPHRIES —No.

CHAIR —You may have seen from the submissions that there was not a great deal of questioning on that area. We will move on to the Indigenous areas now. The first area of questions is around appeal changes.

Senator SIEWERT —All the submissions that we have had that have made comment on that have basically said that they think it is good that in principle they have appeal rights but in effect it does not actually mean a lot. What is your response? That is my reading of it, too. I would be delighted if in fact we were all wrong.

Mr Matthews —In general, the legislation reflects the government statement of 23 October, where it effectively made two statements, one of which was to restore appeal rights, which had come up in a number of sources. That is really what this legislation does: it restores appeal rights in relation to the legislation as it currently stands. Obviously that then means that the appeal rights relate to the conditions that are set up in the existing legislation. The amounts that are appealable are effectively around the exemptions policy—the things where there is actual decision making by Centrelink or by the delegate with the authority to make those decisions set out in the legislation. That is really around things such as the exemptions. Hypothetically, somebody may appeal, for example, their allocations at Centrelink—how they have actually nominated their money to be set up. There are other elements such as—

Senator SIEWERT —Sorry, can I to stop you there. I thought that decisions about allocation of quarantined money were part of a process of agreement anyway.

Mr Matthews —It is, generally, but, hypothetically, if there were some level of dispute then potentially somebody could appeal through that process. Given the way that it has been set up, the implementation and the fact that it has tried to be done as collaboratively as possible with the person, we would not really expect there would be many cases where anybody would want to do that. We want to get a higher level of involvement from the person about where their money is going. That is part of the intention and what we are trying to get out of it. But, potentially, you could get an appeal.

The other main area is really around the residual funds, where somebody is exiting the scheme and has funds, where there is some decision making. There are elements where a person may have some reason to appeal. But in terms of the point they are making around, ‘Is the person subject to income management or not?’ obviously where you have a scheme where it is universal, there is not a lot of decision making around that element.

Senator SIEWERT —Okay. Thank you.

Mr Southwell —Madam Chair, are there likely to be more questions on schedule 1?

CHAIR —I do not believe so, Mr Southwell.

Mr Southwell —May we be excused?

CHAIR —Certainly, yes. There will not be now! If there are, they will be put on notice.

Senator SIEWERT —Everyone seems happy.

CHAIR —Mr Matthews, is there any possible way of getting something from the department which talks about what this area of appeal could cover—as we did not have a submission? Questions were raised a few times about the issues this could cover. Is there any way we could get something from the department—

Mr Matthews —We can take that on notice?

CHAIR —that we would be able to look at in terms of the whole legislation: if it were introduced, what kinds of areas would be appealable? I think that would be of interest to the committee.

Mr Matthews —We will take it back to our legal people. I would imagine that that is something that would be possible.

CHAIR —Thank you. Anything else on appeals, Senator Siewert?

Senator SIEWERT —The National Welfare Rights Network in its submission at 3.2.b says:

It remains unclear the extent to which this shortcoming could be remedied through the extension of external rights of appeal.

Sorry, that sentence relates to the previous issue.

There is also a real issue as to whether the jurisdiction of the SSAT or AAT would extend to reviewing decisions made by the Minister.

Mr Matthews —In general, policy wise, at the moment the only ministerial exemptions we have are the classes of exemptions that have been set up broadly in three categories: people who have moved into the community to assist with the intervention; the students who are being paid at a living away from home rate; and students whose payment is being made to a third party. So it exempts those people from income maintenance. That is a ministerial decision that has been made by legislative instrument. In general, whilst the legislation provides capacity for it, we do not envisage the minister making individual determinations. There have been no cases at this point where the minister has decided to name by legislative instruments person X to be exempted. We do not envisage that will be done, although it is a residual power. If that were to be used by the minister and somebody wished to appeal it, then normally the course for reviewing ministerial decisions is through ADJR. A person could seek for that to be reviewed by the SSAT. The SSAT may consider that or it may not. That would be something that would need to be considered by the SSAT.

Senator SIEWERT —Okay. You cannot tell us whether they would or would not?

Mr Matthews —It is a little bit vague. It is something about the way the Social Security Act works. In general, as a starting point, we do not envisage that the minister will be making individual determinations. If there were to be an individual exemption, generally we would see it through the minister making legislative instruments on classes of individuals, such as the three that exist at the moment. That is the normal way that it is done.

Senator SIEWERT —Thank you. I do not having more questions on that.

Senator HUMPHRIES —Just to clarify the last answer you gave, Mr Matthews, would a decision by the minister on a class be appealable by an individual as a member of that class?

Mr Matthews —No, the decision of the minister to make a legislative instrument that sets up a regime—say, for example, with the students exempting those classes of people—would not be something that the SSAT would normally get involved in as to whether the minister had made the right instrument or structured at the right way. The administration of that by Centrelink then potentially could be appealed. If, for example, there was a student who thought they would be subject to that class but the decision of Centrelink was not to, then that went through the ARO process and they were still unsatisfied with that, they could then take that through to the SSAT and ultimately the AAT.

Senator HUMPHRIES —It must be rare for the situation to arise where a minister made a decision about an individual that might be appealable under the regime.

Mr Matthews —There has not been a case to date.

Senator HUMPHRIES —No, okay.

Senator SIEWERT —I have one more question on the point that NAAJA raised in their submission, which was: this is implementing one of the recommendations of the board; what about the others? I suspect I know the answer, but I will ask it anyway.

Mr Matthews —I think you do know the answer: it is a matter for government, basically—sorry.

Senator SIEWERT —I thought I would get it on the record.

CHAIR —On the general appeals issue, Mr Matthews, we have heard evidence that talks about the very low level of appeals that occur anyway from the Aboriginal community and in particular the Northern Territory community, where most of this legislation would apply. Does the department have any process in place—through Centrelink or yourselves in terms of the joint responsibility—addressing that issue, which I know is very longstanding but nonetheless has been raised by three of the witnesses with a concern about this particular element of the legislation?

Mr Matthews —I probably cannot comment in terms of the overarching appeal across all of the social security law. It goes well beyond the area in which I work. I can probably answer about what we will do in the income management regime and these particular appeal rights to assist people to understand that there is this capacity.

One of the things we have got through income management is that Centrelink staff visit communities quite regularly. They go out with a remote visiting team consisting of a few members, generally with interpreters, on average between every two and five weeks. The average is about three weeks. It is sometimes longer; it is sometimes shorter. But, generally speaking, it is reasonably quite frequent. When the legislation is passed, we will be using that method to communicate this particular change to people. We will also provide information through the government business manager network and the ICC network. So we will be undertaking some things to ensure that people in the communities are aware of their rights through that process. Centrelink also has agents in the communities, and we will obviously be making sure that they have information to assist people in becoming aware of their capacity to appeal.

Senator SIEWERT —I will now move to the other schedule—CDEP, which has had the most comment made about it. Ms Board and Mr Doman, I do not think either of you were here when Professor Altman was talking about CDEP, although you will have seen his submission. He made a comment both in his submission and before the committee about a lack of access to information and to the figures for how many people we are talking about for a start. Is it possible to get up-to-date figures for the number of people who are on CDEP and whether they are non-remote—that is, more regional? How many people are going to go off CDEP as of 1 July 2009? How many people will stay on it? How many people are we talking about being grandfathered? Is it possible to get that information?

Ms Board —Yes, it is. We do provide information to CAEPR. We did that a few weeks ago. We cannot always answer some of the data questions because it is apples and oranges in the way in which data is classified. But certainly, we have been providing information to CAEPR about actual figures. Do you want some of those figures now?

Senator SIEWERT —It would be helpful to have them now.

CHAIR —Yes, I think that would be very useful.

Senator SIEWERT —I am very reluctant to take up too much time, but the figures that I just asked for would be very useful.

Mr Doman —There are currently 17,319 CDE P participants, and 73 per cent of those are in remote areas. That is approximately 12,643. From the changes, approximately 5,000 would cease in the locations where CDEP will no longer be.

Senator SIEWERT —There are 5,000 as of the middle of this year?

Mr Doman —Yes, from 30 June.

CHAIR —Your area maintains those figures now?

Mr Doman —Yes.

CHAIR —So, in terms of the collation of data and public figures, it is your area in FaHCSIA that is responsible for that?

Ms Board —Yes.

Senator SIEWERT —Is it possible to get those figures broken down into regions? For example, how many are in the Northern Territory? How many are in northern Western Australia?

Mr Doman —Yes, we can do that. I do not think we can do it now, but we can get that information to you.

Senator SIEWERT —If you could give that to us regionally, that would be good.

Mr Doman —I have some figures for the Northern Territory. At 11 February, 5,689 were in the Territory.

Senator SIEWERT —How many of those will finish on 1 July?

Ms Board —None. It will all remain the same.

Senator SIEWERT —So they are all going to be counted as remote in the NT?

Ms Board —In the Northern Territory, yes. There are no changes in the Territory.

Senator SIEWERT —If you could provide the committee with figures for the rest of the spread of CDEP by region for those people who are going to come off it by 1 July and also for the 12,643, that would be appreciated.

Ms Board —Certainly.

Senator SIEWERT —Thank you.

CHAIR —Senator Siewert, the other thing Professor Altman was asking for was information about why people drop off.

Senator SIEWERT —Yes.

CHAIR —Is there any way that that data is collected? His point, and you will be able to read the Hansard, was that a certain figure was given 12 months ago as the number of people on CDEP. The current figure is 17,000, and he has concerns about whether that does actually reflect everybody on CDEP. One of the big issues is finding out why they are no longer on CDEP—whether they have got employment, dropped out of the system, gone on to a welfare payment or left they area. It was about tracing that form of data. Is that available through your database?

Mr Doman —Yes, some of that is available through ‘exit reasons’, which are put in the system when someone leaves. So, provided they have given a reason for why they left—

CHAIR —And we can get that?

Mr Doman —You could, yes. We could break that down.

CHAIR —That would be very useful.

Ms Board —The other information about CDEP which I think is of note is that there is a very high churn factor. I think something like 50 per cent of CDEP participants move in and out of CDEP. In terms of actual data, where people have moved from the urban and regional reform measure, which occurred 1 July 2007, DEEWR has actually tracked what has happened to those people who, through the reform process, moved off. Very often—

Senator SIEWERT —Did you say they have?

Ms Board —Yes, they have. Very often, people leave CDEP for a number of reasons, one of which is that they have found employment, they have moved somewhere else or they have moved on to income support. So we can probably get some information about those who have moved back into income support, but, once people have left a CDEP provider, it is very hard for us to track them.

Senator SIEWERT —That leads me to another set of questions. I realise you are not from DEEWR, so you may have to take these on notice, but it has to do with an issue that we were talking about before—and I think you were here for part of that discussion—which is, under the changes to CDEP, the number of people who move on to income support and then get caught up in the new compliance regime. I am wondering whether you have looked at that. I am aware that the government has put in place some measures to assist people in transition. But have you looked at how many people you anticipate are going to be caught up in the new compliance processes?

Mr Doman —From the CDEP point of view, that is difficult to determine because it will only be the new participants, those commencing after 1 July, who will be on income support. The continuing participants will remain on CDEP wages, so they will not have those compliance issues.

Senator SIEWERT —And at the moment you have got 5,000-odd that are going to be—

Ms Board —In the Territory.

Senator SIEWERT —You have got approximately 5,000 people who are coming off CDEP who will then be going on to income support—Newstart, basically.

Ms Board —Those who are in CDEP on 30 June will be considered to be grandfathered participants, so they will remain on CDEP wages for two and a bit years. So we are anticipating—

0Senator Humphries interjecting

Ms Board —Unless they have a two-week break that is not allowed. So those people who are on CDEP as of 30 June in areas where CDEP will continue will be on CDEP wages for two years.

Senator SIEWERT —Yes; they are grandfathered—but there is a group that is not grandfathered, isn’t there?

Ms Board —We are anticipating a small percentage of people on CDEP from 1 July will be new participants. Mostly they will be those people who have been grandfathered for a foreseeable amount of time—two years.

Senator SIEWERT —Okay.

Ms Board —So we are undertaking information sessions just to ensure that people are aware of the consequences if they are not on CDEP up to 30 June, and obviously we would expect the CDEP providers to give information to new participants as well as those who are grandfathered, and make the rules very explicit. The job services providers will also need to give information to new participants in particular about the compliance measures.

Senator SIEWERT —Okay. Have you done any work with DEEWR about how you are going to keep people in? You are going to have people there who are not used to dealing with compliance regimes, under the old or the new provisions under the employment reform process. Are you working with DEEWR to work out how you are going to forestall some of the problems that may occur?

Ms Board —Certainly. Just to clarify, with the current CDEP—and the rules will continue for those who are grandfathered—there are compliance rules in relation to no work, no pay. So people who are currently on CDEP are used to that regime. We are certainly working closely with DEEWR around the development of service level agreements that will occur between the job service provider and the CDEP provider, where it will be spelt out how both organisations are going to work together to make sure they provide the best possible service to the Indigenous job seeker. So a lot of that kind of information will be captured in terms of how they will relate to each other. As I said, we have been working closely with Centrelink about the information that goes to participants.

CHAIR —Before we run out of time, I have to ask those questions that NAAJA asked us to ask. They are talking about the grandfathering arrangements and the issue around the break of no more than two consecutive weeks. Their questions are: what is the source of power that makes this rule? What is the status of this rule? How will approved leave be defined? Will approved leave include leave without pay? Will the decision to determine whether or not leave is approved be open to review?

Mr Doman —Most of the rules around this reflect what is currently in place for a CDEP participant. If they are absent for a period exceeding two weeks and they have not taken approved leave, they are exited from the CDEP, so they are no longer eligible for CDEP, and potentially they would need to go back on income support or reapply back to CDEP.

CHAIR —So that is the current rule?

Mr Doman —That is the current rule.

CHAIR —There is nothing different?

Mr Doman —Basically what we are proposing under the new rule is that they will still continue under CDEP, but if they do not work for two weeks and they have not provided an explanation or it has been paid leave then they would be exited and they would not be able to come back on CDEP.

Senator SIEWERT —Who makes that decision?

Mr Doman —The CDEP provider would make that decision. They would also make the decisions around what constitutes paid leave and what does not. They are required to meet minimum standards. For example, they may have more generous cultural leave and things like that. They also would have the ability to negotiate with participants. If, perhaps, they needed time off they could make up the time at another stage. We basically also have to be aware that the Commonwealth is funding the CDEP provider based on the number of people they are paying CDEP wages to. If we allow a break, getting beyond the two weeks, you are getting into a situation where Commonwealth money is being paid to a provider who does not have a use for it—it is not being used for a significant purpose—which is why it would be very difficult to have 13 weeks or something like that. But basically the rule is the same as it is now for a current participant.

CHAIR —So you are using the same rules you have now, but the point here is that they are not allowed to return. If they are suspended or terminated from CDEP they can reapply.

Mr Doman —Currently, yes, they can reapply.

CHAIR —Under this provision they cannot.

Mr Doman —No, under this provision they would need income support and would need a referral to CDEP.

Ms Board —So they could be referred back to CDEP but they would be on income support.

CHAIR —Yes, that is the point. Then, presumably, they just get treated the same as a new participant.

Mr Doman —Yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES —I turn to the National Partnership on Indigenous Economic Participation, which COAG is setting up for 13,000 Indigenous Australian jobs for four years. According to Professor Altman this arrangement begins on 1 July this year. He said at the time of his submission that we have not seen details of these sorts of jobs—where they will be and so forth. Can you give me an idea of when we expect to see them and how they will be rolled out?

Ms Board —Currently FaHCSIA is undertaking a jobs audit with all the CDEP providers to identify which jobs are currently being subsidised through CDEP wages. Part of that audit process will then go back to DEEWR, who will then negotiate with the various Australian government agencies to identify which of those current CDEP subsidised jobs should be transitioned into fully-paid positions. We expect that that process will take until around May-June and that the positions will commence on 1 July. There will be up to 2,000 jobs, primarily in remote areas.

Senator HUMPHRIES —So a person in a CDEP position could be told around 1 July, ‘Your position is now a full-time, paid position.’ Presumably the nature of the job might change as part of that process and potentially the conditions would be adjusted. You would not expect there to be 13,000 jobs as of that time, would you? I assume those 13,000 jobs will be phased over a period of time.

Ms Board —All I can talk to are the 2,000 jobs that were part of the jobs conversion package. I cannot comment on the other positions. For the 2,000 government funded positions, we will rely on the organisation offering them to Indigenous people. Where possible, we hope the CDEP participant who has been sitting in a job would move into that job.

Senator HUMPHRIES —A number of witnesses today have argued that a real job is better than a CDEP position—and I think we would all accept that—but they have suggested that we need a community-by-community assessment of which jobs can be converted and which ones cannot be and therefore should be retained under the CDEP model. It is not clear to me from what you have been able to describe of this process under the Indigenous Economic Participation National Partnership that we are going to get that kind of community-by-community situation arising. It sounds a bit more like department by department identifying positions that can be converted into real employment. Is that really based around what is possible within individual communities? Is it possible that you will end up, for example, with successful Indigenous enterprises in some communities simply collapsing because real jobs are not created to keep them going? Could the lifeblood of some small communities simply disappear because this process will not deliver some alternative to the CDEP support which has kept those sorts of enterprises on their feet?

Ms Board —Where CDEP will continue, there are a number of options for how we match expectations around employment. Firstly, each of the funding agreements will be negotiated with the provider, whereby we will set particular targets. Those will be based on knowledge of the local employment opportunities. In particular, we will focus on how we can ensure through the work readiness program that people are properly able to move into jobs when they become available. That is the first thing. We will negotiate that through contracts. Secondly, we will expect the provider to develop community plans, where they will look at employment opportunities as well as ways in which people can get proper work experience. In many cases that would be through a social enterprise that is functioning in that community. Whilst there may not be actual paid jobs in those social enterprises, there will be nothing to stop a CDEP provider setting up a work experience or a host employment opportunity in that social enterprise because that will give a person the opportunity to experience working and to get those skills.

Senator HUMPHRIES —My question really is this. Is that exercise going to be done on a community-by-community basis? Will it be done on the basis of program by program or department by department? How can we be sure that this process will not leave some communities with effectively no support for an existing successful enterprise which is built on CDEP?

—It would be negotiated through our agreement with the provider. As well as that we would hope that the CDEP provider would link into the Indigenous employment strategy that will be developed by the Job Services provider. They would need to work seamlessly together. So we are going to see a much greater effort in looking at what the opportunities are, what the current vacancies are and what is stopping people moving into those positions. We will obviously be negotiating closely with DEEWR in terms of their agreement managers working closely with the Job Services providers and likewise with our own people making sure that where there are opportunities we are actually ensuring that they are getting the proper support that is needed.

Senator HUMPHRIES —What you are saying, in summary, really is that you think a lot of the good that was done by successful CDEP programs around the country can be sustained but it is really a matter of the execution of this new program. There are a lot of departments to come together to work effectively together to make sure that we preserve the best of what is in operation at the moment.

Ms Board —That is right. As well as CDEP and the Indigenous Employment Program, there is Indigenous Business Australia. There are other programs available to assist Indigenous small business. But we are mindful that social enterprises in many locations are the centre of the particular community and we would hope that, through the development of community plans, we will be able to link people into those programs.

Senator HUMPHRIES —When we want to follow how this is going over the next few years, can we do that through the FaHCSIA estimates or do we need to be asking questions in all of the estimates committees which cover different departments where there are currently programs that might be relevant, such as that for DEEWR? Where can we keep track of what is going on? Which committee or committees do we have to be doing this through?

Ms Board —I think in the main it will be through DEEWR because they are responsible for Indigenous job seekers and CDEP is one place where job seekers can be referred to. We will certainly be able to give information around the targets that we have set in relation to training targets and employment targets. But I guess in the first instance it will be DEEWR as well as ourselves.

Senator HUMPHRIES —That presents a problem because there are two different committees there. I can see us asking a question in one committee and being told, ‘No, go and ask the question in the other committee.’

CHAIR —It has been an ongoing issue with CDEP for everyone for the last few years.

Senator HUMPHRIES —Okay. I am happy, thank you.

Senator SIEWERT —I want to go back to an issue, and if I am confused please correct me; I probably am confused.

CHAIR —That is self-admitted.

Senator SIEWERT —Yes. We have got CDEPs continuing in remote areas—and we have established how many people that is going to affect—CDEPs not continuing in non-remote areas and, as I understand it, we have got 5,000 people coming out.

Ms Board —In the non-remote areas?

Senator SIEWERT —In the non-remote areas. So those 5,000 people are not being grandfathered?

Mr Doman —Technically they will be grandfathered but CDEP will not be available in the locations where they are. But if within two weeks from 30 June they move to an area where CDEP is available they would keep their grandfathered status. But we do not expect that to happen to a large degree.

Senator SIEWERT —So you have got a group of 5,000 people who are not being grandfathered for CDEP, so they will come out of this system and they will go on income support.

Ms Board —Some will go on income support.

Senator SIEWERT —How many?

Ms Board —At this stage we do not have any data on how many we expect. That will depend on whether or not they were able to move into employment. Many CDEP participants are currently on host employment and, as part of the change management process, our FaHCSIA people are working with providers to see how many of those jobs can be converted into real jobs as well as apprenticeships.

Senator SIEWERT —This goes back to Senator Humphries’ question. So 1 July is when they will find out whether they have got real jobs?

Ms Board —The jobs conversion is mainly happening in remote areas, not in non-remote areas.

Senator SIEWERT —That is what I thought.

Ms Board —But we are hoping that through the change management process those jobs that are identified can be moved into other jobs so that will happen. That is not through the jobs package. It happens because there happens to be a job available for that person.

Senator SIEWERT —When will we know how many of those 5,000 have gone on other forms of income support?

Mr Doman —It would be a gradual process. Of course, the locations where CDEP will no longer exist are already aware of that and they know the program is not continuing, so there would be people moving into employment and other programs now. I mentioned the exit reasons—again, that is the sort of information we would collect, so it would be possible at any given time to pull the data and say what has happened to the people who have moved from CDEP in those areas.

Senator SIEWERT —Basically, there are up to 5,000 who, as of 1 July this year, will in fact be moving out of CDEP onto income support. So, not in two years time but in two months time, they will be running smack-bang into the new compliance regime.

Mr Doman —No, because they may move into employment before that time.

Senator SIEWERT —I said up to 5,000; we do not know how many.

Ms Board —No, we will not know until—

Senator SIEWERT —So the question I asked before is entirely relevant. You cannot tell me how many, but there is a cohort of people who, as of 1 July, will be moving onto income support. I think that in our wildest expectations, as much as I would like to think otherwise, those 5,000 people are not going to move into employment—not in the current economic circumstances. So you do have a cohort of up to 5,000 people that will be going onto income support and running into the new compliance regime.

Ms Board —Where CDEP is ceasing, yes. But we are hopeful that some will move into employment or into apprenticeships.

Senator SIEWERT —I understand that, and I am hopeful too, but I am also a realist. These people, who are some of our most vulnerable job seekers, are going to find it exceedingly hard to get a job in the current economic climate, so they are likely to need extra support to deal with the new compliance regime and employment services.

Ms Board —The new job services providers have been invited along to the information sessions that are being held at the moment with Centrelink and DEWR to ensure that the providers make very early contact with people who may become clients of Job Services Australia. So we are very mindful that we prepare people for that eventuality.

Senator SIEWERT —Again I do not know if this is your area, so I may have to ask Centrelink directly—we are putting some questions to Centrelink, aren’t we?

CHAIR —Yes, we are.

Senator SIEWERT —Along with the information you are already providing us, would you tell us the number of Aboriginal people who have a recent history of being breached for noncompliance in those regions that were talking about where CDEP will longer exist. I would like to cross-reference Indigenous experience with the system in those areas where we are seeing CDEP being taken away.

Ms Board —That is a question for Centrelink.

Senator SIEWERT —We will ask Centrelink.

CHAIR —Regarding the questions from NAAJA, I know we gave the first couple; I am not sure if we got the last few—about how approved leave will be defined and those things. Would you mind looking at those and answering them on notice? I think it would be easiest to have them in written form.

Ms Board —Yes.

CHAIR —That would be good. I thank the officers of the department very much. We do appreciate your time. That brings us to the end of our hearing on the Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (2008 Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2009. A number of questions have been put on notice. We will clarify those with the secretariat today and tomorrow and get them to you as quickly as possible. Thank you very much.

Committee adjourned at 3.14 pm