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Community Affairs Legislation Committee
Department of Social Services

Department of Social Services


CHAIR: I welcome Senator Mitch Fifield, the Minister for Communications and the Minister for the Arts, representing the Minister for Social Services; and officers of the Department of Social Services. Minister, would you like to make an opening statement?

Senator Fifield: No, thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: We will now go to questions. Who would like to kick us off? Senator Moore.

Senator MOORE: Senator Siewert and I will be playing tag. We are in the same areas. Good morning gentlemen. I would like to start with some questions around welfare spending and also around the issues of some of the grant. I do not intend to go into a great deal of detail on grants, you will be very relieved to know. There will be specific questions in the program areas. Everyone is smiling.

My first question is around commitments of funding. In the 2015-16 budget the government committed $55.6 million in funding to frontline and community services and a further $15.6 million was committed in the 2015-16 MYEFO. Can we get a profile of the commitment over the forward estimates?

Mr Pratt : Can I say that, yes, we are delighted to hear that we are not going to be required to spend too much time on grants.

Senator MOORE: I cannot guarantee that.

Mr Pratt : Aspirationally, that sounds good. We will see what we can provide.

Ms Bennett : It is referenced in the MYEFO statement on page 212. It basically says that the government will provide an additional $15.9 million over two years from 2015-16 to ensure the continuity of frontline services to be funded, including children, parenting, emergency relief and transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Senator MOORE: The $15.9 million is over two years?

Ms Bennett : This measure relates to the additional funding that was available for the gaps. It is the way it has been calculated over from one budget to another. That is the simplest explanation of what this is about.

Senator MOORE: That covers the $55.6 million that was given in 2015-16, also for the gap process. It is $55.6 million in the 2015-16 and then the MYEFO is $15.9 million.

Ms Bennett : The $55.6 million and the 2015-16 budget papers is made up of two components. There was the bridging funding that extended the contracts and there was $29.6 million that financial year for the service gap. This is the other component that is related to the service gaps spread into the next financial year.

Senator MOORE: This is the same part of the process of the service gaps that we discussed last time. How much of the funding has now been allocated?

Dr Reddel : Approximately $48 million has been allocated. I think we discussed that at the last estimates.

Senator MOORE: We did. We are going over it because we are very interested in it. And the allocation that is clearly seen in the budget papers? Can we see where that has been allocated?

Ms Bennett : It is about how the money is reflected in the expenditure pattern. Some of it is expended last year and allocated last year. Some of that may have been entered into agreements but not been spent this year. So it is really how it is reflected in the budget of expenditure, but it is still the total amount that we discussed at the last estimates and just reflects at what point of which financial year expenditure is expected to occur.

Senator MOORE: Can we see exactly where that money has been spent?

Dr Reddel : In terms of those, we have provided you with a list of the organisations that have been funded under the service gap funding.

Senator MOORE: And there is no change to the list that we got?

Dr Reddel : There has not been to date any additional service gap funding provided to fund additional organisations.

Senator MOORE: Can you go over with us the process that was used to determine how to find the gaps and how to allocate the funding?

Mrs Bruce : The analysis of the service gaps was undertaken taking a range of issues into consideration. Firstly, we mapped the existing service coverage and the service footprint. There was consideration of the policy objectives of each activity. For example, the children and parenting activity had a higher priority for services focused on children aged zero to 12 and less of a focus on services for youth. Another consideration was the application received in the 2014 selection process. We looked at the best response to address a gap once it was identified. The service challenge is highlighted by each service provider—for example, considerations such as distance and the footprint and how they could increase an organisations capacity within the current funding to address the gap. We used knowledge provided by our state and territory offices and we also considered the impact and consequences of the redesign of some of the programs. We have discussed this in the past. Locations that might have received funding over many years that no longer have the same demographic appropriation under the new program arrangements—for example, inner-city locations versus suburban growth corridors where families have increased and therefore need has increased.

Senator MOORE: So they were the general parameters under which you worked.

Mrs Bruce : That is right.

Senator MOORE: But you did not go out to a retender process?

Mrs Bruce : No, not at all.

Senator MOORE: I checked your response from the last estimates as well, and that was slightly differently worded but with the same basic process. In terms of the process, part of the assessment was done on applications that had been received in the previous grant round but not all. Is that right?

Mrs Bruce : As you will recall, we discussed that the application process. The applications is assessed and sort of ranked. If we identified a gap we looked at a range of solutions to fill that gap. In some instances we went to the next ranked application if they were in a similar location or had capacity to expand their services to address that gap.

Senator MOORE: And that was with consultation? I understand that you did say that with particular organisations you would go back and have consultations with them about whether that would meet their needs or whether they would be capable.

Mrs Bruce : That is exactly right.

Dr Reddel : Our local network staff work closely with those organisations.

Mrs Bruce : You will also recall that there was a range of information that was taken into account, including the minister at the time, Minister Morrison, asking local MPs for information.

Senator MOORE: That was the open door process. Can you reissue me a list of the organisations that received funding out of the two subsequent rounds and also, if possible, which electorates they were in?

Mrs Bruce : I do not have it by electorate. I have a list of the organisations that have accepted additional funding. I have a breakdown by activity, which I am happy to read out, of the $48 million.

Senator MOORE: That is very good.

Dr Reddel : We can also provide the organisations by activity. We could also cut it by announcements.

Senator MOORE: Mr Riddell, we are getting this right, aren't we? You know what questions I'm going to ask so you have actually prepared the document that meets those questions.

Senator SIEWERT: Is that by region or location that they are covered?

Ms Bennett : We will have to go and check that. What we do have, as we have explained before, is the statistical area.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, that is fine. I am using it as a colloquial term.

Senator MOORE: Is it possible to get that data now?

Ms Bennett : We can have it to you shortly.

Senator MOORE: That would be useful because we may even want to have a quick look at that and there could be some questions we could ask immediately rather than put it on notice. I don’t know, but the kind of questions that I was going to was exactly what you said you were going to provide, which we have not had previously.

Ms Bennett : We provided a list of all the organisations that received funding in SQ15000907. It will be the same list.

Mrs Bruce : It has not changed.

Ms Bennett : It hasn't changed but we can cut it in the way that you have wanted—by program, and by area. It is still the same list of organisations.

Senator MOORE: We are particularly interested because we had long discussions in a number of fora about exactly the coverage area of the services that were provided. Because there were issues raised by providers that the coverage areas had changed. They had not been given enough funding for the areas they had applied for. So even though they might be based in one place they actually requested and took up the offer, in many cases, to do services elsewhere. That is the kind of thing that will come out from this—the areas is that they will be servicing?

Ms Bennett : Perhaps. The point I would like to make is that you need to look at the additional organisations in the context of the ones that were first announced.

Senator MOORE: Absolutely.

Ms Bennett : So that it is a total picture. I think if you just look at those that were funded under the additional money that came through for the service gaps, it would not give you a total picture of how many organisations are in with a service. We have provided that, I think, about the total map. I am just trying to clarify: do you just want the ones that came out of the $48 million or do you want us to assemble the information on every provider by every statistical area?

Senator MOORE: I would like, as soon as possible, the ones looking at the supplementary grants of the 2015-16 budget MYEFO which are the things that came after the initial round. That is what I would like to look at originally. Because I do not think we have had the full picture. I know the amount of work that is involved in that, so I am not asking for it today. We have done and we have looked at the initial allocation. I want to see now the full picture of the initial allocation plus the two supplementary grants.

Ms Bennett : We will take that on notice. In terms of the, I think, 156 organisations that were funded under the gap analysis, we will give you what we can. The team has just said we don't know if we can bring it together by statistical area quickly, just because it means taking them out of what a big picture is. We will see what we can do. Certainly the others will at least provide them on notice and do them as quickly as possible.

Senator MOORE: You said, Mr Reddel, that about $48 million has currently been allocated. Forgive my maths; how much of that is left that has not been allocated

Ms Bennett : It is roughly $2 or $3 million that has not been allocated.

Senator MOORE: It is $55.6 million plus $15.9 million. They were the two supplementary allocations.

Ms Bennett : Sorry, as I said to you, there were components that went to bridging. So there is a different mix of—

Senator MOORE: $29.6 million went to bridging.

Ms Bennett : Yes.

Mr Pratt : $21.6 million for service gaps.

Senator MOORE: And the $48 million is on top of that?

Mrs Bruce : No, they are two different calculations. The 2015-16 budget paper identified the $55.6 million and it has been stated that that is made up of $26 million in bridging funding and then $29.6 million for service gaps.

Senator MOORE: And that means that that is fully allocated.

Mrs Bruce : The second allocation in the calculation, which is relevant and which we are talking about now, is the $48 million. That is the commitment made to cover the service gaps. This is made up of $29.6 million announced in the budget along with the $15.773 million. If further service gaps are identified, we have to negotiate those costs with the Department of Finance. Any subsequent approval of any subsequent costing is a decision for the government. You can't say 55.6 minus 48 equals, because there are two different calculations at play.

Senator MOORE: So they have been calculated separately except for the bridging process, which was definitely allocated for particular purpose while negotiations continued. The rest of that was to look at bridging the gaps?

Mrs Bruce : As Ms Bennett said at the start of this discussion, there are the budget papers and the way the figures are reflected from one financial year to another. That is the $55.6 million and the $15.773 million. Then there is the way that money has been calculated and we have allocated $48 million to date.

Senator MOORE: Would it be possible to have a copy of the document that you have just read out from with that data written down in a sequential way?

Mrs Bruce : Yes.

Senator MOORE: That would be very useful. Allowing for the different ways that it has been calculated and allowing for the different approval processes, any further expenditure at all in the covering the gaps process would need to be re-negotiated with government. Is that right?

Mrs Bruce : If I read it into Hansard, that is probably the most accurate way of capturing it. There are two calculations at play. The 2015-16 budget papers identify $55.6 million, which is made up of $26 million for bridging funding and $29.6 million for service gaps. The second calculation, which is relevant, is the $48 million that we are discussing now and that is commitments made to cover the service gaps. This is made up of the $29.6 million announced in the budget along with the $15.33 million identified in additional estimates. There is an additional $2.9 million which we have identified from program under spends.

Senator MOORE: That is the new bit.

Mrs Bruce : Yes.

Senator MOORE: We have not talked about that before. That is from where you have gone through the programs that have not spent the full allocations. That can be put back into the pool for reallocation.

Mrs Bruce : If further service gaps are identified, the department is required to negotiate these additional costs with the Department of Finance and any subsequent approval is a decision of government.

Senator MOORE: Sure. That is understandable. What is the ongoing process for identifying the gaps?

Mrs Bruce : As we have said at previous discussions, we are now relying heavily on our state and territory network to come to us. We have not had any recent discussions with state and territory offices about gaps. I think it is fair to say that it is settled, and services have got on with providing services under the new arrangements.

Senator MOORE: So the process would be that any organisation that feels that they need more funding or there is an area that has not been covered—and certainly we have had be discussions about that here in the past—if someone has a belief that something is not being covered under the programs that have been sent out to tender, so this is not something you out of the box. This is under the actual programs done as the grants were put out for tender. So it has to fit into one of those boxes in that way. They would be best placed to contact their state offices with which they should have a relationship already. Then through the state offices a request would come through to the department. Is that the process?

Dr Reddel : In addition to that, our state offices are being proactive and are actually engaging and looking at service needs. It is as much about the organisations highlighting issues. But the state offices are also out in the field investigating service priorities and emerging needs and feeding that into—

Senator MOORE: Which would be a natural process.

Dr Reddel : That is part of our ongoing local work.

Senator MOORE: In terms of the open door process that Minister Morrison had, I have not seen Minister Porter make the same statement. I don't know, Minister, whether this is a question to you or the department. Is Minister Porter maintaining the process that is requesting any parliamentarian that has a request around these issues to go directly to him?

Senator Fifield: I know that Minister Porter very much has an open door and is accessible to colleagues. But in terms of what the process is, it is probably best that I ask officers if there has been any changes.

Senator MOORE: I just wanted to check in terms of whether the discussions were that there is an ongoing open door process, as described by the Minister Morrison where he actively said, 'If anyone feels as though there is a gap that needs to be filled, come and see me.'

Mr Pratt : There has been no change to the approach outlined by Minister Morrison.

Senator MOORE: Right. So we have the process where the state offices are being proactive, which is fine. Organisations can go to the state offices and say, 'In the area of emergency relief we believe there is a gap here that is not being filled.' They make that case that way. But there is also an ongoing process that the minister is prepared to talk directly with politicians around these issues.

Ms Bennett : I think the relationship generally the department has with providers, both through our state network and representations to the department, if you look at the example of emergency relief it might not just be a gap. It could be something that has occurred in that community where there has been a change.

Senator MOORE: Townsville, for instance, with the issues we have had with some of the industry going down. That could indicate—

Ms Bennett : I can assure you they are pretty good at contacting us. We do watch what is happening. We make decisions. We look at the case being put to us and have a look if the evidence is there that might be a case for reconsidering what has been funded. The point I'm trying to make is that this is not just about the tender process and the gap. This is actually about recognising that things change within communities. That can relate to incidents that you are talking about—it could be a change of demographics. Something that has gone on. We do watch that and take that into account in any representations made to us.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Has the minister asked you to look at certain areas, given his open-door policy?

Ms Bennett : No.

Senator CAROL BROWN: What about the previous minister, Minister Morrison.

Ms Bennett : We have set out that process. That was at the time about the minister's announcement and the decision about the gaps and how that work. So it was within that context that we provided advice.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So you do not know whether he asked you to look at particular gaps following his announcement.

Mr Pratt : Is your question, did former Minister Morrison, following approaches from MPs, then ask the department to examine those? Yes, that was the process.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I know that that is what he said he would do. I am asking if he referred any.

Ms Bennett : Yes.

Senator MOORE: When is the first review? I know you said that state offices keep a close eye on what is going on. Of course, that is expected. But is there a formal valuation reporting process in the set up with the current organisations who receive funding?

Ms Bennett : The grant agreements have those elements set out in them in the cycle and timing and what the requirements are. I do not know whether I would use the word 'review', but there are certainly reporting requirements.

Senator MOORE: Is that quarterly?

Ms Bennett : It varies depending on whether it is a service being provided or whether it's a project that someone has been funded for, or the terms of it. So if it was a short, one off project it would be something I suspect at the end of the project, on completion of it. If it is an ongoing service it would be more regular. It is not a simple answer of saying yes. The information about that, I understand, is actually set out in the program guidelines which are available on the department's website. For each program, each activity and depending on what the nature of it is and what we are doing, there are reporting and performance requirements set out 3in that.

Dr Reddel : In addition, our data exchange reporting system that is coming on board is part of that ongoing reporting on the service footprint. The client outcomes. That is maturing. By later this year we should start to have some of that data through. That is part of, in a sense, an evaluation or looking at how the services we are funding are contributing to outcomes.

Senator MOORE: That is the FOFMS data?

Ms Bennett : No, it is the data exchange. And we refer to it as DEX.

Dr Reddel : All of our services have signed up to that as part of their grant agreement, and that is set out in the agreement. Also, attached to each grant agreement is an activity work plan. That details the performance indicators that the organisation has agreed to and it has timelines and milestones in it. That is part of the ongoing reporting.

Senator MOORE: And that is being collected now?

Dr Reddel : That is working now.

Senator MOORE: It is actually working now. It is operational?

Dr Reddel : The activity work plan is part of the normal reporting.

Senator MOORE: Is the link to the computer system and the collection of data fully functional?

Ms Bennett : The grant reform journey, and I know there has been lots of focus on the tender process—is actually longer term. Part of the data exchange is obviously something that is being developed with a view of maturity and stability at different phases. The phases we are at about receiving information is pretty much up. The issue is that we are continuing to work very closely because some of these providers, as you would understand, are small organisations so they are adjusting their IT capacity to meet that. Some of them are still providing the information on a cyclical nature and others are providing it more in real time—they are jointly doing it. The answer to whether it is fully up is that we are continuing to develop it to be a much more mature model, but where we are at the point in time where we will have early performance information. By the end of the year. Yes, we think it is pretty solid and it is working.

Senator MOORE: By the end of the financial year or by the end of the calendar year?

Ms Bennett : The end of this calendar year.

Dr Reddel : Part of that also is that we will be sharing that reporting with the providers. It is not just something we take on board. We actually engage with their providers and some of the feedback we provide to them around how their services are operating—the clients that they are seeing, the demographics and issues for those clients. The client journey. We will start to see how clients use different services and start to see the service system more holistically.

Senator MOORE: My understanding is that it was an integral part of the grants program. So that in all the documentation we saw, the grant process and the stuff on the website, the use and the necessity of the DES program was actually reinforced on a number of occasions. That was part of the whole profile. It was going to be during the first year that people had to make that change. We are more than halfway through the first year of some of those things. That is part of the reporting they have to do about where they are up to with their IT and those things to fit into the need of the DES. That was my understanding, and we had to translate the way we operated as providers to ensure that we met the needs of the overall scheme. That was the long-term plan.

Ms Bennett : And of course what we have discussed before is that on the data exchanges we have received feedback and quite useful information for the providers, too, about what that population is so that they have a better grasp of their clients and other providers that might be similar to the services that they are providing or other services they can join up to. They have richer information on which to provide that service. It is an important part of the grant reform longer-term journey. We are working with them on the maturity of the system, how they use the information and how it enriches and shifts to progressively being able to have a stronger sense of outcomes that are being delivered rather than just counting in and out. It is something we are continuing to work closely with them on, but we believe the phases that we are at the moment are solid and where we expected to be.

Dr Reddel : Given the extent of the DEX work, we have actually set up a dedicated unit that provides user support for the providers and face-to-face training and a helpline.

Senator MOORE: Given the information that the providers are giving through that reporting processes and the information that you have from the state offices, is the department confident that that there are no further gaps in front-line service delivery across the nation at the moment?

Ms Bennett : I do not think we can provide that assurance. We have set out what the process has been. I think it is important to point out that in numerous areas organisations are not only just funded through us. There are state and local government organisations. If you look at it from the lens of the individual members in the community, we could not say whether they felt there were or not. We have gone through a process of our funding where the department in its priorities within its budget at this point in time.

Senator MOORE: Has the department got a process of asking the community whether they think there are gaps? If you are looking at provision of service, particularly where there have been such significant changes in the way services have been provided, is there a built-in process for community feedback?

Ms Bennett : In terms of individuals, as the DEX matures one of the components will be about asking the actual individual recipients of the service their view about the service that they have received. That will give us for the first time some user or receiver information on the service.

Senator MOORE: At what stage of the maturity of the system will that be available?

Ms Bennett : We will have to take that on notice.

Senator MOORE: You understand more than anyone the amount of community response there was to the initial changes and the amount of submissions we had from regional groups and service delivery groups all around the place about their concerns about service. What is the department doing, as we discussed at the time, in terms of how we work with community, and what will be in place from the department to actually find out whether communities think there is a gap or not?

Ms Bennett : Firstly, a lot of the submissions and representations were made by organisations rather than actual individual receivers of services. As the secretary has just reminded me, we do have state offices that are out there both engaging with providers but also understanding what is happening in the community, such as the example that you gave earlier. We do have representations made through things like ministerials or directly to the department from individuals. But I must say very little of it is from people who use a service. It is more likely to be a provider making a representation on behalf of what they feel their client base is.

Senator MOORE: Wouldn't that be natural?

Ms Bennett : Yes. But when you say, 'How do we find out what people think about the service they receive?', I was explaining that the DEX will build in the capacity for some sort of client survey. But in terms of direct individuals, we received very little representation. I would have to go back.

Mr Pratt : Just to summarise in relation to the role of the department through our state network, a key part of our role is to liaise on an ongoing basis with the various stakeholders that we deal with. Those are quite wide ranging, whether they are state governments, whether they are providers, whether they are lobby groups or advocacy groups and it includes community organisations and community leaders. So there is a full range of stakeholders. They are basically constantly in touch with these people and getting feedback on things. So it is through processes like that that we identify any future gaps.

Senator MOORE: In terms of those processes now, are those processes telling you that there are no gaps?

Mr Pratt : As Ms Bennett pointed out, we can never say that we think there are. In relation to the process we have gone through following the government's budget initiative to fill the gaps, I think it is safe to say we think, largely, that that process is now coming to an end. But, as my colleagues have been pointing out, this is an ongoing process. We will always be open to things emerging, whether it is through a major climatic event, an industry closing down or some big shift in demographics or something like that. And when feedback comes to us that there is a need for some of the support and services we can provide, we will then look to do so within the available resources. I might just add, too, that it is always open to us in the event that gaps do emerge to go back to government and say that we need more resources.

Senator MOORE: Under subsequent areas, particularly under financial counselling, there have been a number of representations made about concerns regarding some things that have happened within the financial counselling area. I know that they have gone through contacts with the minister, contacts with the department putting up concerns and also to local parliamentarians, writing in that way. Is there a view that it would be more powerful if people who were clients of the service wrote in and said, 'We do not think it is working'? I'm just wanting to balance. Mr Pratt and Ms Bennett, you have actually gone through the process that you have got. I am just getting a feeling that you think that actually having individuals talking about the process would be a more powerful way for people to get the message across. I do not want to be in any way misinterpreting it.

Mr Pratt : My view would be that they are all equally meritorious. Whoever makes a good case for the need for us to resource or fund a service we will look at, whether it is an individual, whether it is a parliamentarian, whether it is a community organisation, whether it is an advocacy group or whether it is state or local government. They are all sources of intelligence on this.

Senator SIEWERT: You've covered it pretty thoroughly, but I am interested in the process from now on. There were some decisions made that actually wound back the number of years that some of the program were granted for and other services that were not up at the time. What is the process from here on in on those programs?

Ms Bennett : I think the secretary has just set that out. I will recap that. A majority of the funding has been allocated, contracts have been entered into and the services are up and running. Our state colleagues are watching what is happening. We are looking at representations that are made to us.

Senator SIEWERT: I understood that to be more focused on some of the gap filling and that funding. I'm talking about other programs that in fact were not included in this round or where small amounts of forward allocations were for two years, for example.

Mr Pratt : If I understand your question, you are asking more generally about the process for examining where programs are used and contracted and so forth.

Senator SIEWERT: Exactly.

Mr Pratt : Well, we do not allocate everything from the program buckets we have across the forward estimates. In each year there potentially might be resources there which are open for reallocation through some process. Not all of the contracts end on one date. Some might end this financial year or the next financial year and so forth. So there is this rolling process of reallocating program funds, and that will continue into the future.

Senator SIEWERT: For those programs that have not yet been through the process, we are going to be using the same process, are we?

Ms Bennett : With the improvements and the feedback that we have received. The intention, as we have talked about before, is that when a program or the grants or the contracts and agreements of the organisation come to an end, there will either be a direct selection, an extension or a renewal of the contract. Or there will be an open or restricted selection. The process of the next arrangement will vary depending on what the activity is.

Mr Pratt : If your question is, 'Will we constantly be reviewing our processes and enhancing them based on experience and feedback?', yes, of course. But we are not anticipating a major change to the arrangements which have been honed, with great assistance from the committee, over the last couple of years.

Senator SIEWERT: I think I will leave it there. We have a pretty long day. I have some more questions on cross portfolio.

Senator MOORE: I have a question that follows on from the last one. You may well be able to refresh my memory. One of the key aspects that came out of our inquiry around the grant process was the rebuilding of trust aspect in terms of the breakdown that happened post the grant process. I think the department acknowledged it. In the Nous report it actually talked about talking with organisations. I know you have spoken about the link with the state offices, and they have a proactive role in working with that local organisations and communities. Is there anything in particular the department has put into place to acknowledge that sense that came out, post the grant process, that it was a negative experience?

Ms Bennett : Yes. In addition to the regular engagement with our state offices and those networks, we actually have a few other arrangements put in place. Firstly, there is a broader and regular engagement between the various policy areas and their stakeholders. I know that in my stream, where I have families—which we can talk about when we get to program 2—the regular engagement with them might be in the children's area and the family area. In addition to that, the program office has established two sector engagement groups. The community sectors advisory group has about, I think, 26 members representing organisations.

Mr Pratt : I ran through those at the last estimates.

Senator MOORE: Yes, you did.

Ms Bennett : We also have a major church providers group.

Senator MOORE: We did not get information on that one. We did get the 26 but I do not remember getting information the church providers group.

Ms Bennett : That came as a result of the former minister engaging with four major church organisations that provide services.

Senator MOORE: Which are?

Ms Bennett : Anglicare, Catholic Social Services Australia, the Salvation Army and UnitingCare. In a sense, they actually touch more broadly the department's business where the community services advisory group—which, as the secretary said, he would provide the list on—is much more—

Senator MOORE: Which includes those four groups as well?

Ms Bennett : Yes.

Senator MOORE: Is there any reason that they get two bites? Those four groups are all in the original one. I am open about it. I'm not saying it should not happen.

Mr Pratt : There are slightly different areas of emphasis between them. One is a very high-level meeting which often involves senior team members and the minister.

Senator MOORE: Which one is that?

Mr Pratt : That is the major church group. The other one is a much broader group. It is more likely to look at more operational issues.

Senator MOORE: Right. Would those groups have roles in the process we have just talked about?

Ms Bennett : That was established after we had gone through that process.

Mr Pratt : But if they were to identify something, then of course.

Senator MOORE: It just seems to me that it would be natural if you have these groups that they would be feeding into that same process you took up. These don't have a regular meeting schedule? Is it as required?

Dr Reddel : There is a meeting of the community services advisory group scheduled for next week. We try and meet at least quarterly.

Senator MOORE: So that would be the second meeting?

Mrs Bruce : No, that is the third. We had one on 25 August and on 4 November.

Senator MOORE: Okay. I'm sorry to drag you back like that. My next question is a general questions about welfare spending. I want to look at the perception of the current state of welfare spending and the interaction that has happened in public statements. Is spending on working age payments projected to decline over the next 40 years in terms of the research that you have done in the inter-generational processes?

Mr Pratt : Again, that would be something useful to do under outcome 1 with the social security people.

Senator MOORE: So anything to do with general expenditure through social security is outcome 1.

Mr Pratt : Yes.

Senator MOORE: We will put basic questions about structures and things on notice. Since the 2013 election, has the department spent money on advertising or communication campaigns?

Ms McKinnon : In 2015-16, to 31 December 2015, the department spent about $260,000 GST exclusive on advertising. That was all attributed to non-campaign advertising including recruitment.

Senator MOORE: So there has been no particular campaign advertising?

Ms McKinnon : No.

Senator MOORE: Recruitment I understand, because there have been changes in the department and structures and so on. What else?

Ms McKinnon : Around 11,000 of that was recruitment. Generally other non-campaign spending goes to request for tender or expressions of interests—discussion papers, for example.

Senator MOORE: So the total spending on communications and advertising since the election has been that $260,000.

Mr Lye : The figure that Ms McKinnon gave was for the current financial year.

Senator MOORE: So what did we do in 2013-14?

Ms McKinnon : In terms of non-campaign advertising, that was around $682,000. Of that, recruitment was $156,000. There was approximately $453,000 on a campaign and that was aged pension and pensioner concessions.

Senator MOORE: And that was the only campaign in 2014-15. What about 2013-14?

Ms Bell : We will have to take that on notice.

Senator MOORE: And that 100 and something that you mentioned in 2014-15? That was recruitment and there would be something on tenders in that same period?

Ms McKinnon : It was $525,000, approximately.

Senator MOORE: In terms of the ongoing budget we have for 2015-16, are there any programs being planned and money allocated?

Ms McKinnon : For advertising?

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Ms Bell : We currently have underway two advertising campaigns. They are in development stages. One campaign is primarily a prevention campaign to address violence against women and the second campaign is the National Disability Insurance Scheme campaign.

Senator MOORE: Would each of those be funded out of the program areas in terms of part of their overall expenditure? For instance, is the primary prevention process part of a wider expenditure?

Ms Bell : The primary prevention campaign is a COAG campaign. So it is a combination of Commonwealth funds as well as state contributions.

Senator MOORE: Is this where the Commonwealth is putting in $30 million and the states and territories are putting in amounts to meet that? Is that the package?

Ms Bell : The Commonwealth is contributing $16.7 million and the states are combining to contribute $15 million.

Senator MOORE: So it is a total of $30 million. It is the one that was announced in one of the budget rounds. So that is the program of that one. NDIS?

Ms Bell : NDIS is from the program funds.

Senator MOORE: What kind of things is that around? Is that promoting the scheme?

Ms Bell : That is looking at the full scheme roll-out. It is very much in the early phases. We have not completed developmental research yet. There is no strategy as yet or any detail.

Senator MOORE: It is linked to the roll-out but the planning is being done for the 2015-16 year.

Ms Bell : Yes.

Senator MOORE: You have told me the Commonwealth government commitment to the prevention of violence is $16.7 million. Is that all being done through DSS?

Ms Bell : The funds or the implementation?

Senator MOORE: The actual program in terms of what you are looking at in your package. Are you looking at the $16.7 million?

Ms Bell : Yes. Those funds sit with DSS and the implementation is being driven by DSS.

Senator MOORE: So all that money is through you. How much money are we talking about in the NDIS?

Ms McKinnon : It is $14.2 million over two financial years.

Senator MOORE: 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Ms McKinnon : That is right.

Senator MOORE: And the violence against women, is that over one year? How many years has the $16.7 million been allocated for?

Ms Bell : The $16.7 million is over three years. It is 2015-16 to 2017-18.

Senator MOORE: And until you have your whole strategy worked out you are not sure how that will be spent?

Ms Bell : I can give you a projected breakdown across the various elements of the campaign. These are projected. The media buy for 2015-16 is $11 million, for 2016-17 it is $12 million and for 2017-18 it is $150,000. Developmental research is $400,000 in 2015-16, $200,000 and in 2016-17. Benchmarking, tracking and evaluation research in 2015-16, is $170,000, in 2016-17 it is $150,000 and in 2017-18 it is $80,000. We obviously track to see how things are going. Creative pitches in 2015-16 was a one-up $50,000. Creative development in 2015-16 is $1 million and in 2016-17 it is $500,000. Creative concept testing is $600,000 in 2015-16 and $300,000 in 2016-17. Public relations, which includes stakeholder community engagement, is $400,000 in 2015-16, $400,000 in 2016-17 and $100,000 in 2017-18. Public relations for Indigenous audiences, which is a specialist consultant, is $300,000 in 2015-16, $300,000 in 2016-17 and $100,000 in 2017-18. Public relations for CALD audiences is $300,000 in 2015-16, 300,000 in 2016-17 and in 2017-18 it is $100,000. Corporate engagement and partnerships is $100,000 in 2015-16, $500,000 in 2016-17 and $400,000 in 2017-18. Then general consultants, which would include a behavioural change consultant, is $100,000 in 2015-16, $60,000 in 2016-17 and $40,000 in 2017-18.

Senator MOORE: I think I have all of those but I will ask you if I can get them. I just have lots of noughts. I take on board totally that that is projected, but it is just to get some idea. And the NDIS with $14.2 million?

Ms Bell : That campaign is not as advanced, so we do not have any breakdown.

Senator MOORE: When you get more information, I will ask about that. I know Senator Brown has some questions.

CHAIR: I might take some questions. Mine will be very brief and then I will come to Senator Siewert. My question is just an update on the new building. Can I get some details on that?

Mr Lye : The project remains on time and on budget. Mr Dilley has some detail on progress.

Mr Dilley : As Mr Lye has said, the new building is well on track. We visited the site with the site manager yesterday and we are working closely there. Most of the concrete pour for what is called the base foundation is in. Some lift wells are going in and the formwork for what is called the lower ground has commenced. The project is on track, notwithstanding some damp weather over summer. They have managed around that. The final pour on the base should go in on Friday, subject, again, to wet weather.

CHAIR: Has the estimated completion date changed?

Mr Lye : No.

CHAIR: It is still later on this year?

Mr Lye : It is August 2017.

CHAIR: So that is on track at the moment?

Mr Lye : Yes.

CHAIR: Has the link road at the back been completed? That was off-site work that was being done by the developer, wasn't it?

Mr Lye : That has been completed.

CHAIR: And that comes with additional car parks and the like?

Mr Lye : It does.

CHAIR: So those car parks are in place. What is the car parking situation at the moment with the site works? What is the net situation? You have those extra car parks. How many have been lost or are out of action while construction takes place?

Mr Lye : Obviously the building has taken over the spot where we had car parking and the link road has a number of car parks on site there. That is barricaded so it is currently exclusively for the use of DSS staff. That has essentially replaced the car parking that was out the front where the building site is.

CHAIR: So there is no net loss of car parks, then. We are roughly 141, are we?

Mr Lye : Yes.

CHAIR: I know that you have given this information before, but just remind me: once it is finished will there be more car parks than there were before or around the same?

Mr Dilley : There will be around the same number of car parks around the precinct.

CHAIR: In terms of the disruption to staff, has that been kept to a minimum? That is, I know, what you had hoped. We discussed earlier that because of its campus style you are sort of able to stay in the other buildings and access them. Has that worked out according to plan?

Mr Dilley : It has worked out well. There is alternative access to the main entry to TOP, Tuggeranong Office Park, as well as minor modifications to reroute traffic into the car parks in that existing precinct. So those disruptions have been minor. For safety reasons we have worked with developers to put in some additional barricades to direct pedestrian traffic across the road to the businesses in Tuggeranong.

Mr Lye : There are a large number of people on the site. We have around 40 full-time staff, who are local Canberra contractors, working on the building site. At the peak time of construction we will have around 300 people employed. That has been working harmoniously alongside our staff. There is more competition at the local shops for coffee, though, with contractors.

CHAIR: I am sure the local cafe owners are very happy about that. Obviously the fit-out does not start until it is completed, and that is what the Commonwealth is funding. But in terms of the design work for that and the layout for the fit-out, has that been completed or is it still underway?

Mr Dilley : It is well on track and we expect to reach a milestone of 90 per cent design in March. It is early March, as I recall. That is an iterative process of working through what is called the base building design, the integrated works, which is largely the mechanical air-conditioning and other things that feed into the fit-out and then the actual fit-out which, as you said, the Commonwealth is funding.

CHAIR: That means, I guess, you are partially expending some of those funds on that kind of preparatory work. It that part of those fit out costs that have been committed to?

Mr Dilley : We will pay for the fit-out. The base building is met by the developer and that is where most of the cost has been to date.

CHAIR: But this design work, or this preparatory work, is that part of that?

Mr Dilley : We are on the cusp of that.

CHAIR: So you have not expended any?

Mr Dilley : No. The building is not ready for fit-out yet.

CHAIR: Yes, I know it's not ready for fit-out, but I'm talking about looking at designing the fit-out and those sorts of things. Has that taken place yet?

Mr Dilley : There has been some early project expenditure on that with the consultants to those design iterations as we move from early concepts to more detailed design. So there has been some early expenditure from the project there.

CHAIR: What kind of staff per square metre rate are they going to get? What are you hoping to achieve?

Mr Dilley : It will be within the Commonwealth requirements—

CHAIR: Which is now 15?

Mr Dilley : It is 14 square meters. To allow for space that is used for meeting rooms and other common areas, each workspace will be targeting around 12 square meters.

CHAIR: You are not going down what a lot of private sector businesses are doing where no-one gets a desk anymore? You're not going that far?

Mr Dilley : There will be a small number of desks that would be used for the assessment centre. We talked earlier about grants, and there are some other examples like that where we have visiting contractors for projects. You might see some hot desking, which is what I think you are referring to. But by and large it will be dedicated work points.

Mr Lye : We have been doing some research because we have a large contracting workforce in our IT area and that workforce lends itself to hot desking. We have been having a look, with the new building in mind, about testing how that would go. It would be a big change for the majority of our staff who do policy work, but in the IT space there is probably an interest, and for practical reasons, to look in to that. We are, I suppose, putting a foot in the water to see what might be applicable.

CHAIR: Finally, as you undertake the planning and make those decisions as to exactly what that might look like, is there a formal process of engagement with your staff to get their views on how to work better? If so, what does that look like?

Mr Dilley : We have established two principal consultative forums. One of them will work with perhaps a business focus looking at the needs of the business areas. There may be a particular need for security or storage or access to particular equipment, et cetera. There are representatives in that forum. There is a second forum that is more staff focused. There are, again, representatives on that forum. They are meeting regularly and that information is feeding back through to the peak governance forums.

CHAIR: Thank you very much for that.

Senator SIEWERT: Yesterday there was quite a lot of discussion in here during the Health estimates about the payment system task force that has been set up. What level of involvement does DSS have as compared to DHS? Are you involved?

Mr Pratt : Are you talking about the outsourcing of Medicare payments and aged-care payments?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. What level of involvement does the Department of Social Services have in that task force?

Mr Pratt : I suspect, and Mr Lye can confirm this in a second, that we no longer have an interest in that. We certainly would not have one in relation to the Medicare side or things of the veterans' payments, but possibly we might have some residual support that we provide in the aged-care area.

Mr Lye : Our IT area works with the aged-care area, so the Department of Health now, around the provision of the aged-care gateway, which is the platform that supports the interaction of consumers and families.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, we have discussed that in the past.

Mr Lye : That is our involvement. DHS has been involved in the payment element of the aged-care reforms, so I presume that they are involved in the process with the Department of Health. Our part of the pie is not affected.

Senator SIEWERT: So you don't have any ongoing involvement other than that?

Mr Lye : I do not believe so.

Senator SIEWERT: Have you provided any advice to date to that process?

Mr Lye : I will check, but I don't believe so.

Senator SIEWERT: If you could check, that would be appreciated. Thank you.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I want to talk about some of the social services legislation that is currently before the parliament. Has every piece of social services legislation before the parliament been approved by the current Prime Minister's office?

Mr Lye : There is a process for the approval of legislation, and we have line of sight of part of that, which is the ministerial bids process where we, through our minister, identify legislation to come before the parliament. That goes into a process to determine scheduling priority. But I do not know that we would have line of sight about approval processes.

Ms Richards : It would certainly be the case that the legislation has received a policy approval, but we could not, I do not think, in relation to each item of legislation before the parliament at the moment, answer whether it had been approved by the Prime Minister himself. It would go through the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s legislation approval process for the purpose of getting priority for introduction. But in terms of a piece by piece of legislation, we would perhaps have to look at that.

Senator CAROL BROWN: You would be aware, I imagine, of the dates when each of those pieces of legislation went to cabinet or were resubmitted to cabinet and the decision coming out of that?

Mr Pratt : Certainly in the sense of the original cabinet agreement to the various pieces of policy—things that go through a budget, the MYEFO or whatever. In relation to the actual legislation approval program, we probably do not have that sort of visibility other than we know that these are things which are ultimately approved by cabinet processes.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So you are telling me that you are not aware when cabinet approves a piece of legislation your department puts up?

Mr Pratt : What I said was that, in terms of the actual policy itself, the budget measures and things like that, yes we certainly would be. By extension, that also translates into the approval for the future legislation change program. In terms of the actual operation of the cabinet processes, which deliberates on when legislation might be introduced or all the actual examination of the elements of that, that is something that is handled more by the PM&C and the Attorney-General's Department.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I understand that. I am not asking a question on when it is to be introduced into parliament. I am asking, have the pieces of social services legislation currently before parliament been approved by the current Prime Minister's office? There were a number of pieces of legislation that were before parliament prior to Mr Turnbull taking over from Mr Abbott—to put it in a nice way. What I am trying to get an answer to is whether those pieces of legislation that were through the parliament at that time—

Mr Pratt : That would be a question for Prime Minister and Cabinet, not for us.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Minister, do you know the answer?

Senator Fifield: Government is a continuing entity and decisions of government are decisions of government until such time as there may be subsequent decisions of government.

Senator GALLAGHER: I can give you an example. The day after the change of Prime Minister there was legislation reintroduced into parliament. I cannot imagine that a Prime Minister on his first day would not show an interest in the legislation that was being introduced into the parliament. What we are trying to understand is, what process happened through the leadership change for approval of the legislation entering the parliament and was there, indeed, a process or was there not?

Senator Fifield: The processes for the approval of legislation are the same under this administration as they were under the previous administration.

Senator GALLAGHER: So the Prime Minister did not show any interest on day one of what legislation was going in, and whether he approved of it or agreed with it, as leader of the country? That is the question we are trying to get to

Senator Fifield: I am not saying that.

Senator GALLAGHER: What process was there?

Senator Fifield: I think, Senator Gallagher, you perhaps do not appreciate the way that the federal government operates.

Senator GALLAGHER: I imagine that it is fairly similar to cabinet processes elsewhere. And I can tell you that as Chief Minister I would not have allowed legislation to enter the parliament that I specifically did not agree with. That is the question we are trying to get to here.

Senator Fifield: In relation to a particular piece of legislation?

Senator GALLAGHER: We can use the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Youth Employment and Other Measures) Bill 2015. That was reintroduced into the parliament on day one of the first full day of the Turnbull prime ministership.

Senator Fifield: We have approval processes for legislation. As you know, some legislation goes to cabinet and then goes to the relevant party room committee. It then goes to the party room for approval. It is then authorised for introduction, typically by the person who holds the position of parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister. They essentially check that, yes, the relevant regulatory impact statements have been done, that it has gone to the party room and that all of the internal processes of government have been complied with. That is the typical sort of process that operates in government. But if you have a question specifically in relation to any interest or intervention that a Prime Minister may or may not have had, then that is more appropriately directed to Prime Minister and Cabinet estimates. All we can do here is really explain to you what the general processes of government are. If you have a particular question about the Prime Minister’s interest, then that is appropriate for at Prime Minister and Cabinet estimates.

Senator GALLAGHER: We are asking specifically about legislation that this department is responsible for. I find it hard to believe that there was not a process or interest from the department about legislation which went to job seekers living without income for a month—so pretty serious legislation—entering the parliament on day one. Would there not have been, perhaps, a phone call: 'Is it still cool to go ahead with this? Is it still going ahead? Is the Prime Minister's office comfortable with the legislation program that is before the parliament today?' What you are saying to me is, 'Yes, there are all these other processes', which I understand. Many I have been part of. But this was a pretty unusual day in the fact that we had lost a Prime Minister the day before. A new one had arrived promising new things and a new approach. The question that we are asking is whether that new approach applied to legislation that sought to remove entitlements for young people from eligibility for income support. And you are telling me that the standard processes apply, that there was no—

Senator Fifield: No, I'm explaining to you what the processes of government are. The government is a continuing entity. Things continue. If you have a particular question in relation to the new Prime Minister, then that is appropriate for Prime Minister and Cabinet estimates.

Senator GALLAGHER: So from the department’s point of view, on 16 September in relation to the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Youth Employment and Other Measures) Bill 2015, it was business as usual. You were not advised that there would be a reassessment of that bill or that there would be another process. It was just things continued on unchanged?

Mr Pratt : Generally that would be the case, yes.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I want to ask about the piece of legislation that was introduced into the House of Representatives on 21 October. It is the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill 2015. When did that go to cabinet?

Mr Lye : We do not have that information for you.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Can you get that information for me? Is it that you do not have it here? You must be advised—

Ms Richards : What I have in front of me is actually the date that the bill was introduced. But I do not have in front of me the date that cabinet approved the policy for the commencement of the drafting of the legislation. I could get that for you, but I do not have it in front of me.

Mr Pratt : That is a very difficult question to answer from several perspectives. One is, of course, that we don't tend to talk very much about cabinet processes and how they operate and the like. My general expectation is that that would have been approved through the budget processes. But it is also quite possible that other elements of that could have been subsequently considered later in the piece. With quite a large reform bill, elements of it could have gone back to cabinet at different times.

Senator CAROL BROWN: When were drafting instructions issued? You could give me some of those dates, surely?

Ms Richards : We could possibly give you some dates in terms of when drafting instructions were issued. But, as I say, that is an iterative process as well, so it might not necessarily be a straightforward answer. We work closely with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to clarify instructions for drafting in a way that is in accordance with the policy authority that we have. So, again, it might refer to a process rather than to a particular date or which one set of instructions were issued.

Senator CAROL BROWN: But that happens, I would have assumed, after cabinet has given approval for the legislation to go ahead.

Mr Lye : For any piece of legislation there might be some drafting work done and then, as minor policy issues are refined, there might be further drafting. There may be interactions up in the parliament and so further drafting—

Senator CAROL BROWN: I understand that. I want to know if you can tell me when it went to cabinet, in terms of the policy intent.

Ms Richards : Can I suggest that we take that on notice and see what information we can provide you in such a way as to not inappropriately disclose deliberations of cabinet?

Senator CAROL BROWN: I do not see how it would but, yes, okay. I am not sure if you would be able to tell me if that introduction was approved by the current Prime Minister.

Mr Lye : I think we are back to the issue that has just been discussed. We do not necessarily have line of sight of the approval process of timing of legislation introduction.

Senator CAROL BROWN: If you could provide that information, Ms Richards, I would appreciate it. There are a number of pieces of legislation I will put on notice requiring that same information.

Senator GALLAGHER: Can I just follow up on that? My question is really more to the minister in relation to the legislation that has come forward in this portfolio area post 15 December. There have been a few, including the one I mentioned before, the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill 2015. There has also been the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, the Pensioner Education Supplement and the Education Entry Payment, the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015 and the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Family Payments Structural Reform and Participation Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2015. That is one related to family payment cuts. Do all of those pieces of legislation have the authority of Prime Minister Turnbull?

Senator Fifield: All legislation goes through our party room. It is ultimately our party room that approves—

Senator GALLAGHER: So the PM has no authority about what legislation goes into the parliament?

Senator Fifield: If you would let me finish. Our party room approves legislation. Legislation does not go forward unless our party room approves it. After legislation is approved by the party room, and prior to introduction, there will be someone, which is usually the parliamentary secretary of the Prime Minister, who has responsibility for signing off that all the relevant internal government processes have been complied with. Then the scheduling of legislation—when it actually comes in to the house, for instance—is primarily a matter for the Leader of the House in consultation with colleagues, balancing a range of competing priorities. That is the way that the system works. But I could not tell you off the top of my head which of the half dozen or so particular pieces of legislation that you mentioned had the sign off after the party room process by the parliamentary secretary to the current Prime Minister, as opposed to the parliamentary secretary of the previous Prime Minister, or whether the Leader of the House first scheduled things under which person. We would have to go through it item by item.

Senator GALLAGHER: We can do that.

Senator Fifield: But also in terms of when the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister certified that particular pieces of legislation were compliant with internal processes of government is one you would need to direct to PM&C estimates.

Senator GALLAGHER: The process you have just outlined is slightly different to the process that is outlined in the Cabinet Handbook about the way in which matters are dealt with.

Senator Fifield: Sorry can I just—

Senator GALLAGHER: Well, you had finished. That is why I restarted. Okay, you have restarted. Fair enough.

Senator Fifield: Let me stop you so you don't waste your line of questioning.

Senator GALLAGHER: I love the mansplaining. I'm enjoying it.

Senator Fifield: You are loving what?

Senator GALLAGHER: The mansplaining that is going on.

Senator Fifield: What do you mean?

Senator GALLAGHER: By not answering the question. By repeating processes which are not related to the question that I have asked.

Senator Fifield: What is 'mansplaining', Senator?

Senator GALLAGHER: It is the slightly patronising and condescending way that you are responding to my questions.

Senator Fifield: I would suggest, Senator, that if you are putting the word 'man' in front of some description of what I am doing, you are doing that which I am sure you are very much against—that is, making a sexist implication about how I am conducting my role as a man. Is that what you are saying, Senator?

Senator GALLAGHER: What I am saying is that the way you have been responding to me has been patronising and condescending and I have responded to that. The easier way to deal with this—

Senator Fifield: By saying I am mansplaining.

Senator GALLAGHER: is not to have that way in responding to the questions I have asked.

Senator Fifield: Imagine if I said you were 'womansplaining'. Imagine the reaction if I said you were 'womansplaining'. You are saying that I am mansplaining.

Senator GALLAGHER: Well, it is a term that is used when—

Senator Fifield: Is it? By whom? By rude senators.

CHAIR: Doesn't make it any less offensive.

Senator Fifield: By senators who are seeking to make gender an issue.

Senator GALLAGHER: I am not. I am just saying that your answers to me have been condescending and patronising and I have responded to that. The way not to have that is not to have that approach in the way you have answered your questions.

Senator Fifield: I am not being patronising, Senator. I thought we were having a good hearted exchange until you said that I was 'mansplaining'. Do you want to reconsider what you said, Senator?

Senator GALLAGHER: No, I don't.

Senator Fifield: I just find it extraordinary, Senator, that you or any senator at this table would seek to invoke gender in impugning how a senator is responding.

Senator GALLAGHER: I am surprised that you do not understand the term 'mansplaining'.

Senator Fifield: Let the record show that Senator Gallagher thinks it is appropriate to refer to a senator as 'mansplaining'.

Senator GALLAGHER: It is already there on the record. It is on the Hansard.

Senator Fifield: I am quite frankly appalled.

Senator GALLAGHER: Okay. Let us go to the answer now.

Senator Fifield: Let me continue what I was saying. I am not endeavouring here to give a Cabinet Handbook description of the legislative process. What I am endeavouring to do is give you just a general outline of how it works. I was trying to be helpful. If you want to go into great detail about the Cabinet Handbook and about at what point and to whom someone on behalf of the Prime Minister gives the authority for something to proceed in the form of certification that the internal processes of government have been agreed with then you should direct those questions at PM&C estimates. I was endeavouring to be helpful. I will now, as a result, not seek to provide assistance which is slightly beyond the scope of this portfolio area. I will now in all respects in relation to matters of PM&C and cabinet processes direct you to PM&C estimates.

Senator GALLAGHER: In relation to your—

Senator Fifield: And, Senator, can I suggest this: take a good look at yourself—sitting here and saying to a male senator, 'You are mansplaining'.

Senator GALLAGHER: I do not need a lesson from you.

Senator Fifield: If I said to a female senator, 'You are womansplaining', there would be uproar. Stop being a hypocrite and conduct yourself appropriately for this place.

Senator GALLAGHER: I am sorry you are so offended by the use of the word. It is a word that is used. I am surprised that you are so shocked by the use of the word.

Senator Fifield: No, I am just calling hypocrisy—hypocrisy, thy name is Labor; thy name is Senator Gallagher.

Senator GALLAGHER: I think you need to settle down, actually. I do not think it was that big a deal. Your answers to me were patronising and condescending.

Senator Fifield: No, they were not, Senator.

Senator GALLAGHER: They were.

CHAIR: As entertaining as this might be, order!

Senator Fifield: Senator, welcome to federal parliament.

Senator GALLAGHER: Right—where the big people play.

Senator Fifield: Well, apparently not, because—

Senator GALLAGHER: I am not the one having a breakdown over this.

CHAIR: Order! I will ask you to come to order. There has been a lot of back and forth. You have both had your say. We will break.

Proceedings suspended from 10:32 to 10 : 47

CHAIR: We will recommence and continue with whole of portfolio.

Senator GALLAGHER: Just to finish where we left off before the break, Minister, can you answer yes or no as to whether, in the unusual event of a change of Prime Minister, there was any new process or additional process put in relating to the legislation that covered this portfolio in terms of reapproving it for introduction.

Senator Fifield: I would suggest that you refer your questions to Prime Minister and Cabinet estimates.

Senator GALLAGHER: So you cannot tell me or you will not tell me?

Senator Fifield: The appropriate estimates committee to address those questions to is Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator GALLAGHER: But this is legislation that is in this—

Senator Fifield: You are asking about processes that relate to the Prime Minister; therefore, you should direct your questions to Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator GALLAGHER: Earlier, before we had our dust-up, you were explaining a standard process that is applied to legislation. I think your answer indicated to me that that standard process had applied to these bills and that there had not been any unusual or additional process put in place post the leadership change.

Senator Fifield: I was endeavouring to be helpful by explaining the general approval process in government for legislation. I was not speaking specifically to any particular piece of legislation. If your questions go to what if any arrangement there may have been subsequent to the change that relates to the Prime Minister—I am not saying there was such a process—

Senator GALLAGHER: Are you aware of any—

Senator Fifield: If you want to enquire then you should put your questions to Prime Minister and Cabinet estimates and I understand that the opportunity is still there to put questions on notice.

Senator GALLAGHER: As the minister who is representing the minister for this portfolio, are you aware of any new process? I will put my questions to PM&C in addition to that, but I am asking this department and this portfolio minister whether you are aware of any new process that was put in place or if this legislation continued as it had been under the previous arrangements.

Senator Fifield: I cannot add anything to the—

Senator GALLAGHER: But I am asking if you were aware as the minister.

Senator Fifield: I cannot add anything to the advice that I have given you.

Senator GALLAGHER: I do not know what is so hard about indicating one way or another.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Ms Richards took on notice to provide some information about dates. Can I include in that the date that the department was advised of the cabinet decisions on those pieces of legislation?

Mr Lye : Just to be clear, we will take that on notice, but I am not promising that we can give you the level of detail that you are seeking.

Senator CAROL BROWN: The date? I am not asking you what the decision was; just the date.

Mr Pratt : We will give you the best advice we can.

Senator CAROL BROWN: The department has advised, obviously, of decisions that are relevant to your department, so I am asking for the date that you would have received that advice after the cabinet meeting.

Mr Pratt : We will attempt to give you the best advice that we can on that, but, as was explained in the previous session, sometimes these things are iterative and they change. That is what Mr Lye is talking about. But we will do our best.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Do you go to cabinet meetings, Mr Pratt?

Mr Pratt : Not often. I go to cabinet subcommittee meetings quite regularly.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So sometimes you go to cabinet meetings?

Mr Pratt : Very infrequently.

Senator CAROL BROWN: And your deputy secretaries?

Mr Pratt : Less frequently.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Thank you. I need to go back to the grants.

Mr Lye : Senator, I am sorry to interrupt you, but before the grants people come back, I had two clarifications on questions that Senator Siewert asked about our involvement with the Department of Health's consideration of the payments. I have just confirmed that we have no involvement in that process formally. Senator Moore asked about campaign advertising. I think the one year we had not given you was 2013-14. In that year the total amount spent was $18,075,788. Of that, the campaign amount was $17,187,322. That consisted of expenditure on the aged care reform campaign, which was $3.9 million; the Dad and Partner Pay campaign, which was $629,000; the Disability Care and National Disability Insurance Scheme campaign, which was $8.662 million; and the Schoolkids Bonus campaign, which was $3.993 million. Then there was a non-campaign advertising amount, which included recruitment and the other things that Ms Bell talked about, which was $888,466.

Senator MOORE: Thank you very much.

Senator CAROL BROWN: In terms of the grants, can you confirm for the committee which programs have funding agreements ceasing this year?

Mr Pratt : I suspect we will have to take that on notice, but my colleagues may surprise me.

Ms Bennett : Can I just clarify the question, Senator. You are asking for where the current grant arrangements are up rather than a terminating measure, so to speak?

Senator CAROL BROWN: Ones that have ceased receiving funding—

Ms Bennett : And will be up for—

Senator MOORE: Anything that is ceasing in this financial year. There are a few. We just want to clarify which ones.

Ms Bennett : We will have to take on notice grants where the current grant arrangements are ending and what those dates were. We have a lot of programs, so we will have to provide that.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Within that information that you provide, can you also just indicate whether those ones were—which ones were extended as well. Has the minister's office provided any direction to the department on any further tender processes or grant extensions in relation to these programs that are ending?

Ms Bennett : I will have to take that on notice. We do keep the minister's office informed on a regular basis when grant tender selection processes are open so that the minister's office is aware. But I will have to take that on notice.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So has any planning in the department been starting for further tender rounds or contract extensions?

Ms Bennett : Yes, there will be. As I said, and I think the Secretary said earlier, these are ongoing. The process of going out for grant selections is ongoing, with different dates. We have some that are out at the moment. We will have to provide on notice what is happening this year.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Do you have an end time for those tender processes?

Ms Bennett : We have planning processes about when they would open and how long the selection would go on for. They obviously align to the end of whatever that grant time is and make sure that there is sufficient time for the new arrangements to be entered into.

Senator CAROL BROWN: In your planning, has it been decided whether the programs will be offered a five-year contract?

Ms Bennett : It depends. There is not a set answer for that because it depends, as I have explained before, on the nature of the program or the activity. They could be things like just projects that could be one or two years or they could be services. There is not just one answer to those issues. We will take on notice what at this point—it is always a point in time—the forecast is for the year and when they are expiring. If we know how long those arrangements will be for, we will provide that as well.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So the work you are doing now in terms of the grants that will be ceasing, that is not contingent on any budget decisions?

Ms Bennett : Grant activities that are currently based or are continuing as set out, depending on which ones they are, are actually set out in the budget papers. The budget papers will show whether it is two-year funding or four-year funding. For example, as at 27 January, there were 168 funding rounds in process. I do not have the list of those, but that gives you a sense. They will be different types of activities. They will be for either services or projects. They could be direct, they could be restricted or they could be an open selection. It is quite a rich sort of information that is different depending on the program.

Senator CAROL BROWN: And are those programs all to end on 30 June?

Ms Bennett : No.

Senator CAROL BROWN: What periods of time are they?

Ms Bennett : Some of them are not ending at all; they are just cyclical. For example, Volunteer Grants, because they are one-off amounts of funding, do not have an end time in the way that you are using that. Organisations apply for it and they are successful, and then another year there is another call for applications and they are selected. If it is something about a service, they will then have agreement times. But we will be able to provide that in more detail.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Putting those ones aside, are the ones that received extensions going to cease on 30 June?

Ms Bennett : You would have to give me the list of the ones you are talking about.

Senator CAROL BROWN: That is why I asked you for the list.—

Ms Bennett : We will provide the list. We will take that on notice and get that as soon as we can.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I am sorry—I am just a little bit concerned. If they are 30 June, which I imagine the ones I am talking about are, we only have a short period of time to when these grants will be ceasing. I am just concerned about how far through your planning processes you actually are.

Ms Bennett : If you are referring to the grants that happened in 2014, which we have discussed—we have provided this before in estimates and we can provide it again—there are some that expire on 30 June 2017, there are some that expire on 30 June 2018 and there are some in 2019.

Dr Reddel : There are some five-year agreements.

Senator CAROL BROWN: And what about 30 June 2016?

Ms Bennett : We will take that on notice, but they were not ones that were in the 2014 grant round—they will be other grants programs that the department might run in other areas that were not part of that round.

Senator CAROL BROWN: But, as part of your planning, you must know whether any of them are ceasing on 30 June 2016.

Ms Bennett : Yes, we will know, and it is likely that they are probably included in the 168 funding rounds that were currently underway as at 27 January.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I ask these questions because in light of the, in my view, shambolic process that was undertaken in the 2014 process, I am just interested to see how far you have got along in terms of planning—particularly for the ones that will be ending on 30 June 2016.

Ms Bennett : We will provide on notice those that are expiring, where we are at in the process and whether they are open now or when we anticipate they will be open.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Can the department provide an update on the program redesign work that the committee was previously advised about in relation to the outcome of the Williams and Pape cases? I am trying to find my question on notice.

Mr Pratt : Which cases?

Senator CAROL BROWN: We have had a response to a question on notice, which I cannot currently put my hand on. I wanted an update on the program redesign work that the committee was previously advised about in relation to the outcome of the Williams and Pape cases.

Ms Bennett : It is still in progress.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Can you just explain to me and to the committee what that actually means? Yesterday I was told something was going to come shortly and that was a year ago. Can you just explain it?

Ms Bennett : The redesign issue, which we have explained previously, goes to some activities in which, for the want of a better word, the constitutional authority is clear. That may mean some readjustment either in the terms of the nature of the services that are provided or in the cohort that the services are provided to. It requires considerable examination of a range of constitutional authorities, because there are other legislative arrangements that the Commonwealth has and that give it authority that do not necessarily just lie in the department. It could be an international treaty on the protection of children. We need to examine those and look at the programs that we do within the right type of authority. That involves people in the department, in our legal area, and AGS and other departments. So we are still working through that.

Senator CAROL BROWN: When did you commence work on the redesign?

Ms Bennett : Last year.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Was it December?

Ms Bennett : It was the second part of last year. I would have to take that on notice.

CHAIR: I am sorry to interrupt. We have an ABC photographer here who would like our permission to take photographs of witnesses and senators. I just wanted to see whether there were any objections to that. There being no objections, that is fine according to the usual rules.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Did you give me a date?

Ms Bennett : No, we said we would take it on notice.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Do you have any sort of idea when you might be—I know you have outlined some of the things that you will need to do, but do you have any idea when—

Mr Pratt : Ultimately that will be a decision for government.

Senator CAROL BROWN: My question was not when it might be made public; my question was when you might finish the work.

Mr Pratt : No, it is not possible to do, just simply because it will depend on what government wants to do with the advice we give them around constitutionality of different programs and the redesign proposals.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Has a decision been made to engage other stakeholders or just the ones that you have indicated?

Mr Pratt : By other stakeholders, do you mean state governments or—

Senator CAROL BROWN: Yes.

Mr Pratt : Without pre-empting the process, it is conceivable that those sorts of things could be part of the design process depending on the solutions. If we were to come to the view that a program was particularly vulnerable to a constitutional risk and we looked at a redesign which might include potentially having the states deliver something then we would probably consult with them, but that is getting a bit in front of where we are at at this stage.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I might put some more questions regarding this issue on notice for you.

Senator MOORE: I just want to follow up on the questions that Senator Brown was asking about grants and programs that were due to end their funding at the end of this financial year. I just want to clarify it again in my process. Certainly, one of the ones I was concerned about was volunteer management and counselling for problem gamblers, which I was going to ask about in the program area. I have a couple here: volunteer management, community development and participation, diversity and social cohesion, and financial counselling for problem gambling. They are all grants within this portfolio that are due to end at the end of this financial year. I would think some of these would be subject to budget decisions.

Ms Bennett : We have people listening to the list you have just given. They are in program 2.1. They are on this afternoon.

Senator MOORE: That is what I thought. That is what I was going to ask you.

Ms Bennett : We will make sure that they are able to at least let you know where they are at if we are able to do that.

Senator MOORE: Allowing for the pressure on the department every time this happens—a government decision comes in May and grants are due to finish in June—we had the process in the last round of trying to come up with best practice as to how we handle grant processes. Just to be clear, if they are subject to budget decisions then you cannot give too much warning in terms of the process—that would be my understanding.

Mr Pratt : Certainly, that would be the case if it was subject to a budget decision in May or at the end of that financial year. On occasion what happens, though, is that governments make early announcements pre-budget to allow processes to go ahead.

Senator MOORE: We will be following that up in the program area and all of those areas. It was just in terms of the best practice. And you know that we talked extensively about what is the best amount of time in terms of warning to organisations that a change could come. Would that be now being discussed by the state offices with organisations, just to prepare them? They would know that their money ran out at the end of June, but is there a process within the state offices to follow up with organisations beforehand just as a reminder that their grant ends at the end of June? I wondered if that was standard practice.

Mr Pratt : On the general level, yes, there would be back and forth between the department and providers on where things are up to. It is often initiated by the providers and on occasion, or probably regularly, by ourselves.

Senator SIEWERT: In terms of those organisations that are currently being funded that may be caught up in this particular issue, does that mean that, unless this is resolved by then, they will not be getting refunded?

Ms Bennett : Those that are in—are you referring to the Pape and Williams issue?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes.

Ms Bennett : Those programs are funded until 30 June 2017.

Senator SIEWERT: Okay. Those have another six months. So the process—

Ms Bennett : A year—almost two years.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, a year—I am sorry. But, in terms of whether the decision is made shortly in terms of preparing—

Ms Bennett : If there are changes, we would obviously to the best of our ability engage, explain and talk those through.

Senator SIEWERT: So, just to be clear, there are no programs that are affected by this decision-making and assessment process that finishes in June this year?

Ms Bennett : I would have to take that on notice.

Mr Pratt : I do not believe there are.

Ms Bennett : I do not think so.

Mr Pratt : But we will correct that on notice if that is not the case.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. Obviously, it is much more difficult for those who are finishing—

Mr Pratt : Certainly, we do understand that the underlying concern is to make sure that providers have as much notice and as much time as possible—we appreciate that.

Senator SIEWERT: And I am also thinking as much time as possible for the people who are receiving the services so they actually know what is going to happen to the services they receive.

Mr Pratt : Yes, I agree, Senator.


CHAIR: We will now move on to outcome 2.

Senator SIEWERT: Can we get some of those overarching issues out of the way before we go on to the more detailed programs. Could you give us an update, please, on where the actuarial process is at?

Ms S Wilson : Certainly. I think my colleagues Ms Essex and Mr Innis will be coming to the table to take us through where progress is at.

Ms Essex : The first deliverable of PwC was a final draft valuation, which has been provided to the department. That was provided a few days ago. The department is currently analysing that work and providing some final comments on it.

Senator SIEWERT: What happens after that?

Ms Essex : We will provide some advice to the minister.

Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the final draft valuation, that is the initial process they have undertaken? Is that correct?

Ms Essex : Yes, that is the baseline valuation. The model provides a lifetime cost of social security for the Australian estimated resident population, looking at both longitudinal data and projections into the future. That provides a baseline against which future revaluations are measured.

Senator SIEWERT: You are looking at it, you said, and then it is going to the minister?

Ms Essex : We are providing final comments to PWC and then it would be provided after that with some advice from the department.

Senator SIEWERT: What is the anticipated date for having it finalised?

Mr Innis : The IDC that is oversighting the investment approach meets next week. At that point we will be assessing the comments and how big they are and then providing them back to PwC. At this stage, we are not in a real position to say how long it would take PwC to respond to those comments, but we are not expecting—it is not months; it is days or weeks.

Senator SIEWERT: So we are talking about having that initial process finalised within a couple of months by the sound of it?

Ms S Wilson : Certainly the baseline valuation—definitely.

Senator SIEWERT: And then what happens from there?

Ms S Wilson : The intention is to look at the findings of that baseline and where it has identified potential opportunities for intervention with particular risk groups with particular characteristics and work through within government and provide advice to government about what the way forward could be for the government to consider based on what that valuation tells us.

Senator SIEWERT: Is that with an aim to then start those interventions in the next financial year?

Mr Innis : That decision is to be taken, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: Initially, when this was first announced in the June estimates last year, we talked about the consultation process. Can you just take us through what level of consultation has already occurred, if it has? If it has not, why not? I have some more questions following on from that.

Ms Essex : There has been a range of consultations. Internal to government, as we have said, there has been the interdepartmental committee.

Senator SIEWERT: With due respect, I am more interested in the stakeholders.

Ms Essex : I understand that, Senator. There have been consultations with some interested stakeholders and discussions generally around the methodology at this point, because obviously we do not have results to talk about to people—about how the methodology works, how the valuation works and what an actuarial method is. We plan a workshop with some external service providers in early April in relation to that. We have had some bilateral discussions with the states and territories and there is a meeting of relevant state departmental officials on 29 February.

Ms S Wilson : In addition, there have been, as Ms Essex identified, some key commentators or informants and key NGO representatives that have had those bilateral discussions with the department to understand the methodology and its purpose. Some of them went to New Zealand, for example, to talk to the New Zealand government about how it worked there. We have done—I think Mr Innis did a presentation to the CEOs of one of those large NGO providers. So we have had a range of—

Senator SIEWERT: Information sharing—

Ms S Wilson : preparatory information sessions. We do not have the results to talk about at this stage.

Senator SIEWERT: I want to come to that in the second. You said early April for the workshop?

Ms Essex : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Can you provide a list of the stakeholders that you have been talking to? You said it was interested stakeholders.

Ms Essex : We can provide that—

Senator SIEWERT: Was it that, if I put my hand up, I got a—

Ms Essex : We can provide that on notice, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you—and how you made the decision on who was consulted. Who is being invited to the early April workshop?

Ms Essex : No invitations have been sent yet, Senator—that is in the process of being finalised.

Senator SIEWERT: In that case, who do you intend to invite? Can you share that? Is it an open invitation or is it more an invite only?

Mr Innis : We cannot share it now, Senator, but we would be happy to take that on notice to see where we are at. We do not have a list right now.

Senator SIEWERT: That goes to my question of whether you are doing an open invite. I was talking to somebody the other day who had no idea this was going on and would be very interested in it.

Mr Innis : There are probably three groups that we would look at. There is academic interest, obviously, then there is actuarial interest and then there is service provider interest. We will be seeking to get a balance from all three groups. The workshop that is being developed is finite. It is not—we did one early on for the public servants who were working on the methodology. From recollection there were about 30 people that we could accommodate.

Senator SIEWERT: I am not trying to be pedantic here. You said 'service providers'.

Ms S Wilson : And peaks.

Senator SIEWERT: I am actually concerned about the groups that are actually working on policy. Obviously, service providers are very important, but—

Mr Innis : I apologise—I meant incorporating—

Senator SIEWERT: You do mean that. I just wanted to be clear on that. At that workshop, are you going to be sharing the first evaluation process? Is it going to be a public document?

Mr Innis : The public release timing will be a matter for the minister. The minister has not made a decision on that.

Senator SIEWERT: So why is the workshop being held if that report may not be released at the time?

Ms S Wilson : In order to be able to work with people once the report is available, it is actually really important that they understand in quite a detailed way what this methodology can and cannot do.

Senator SIEWERT: Okay—so that is what the workshop—

Ms S Wilson : That is really what the purpose of the workshop is—it is, in conjunction with PwC, for us to guide people through how this works, what will it tell you, what it cannot tell you and how some of this information might be used in quite a detailed way so that people have confidence in the methodology.

Senator SIEWERT: I understand. But do I understand that there is a commitment that the evaluation will be released?

Ms Essex : I understand that all along it has been indicated that the results of the valuation would be released.

Senator SIEWERT: Will it be released before or after the budget?

Mr Innis : That is a matter for government.

Senator SIEWERT: Minister, is it the intention of government to release that before the budget, particularly if there are going to be budget announcements about this?

Senator Fifield: Senator, I do not know. I would have to refer that to Minister Porter.

Senator SIEWERT: Could you take it on notice to ask him, please?

Senator Fifield: Sure.

Senator SIEWERT: That would be appreciated. Thank you. I will put the other questions I have on notice in order to save time. They are technical. Thank you.

Senator MOORE: I wanted to ask about the contract that PwC has got. Can we get a copy of the contract?

Ms Essex : I would need to take that on notice. I am just trying to recall whether there are particular commercial-in-confidence—certainly we can give you milestones and the amount of the contract.

Senator MOORE: It is the milestones we are after and the intent—when PwC took on the gig, what were they agreeing to do. That is what I am after. That is covered in the milestones?

Ms Essex : In brief, what they were agreeing to do was to conduct four valuations—a baseline valuation and three subsequent valuations; to provide three additional development modules, which would expand the model further; and to engage in knowledge transfer so that the actuarial valuation work could be done by the department at the conclusion of the PwC contract.

Senator MOORE: And they are the milestones?

Ms Essex : In broad, they are the milestones.

Senator MOORE: Can I get a copy?

Ms Essex : Certainly, Senator.

Senator MOORE: I do appreciate that. I have the idea, but can I get that formally. What was the cost of the contract?

Ms Essex : It was $9.4 million over four years.

Senator MOORE: Thank you.

Senator SIEWERT: I omitted one question about consultation. Once the report is released, will there be another process of engagement with stakeholders?

Mr Innis : We expect to be engaging with stakeholders across the whole four years. Of course, once new things come out, we will want to be talking to groups about what it means and where things head from there.

Senator MOORE: And that is not a PwC responsibility; that is a department responsibility?

Mr Innis : It is a departmental responsibility.

Senator MOORE: You have just started that. Can we also find out along the track what the cost of the consultations are as well?

Mr Innis : Yes. A lot of that is into the future—

Senator MOORE: Yes, I am just putting you on notice that—

Mr Innis : And it will depend—

Senator MOORE: that will be the questioning about the whole thing.

Mr Innis : I understand.

Senator MOORE: We have some questions about the GST. We actually tried to ask them in the wrong section, so now we are going to give them a go in the right section.

CHAIR: You are in the right section. Go for it.

Senator MOORE: As I asked earlier, I am wanting to know if the department has done any work on compensation packages around the GST.

Ms S Wilson : Yes, Senator. As you would be aware, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have made public statements that, if there was to be a change to the GST, the most vulnerable households would be assisted with the cost impact. Clearly, Treasury leads work on tax reform, but whenever it has been considered by government and under successive governments the implications for social security recipients and the interactions between the tax and transfer system need to be considered. DSS or our forebears have been involved in such considerations. We have met with Treasury officials to discuss broad approaches to GST assistance. The first meeting occurred last year, in August. We have undertaken preparatory work on GST assistance and provided advice to Treasury on general approaches to compensation for social security recipients if there were to be a rise in the GST.

Senator MOORE: And that is particularly around the impact on vulnerable people—that would be your purview?

Ms S Wilson : It is the social security implications. For example, FaHCSIA led the work on developing a Household Assistance Package for the carbon price. So it is part of our bread and butter.

Senator MOORE: It is similar work. You said that your first meeting was in August last year. Was that the first time you were engaged in this process?

Mr McBride : Yes, Senator. It followed the COAG announcement. There was going to be a general discussion about it, so Treasury and ourselves decided that we would start thinking about how we would start planning for a possible—

Senator MOORE: So it was a joint request from Treasury and your own minister?

Ms S Wilson : No, it was officials getting together. This stuff was in the public arena. COAG had initiated some work. Therefore, as officials doing our jobs and thinking, 'This could be on the agenda; how do we get ourselves in order'—

Senator MOORE: Is this showing initiative?

Mr Pratt : Yes.

Senator MOORE: I was not trying to be smart—you were not directed to do the work; the officials who watch the program actually thought this would be something that would be worthy to do?

Ms S Wilson : Yes.

Mr McBride : That is certainly true of us, but I am not sure about Treasury. You would have to ask them.

Senator MOORE: You can only answer for DSS.

Mr McBride : They do show a lot of initiative, so—

Senator MOORE: Has there been a dedicated team put together to work on this package—or work on this work rather than a package?

Ms S Wilson : No.

Senator MOORE: So it is internal. Which section would be doing this? Would it be Mr McBride's section?

Ms S Wilson : It is across a couple of areas. Both are in my stream. Mr McBride's group would have a general policy—

Senator MOORE: Mr McBride, remind me: what is the name of your group?

Mr McBride : Social Security Policy.

Senator MOORE: That is it?

Mr McBride : Yes.

Senator MOORE: That is a great title. So it is your group. Are there any others, Ms Wilson?

Ms S Wilson : If there were to be data or modelling requested from us then other groups would be involved, including Mr Innis's group, which is the Policy Office.

Senator MOORE: So you do not have a dedicated team, but you actually have people working within their own processes. Have any briefs gone to the minister on the possible nature of a compensation package?

Mr McBride : No, Senator.

Senator MOORE: What payments have been considered as part of a GST compensation package or household assistance package or whatever?

Ms S Wilson : Ultimately, that would be a decision for government, but generally we look across the social security payment system when looking at such issues, then government would make decisions about whether it wants to go broader than that and what the mechanisms for it would be. Our core examination in the first instance would be social security recipients.

Senator MOORE: In terms of the work that you have done up to now, has there been work done about which cohorts would be involved and also in terms of cut-offs? At what level would support be done?

Mr McBride : We have not got to that level of detail. The discussion with Treasury has been—some people are only welfare recipients. Other people will have incomes, so they will have interactions with the tax system. So it is making sure that, in designing any possible compensation package, the two systems work together in a way that did not overcompensate or undercompensate particular groups.

Senator MOORE: So it would be looking at the general income and welfare alliance in terms of—

Mr McBride : People's interactions with those two systems.

Ms S Wilson : So it is the extent to which people are in both systems or just in one. But our work has been on very preparatory, general approaches rather than anything specific at this stage.

Senator MOORE: And it is really just between your officers and Treasury?

Mr McBride : To date, Senator, yes.

Senator MOORE: In terms of the interaction, it is preliminary, as you said. But, in terms of workload, is this a significant element of workload?

Mr McBride : Not to date, Senator.

Senator MOORE: And at this stage it is just continuing as required?

Ms S Wilson : As we are requested to do work then we will do it.

Senator MOORE: Have you had a formal request yet?

Ms S Wilson : No.

Senator MOORE: So there has been no request either from Treasury or from DSS for particular work—this is preparatory work?

Mr McBride : There have been no requests for us to do work. As to whether the Treasury—

Senator MOORE: No requests and no reports?

Mr McBride : For our portfolio, that is true. For Treasury—

Senator MOORE: You cannot speak for Treasury. Thank you.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I go to the MYEFO measure on a general interest charge and social security debts. Was this an initiative from the department to the government or is it something the government asked you to do?

Mr Pratt : It is a bit of both, Senator, as is often the case with these things. We work on measures like this quite often and governments have an interest in them regularly. So I would say it is best characterised as a bit of both.

Senator SIEWERT: Did you do any consideration of what impact this will have on ex-recipients of social security and family assistance payments?

Mr Kimber : Yes, we did—not in terms of too much quantitative analysis. However, as you said, this only applies to ex-recipients with social security or family assistance debts—those people who have actually moved off the payment system because of their means and therefore would be in a better situation to repay any debt. If you look at the other side of the equation, we have current income support recipients who are required to make repayments of their debt through withholding. So it actually balances up and is fair in that regard.

Ms S Wilson : But there are also circumstances in which, if there is a severe financial hardship, for example, a debtor can apply to Centrelink for a review of the capacity to pay. The debt could be waived or temporarily written off until their financial circumstances improve or there could be a reduced rate of recovery. So there is some sensitivity to the circumstances of the ex-recipients as well.

Senator SIEWERT: What happens to those people who are in casual employment? As you know, there are people cycling on and off. What happens to those who have come off for a short period of time?

Mr McBride : These are people who have a debt. When they are income support recipients, they will have obligations to repay that debt. That obligation continues when they become ex-recipients. What this measure does is that, if people do not enter into and fulfil their payment arrangements, an interest rate is charged on the outstanding debt. As long as they maintain a payment arrangement with Centrelink, the general interest charge will not be imposed upon them. This is only for people who are not in a payment arrangement.

Senator SIEWERT: If they are entering—if they go back onto income support, will a charge still apply?

Mr McBride : No.

Ms S Wilson : The charge only applies to those who do not have a repayment arrangement.

Senator SIEWERT: But, once they get it, if they are going back onto income support then that period will be excluded, then, from the interest charge?

Mr Kimber : That is right, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.

Senator MOORE: There were questions I was wanting to ask about welfare spending—about the media comment that I passed up. It is to do with the community discussion that seems to be around the level of welfare spending. I have put up the media release because that was a comment that was purported to have been made—and I make that statement—by Minister Porter about DSP stretching the system to an unsustainable point. There are a number of statements being made and review statements put out through the department, including the Intergenerational report, that talk about the welfare situation and make a claim that the system is not under stress. That is the background. I have a number of specific questions just about the position as it now stands—

Mr Pratt : I am sorry to interrupt, Senator. What report are you—

Senator MOORE: This is on page 73 of the Intergenerational report, which I believe—

Mr Pratt : It is Treasury.

Senator MOORE: It is Treasury, but DSS is involved—some of the data in it is DSS data.

Mr Pratt : Generally, yes.

Senator MOORE: Treasury puts it out, but my understanding from previous discussions is that certainly DSS is well aware of it if not actively involved. The questions I have are not about those general statements—they are quite particular. Is spending on working age payments projected to decline over the next 40 years?

Mr McBride : I do not have the Intergenerational report in front of me. Generally, we only estimate over the forward estimates period. It is Treasury that does the projections.

Senator MOORE: Okay. Work through what you can and cannot answer and then I will come back. Is the proportion of the population in receipt of working age payments currently in decline?

Ms S Wilson : I understand that it is, yes, in general terms. The working age population receiving working age payments has been falling. There was a peak when the first McClure report came out and then it fell somewhat. It kicked up again during the GFC. There are clearly a number of factors that impact on working age payments. They include, of course, the overall population growth, fertility rates, migration, population ageing and so forth. Clearly, the economy and unemployment but also expenditure, prices, wages and economic growth more broadly and the distribution of assets have an impact on income support receipt. Policy changes play a role as well. So there has been a range of, if you like, competing trends that have had an impact on working age payment receipt.

Senator MOORE: I am referring to a Department of Social Services report. I do not have a copy of, so I cannot pass it up. It was released in 2014. It indicated that, in 1996, nearly 25 per cent of the working age population was receiving a basic social security payment.

Ms S Wilson : One in four, yes—I remember that.

Senator MOORE: I am pleased. By 2014 the figure was 16.8 per cent—a decline of around one-third. Do you remember that?

Ms S Wilson : Certainly, I do, Senator. I was around when the first McClure report was done. I led the team that supported it. This was when one in four people of working age were receiving income support. As I indicated, it has declined since then.

Senator MOORE: Has the department done any assessment around the issue of that welfare system? Where the proportion of people that are reliant on the system is falling, has the department done any assessment about whether that is unsustainable?

Ms S Wilson : I think sustainability needs to be understood in its broadest sense. When we talk about the social welfare system, we tend to talk about categories that include both social security payments and the key care services.

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Ms S Wilson : So, quite clearly, things like population ageing have a real impact on that expenditure. As you would be aware from the IGR and from probably other material, social welfare expenditure overall will be growing and key components of that growth will be in the care services. The advent of the NDIS will also be a big driver of growth in expenditure. I think that the PBO put something out that said it was going to grow from $154 billion in 2015-16 to $198 billion in 1919-20. As a proportion of the overall budget, that expenditure represents more than one-third. So you need to also look at sustainability in the context of the fiscal position of the country when it is more than one-third of the Commonwealth budget and the forecast economic growth. So there is a range of factors that you need to bring to bear in thinking about sustainability.

Senator MOORE: Has the department used the term 'unsustainable'?

Ms S Wilson : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator MOORE: Mr Innis?

Mr Innis : We would certainly say there are sustainability issues with the system.

Senator MOORE: But has the word 'unsustainable' been put in departmental—

Mr Innis : I would have to take that on notice.

Ms S Wilson : Yes, we would have to take it on notice.

Mr Pratt : Can I just clarify. Are you talking in terms of published documents or—

Senator MOORE: Yes—advice to ministers is something else, but just in terms of public documents that put the record of what is happening with our system. The department does put out regular documents talking about the system.

Mr Pratt : We will take that on notice. Can I put a slight caveat on that. We have annual reports and all of these sorts of things and—

Senator MOORE: Everything printed by DSS with 'unsustainable'—I know you cannot do that. But in terms of core documents that go into the public arena—

Ms S Wilson : Core public documents—we certainly look at that, Senator.

Mr McBride : Your interest is in the system as a whole, not component parts? We may well have said that component parts of the system are unsustainable, but then that is different from—

Senator MOORE: That would be useful. I am very interested in the term 'unsustainable' in terms of public debate.

Ms S Wilson : We will see what we can find for you, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I ask also: in what context? The context that is clearly being used here—I take on board, Ms Wilson, what you have just said about the overall spending—is that clearly a lot of the media in particular is aimed at welfare cheats, kicking people off DSP, the burden of DSP and the burden of disability. It is clearly aimed there rather than in that whole context that you have just put it in. So I would also like to see the context in which the word 'unsustainable' is used—or 'sustainability issues'.

Ms S Wilson : If we can find where we have used the word 'unsustainable'—we would have to look in published documents—we would give you the paragraph or whatever in which it appeared and—

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, and what it has been—

Ms S Wilson : And what the nature of—

Senator SIEWERT: The frame.

Ms S Wilson : We will give you the reference to the document.

Senator MOORE: It is very much in terms of the system of social welfare. I know that was part of the aspect that worked on the McClure process and we are looking at the payments that people get as opposed to NDIS, which is a much wider aspect.

Ms S Wilson : The social welfare category that is talked about by the Parliamentary Budget Office and others in terms of a category of government spending is that broad category.

Senator SIEWERT: Including aged care and things like that?

Ms S Wilson : Yes, that is what the $154 billion includes.

Senator MOORE: In terms of the DSP—and I take Senator Siewert's point very strongly that that is the kind of public perception—is the number of people currently on DSP currently in decline?

Ms Halbert : The number of people on DSP was rising quite significantly from about 2005 to 2012. In 2012 there were 827,460 people on DSP. There were some dips and rises. There was another rise to 830,454 in 2014. In 2015 there were 814,391 people in receipt of DSP. This is largely due to a range of policy initiatives that have come in since 2012 that have affected the flow-in and the number of people who remain on the payment.

Senator MOORE: Do you have percentage changes, Ms Halbert—my understanding is that, since 2013, there has been a percentage drop—as well as overall numbers? They are both important.

Ms Halbert : There is. I do not think I have the whole percentage from—but, for example, the percentage drop in 2013 was 0.7 per cent. Then it rose again by 1.1 per cent and then dropped by 1.9 per cent after 2015.

Senator SIEWERT: Can you give us, in relation to those figures, the number of people that were then on Newstart when Newstart—in other words, I am trying to find out where those people—

Ms Halbert : I would have to take that on notice, but we would have the figures for Newstart for those years as well.

Senator SIEWERT: Perhaps under one of the programs—perhaps the working age payment program. Can we have those figures by then?

Ms S Wilson : We will see what we can find for you, Senator. I think you need to—clearly there are a number of drivers of Newstart. So, to the extent that there are changes in assessment or administration or even eligibility for DSP, as was the case a couple of governments ago, then that can potentially have an impact on other payments like Newstart. But there are other drivers of Newstart, like other policy changes and clearly the economy.

Senator SIEWERT: I am aware of that.

Ms Halbert : I have one figure—it is only a one-year figure. From September 2014 to September 2015 the number of people going from DSP to Newstart or youth allowance was 1,700. I do not have them here, but we would be able to get other years.

Senator SIEWERT: That would be appreciated.

Mr McBride : It might also be worth noting that the expenditure on the payment might grow even if the numbers of recipients do not. That is due to the indexation of pension payments, which often gives a level of payment above cost of living increases.

Senator MOORE: We hope so.

Mr McBride : But there are lots of drivers in payment growth that impact on sustainability. It is not just numbers of people.

Senator MOORE: Absolutely. But we are wanting to look at all of those things. It is the numbers and then the percentages, which people do quote. Then, of course, we take into account the payment aspect, which comes into it.

Ms S Wilson : Clearly the other thing—and this is, I guess, harking back to our earlier discussion about the investment approach—is the duration that people have on payments. We know that once people get into the Disability Support Pension they tend to stay on it for very long periods. When they leave, they tend to leave, unfortunately, because they have either died or graduated to the age pension.

Senator MOORE: It tends to indicate their disability.

Ms S Wilson : So, clearly, inflow and numbers at any point in time are important but also understanding the durations of people on payments. That is one of the reasons that we are doing the investment approach and looking at the lifetime costs and lifetime trajectories of different groups.

Senator MOORE: And assessment of appropriate interventions, if that is required?

Ms S Wilson : That is right.

Senator MOORE: One of the more offensive terms that tends to be in the media—and that is one of the things we have passed up—is the concept of 'burden'. A number of times in the media there are media statements—and I have a number of them here—that talk about the 'burden' of the DSP and the 'burden' of ageing. When this happens, is there any process, either through minister's office or through the department, to actually respond to such statements? Are you aware of any departmental product that actually uses the term 'burden'?

Ms S Wilson : I am not aware of a departmental product that uses the term 'burden', Senator. But, again, we would have to have a look. Normally, our role is to provide advice on facts, figures and policy parameters, not language.

Mr Pratt : This is an article from a political correspondent. Generally, correspondents tend to write in more colourful, exciting language than we do. So, as Ms Wilson points out, we probably do not use terms like 'burden'.

Senator MOORE: When something of that nature is printed—and, unfortunately, it is printed a lot in that kind of emotive language—do the media organisations contact the department?

Mr Pratt : Sometimes they contact us for commentary on things they are going to put in their articles. Sometimes they seek information on current policies, facts and figures and those sorts of things.

Senator MOORE: When that term 'burden' is used, is the department or the minister's office—and I know, Minister, you are no longer in a ministry where this actually happens; they do not talk about the burden of the arts very often. But is there a response from ministers' offices to clarify emotive language of this type?

Senator Fifield: Is there a response from the minister's office?

Senator MOORE: Yes, ministers' offices—media consultancies. What I am trying to find out is this: when we have this emotive language placed out there into the community about the burden of ageing or the burden of the welfare system—which actually causes great distress, as you would all understand, in the community—is there a response from the minister's office or is there a process of response from the minister's office or from the department to counteract it or to actually make a proactive comment that this is not appropriate?

Senator Fifield: I guess on occasion a minister's office might raise that sort of issue with a publication.

Senator MOORE: In terms of the inappropriateness of the commentary?

Senator Fifield: In terms of the language. We are entirely on the same page when it comes to that word 'burden' and the implications that people can draw from it.

Senator MOORE: And from the department? Do you have a responsive position or only when asked?

Ms S Wilson : Our role is generally about facts and the accuracy of information, Senator. On occasion, we have provided information to newspaper outlets or others when they have got facts wrong and we have been concerned that people may have been misled. Other than that, we are asked on occasions, as Mr Pratt identified, to provide information again to journalists, either about policy or about data. We tend not to get involved in discussions about language or wordsmithing.

Senator MOORE: When you actually do contact the media when you have a concern, do they actually put retractions in?

Mr Pratt : On occasion, they do. They will correct things, yes.

Senator MOORE: That was a better answer than I had hoped for—they do. In terms of the work you are doing around the ongoing facts and figures and the combination between Mr Innis's group and Mr McBride's group, the focus is on the data and facts rather than assessment or is there an assessment component as well?

Ms S Wilson : We would make an assessment, comparatively, of Australia's expenditure—for example, vis-a-vis comparative economies in different areas. We would look to OECD documents and the like. We would provide advice about our trajectories and the elements of our system compared with projections or forecasts. We would provide advice and make an assessment about how likely this projection is to stand given what we now know two years in or should we work with the Department of Finance to update payment estimates, for example, because we are seeing different things emerge from what had been projected. We make assessments in that way.

Senator MOORE: As we said in earlier discussions, in recent statements or products the terms 'burden' or 'unsustainability' were not used? You are going to check that out for us?

Ms S Wilson : I am going to take that on notice and check it for you, Senator. I could not guarantee one way or another. It may well be that there is a particular area of expenditure which is far outstripping what had been anticipated that leads to a view from the department that something is unsustainable. But, in terms of published documents, I would have to look at—

Senator MOORE: In the last two years, has there been any expenditure area that would come under that category, Ms Wilson—something that was so outstanding—

Ms S Wilson : Not in my responsibilities, but from time to time within the department there has been, definitely, yes—particularly under previous MOG configurations.

Senator MOORE: But not recently?

Mr Pratt : When we were looking after child care function, there were things in the family day care space—

Senator MOORE: But that is not in the last two years, though, is it, Mr Pratt? Have you had child care in the last two years? It went and came back—

Mr Pratt : They sent it back in September.

Senator MOORE: And you had that view when it came back to you? Okay. Thank you.

Senator SIEWERT: I am going to put the rest of my overarching questions on notice. Can I go to issues around the number of people moved under the program of reassessing people under the age of 35 and moving them off DSP. Can I have the number of people who have been moved in that program?

Ms Halbert : As at 31 December 2015, over 22,800 reviews had been finalised. Approximately 1,700 have been commenced but not finalised—

Senator SIEWERT: Sorry—that is 22,800 done?

Ms Halbert : They have been done.

Senator SIEWERT: And 1,700 have commenced?

Ms Halbert : They have been started but not yet completed. The cancellation rate from these reviews is around 10 per cent, so that is 2,450 people.

Senator SIEWERT: And when you say 'cancellation rate'—

Ms Halbert : They are expected to be cancelled.

Senator SIEWERT: Cancellation means completely off income support or moved to another payment?

Ms Halbert : Off that payment. That is the expected number once the review and appeal activity has concluded.

Senator SIEWERT: How many appeals have been received to date?

Ms Halbert : There have been—1,885 authorised review officer appeals have been lodged. That is an internal—

Senator SIEWERT: So that is the authorised appeal, did you say?

Ms Halbert : Authorised review officer appeal—that is a DHS internal process.

Senator SIEWERT: Quickly, off the top of my head, that is nearly two-thirds or something?

Ms Halbert : Two-thirds of the number cancelled—

Senator SIEWERT: Two-thirds of the number that have been cancelled have been appealed?

Ms Halbert : That is probably about right. Of those, 1,583 of the original decisions have been affirmed or the appeal was withdrawn and just nine per cent of the RO appeals have resulted in the decision being set aside—the original decision. Then there are 668 appeals which have progressed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a first review. Of the 489 appeals that had been finalised, 387 or 79 per cent have been affirmed or withdrawn. In 102 or 21 per cent of those appeals, the original decision was set aside.

Senator SIEWERT: So in 21 per cent the original decision has been set aside?

Ms Halbert : Not by the AAT; additional medical evidence is produced by—

Senator SIEWERT: So there is 87 per cent affirmed and 21 per cent original decisions set aside?

Ms Halbert : It is 79 per cent affirmed and 21 per cent set aside.

Senator SIEWERT: Sorry—668 have gone to the tribunal, 489 have—

Ms Halbert : Have been finalised.

Senator SIEWERT: Of which 387—

Ms Halbert : That is right—387 have been affirmed or withdrawn, so the original decision was affirmed or it was withdrawn; and 102 have been set aside. One hundred appeals have been lodged for a second review with the AAT. Of those, 20 have been finalised and all have had the department's decision affirmed or the appeal has been withdrawn.

ACTING CHAIR ( Senator Siewert ): Of the 2,450 that have been cancelled, where have they gone in the system?

Ms Halbert : I do not have that here. I would have to take that on notice.

ACTING CHAIR: This is at the heart of the matter. What has happened to these people? Have they got jobs?

Ms Halbert : Some will have gone to employment and some will have transferred to other payments. We can get you those figures.

ACTING CHAIR: How soon can we get those figures? Can we get them before the end of today? This is a fundamental point. What has happened to these human beings?

Ms Halbert : We will endeavour to get those figures. I will let you know shortly whether we will be able to get it today.

ACTING CHAIR: What was the reason for cancellation?

Ms Halbert : I do not have that breakdown. That may be a question for DHS, I think. But, again, we can look into how quickly we can get that.

ACTING CHAIR: If you could get it—

Ms Halbert : It is the same—you will be cancelled off your DSP and you may be granted another income support payment. But the reason for cancellation will be that they do not meet the requirements under the new impairment tables once they are reviewed. In most cases, that will be the reason for cancellation.

ACTING CHAIR: Those who are under the age of 35?

Ms Halbert : That is right.

ACTING CHAIR: With that table, is it possible to get that information on how long the people affected have been on DSP?

Ms Halbert : I think that is possible, but it may take longer than today.

ACTING CHAIR: Thank you. In terms of the numbers of people, you have told me how many have been commenced or are still in the process. How many more have not been assessed yet that are still likely to be?

Ms Halbert : I do not think I have that figure. Originally it was expected that 28,000 people would be reviewed. I think the numbers I gave you before—the 22,800 and 1,700—are all those from that initiative that are expected to be reviewed. The numbers turned out to be a lot lower because a number of people had exited the payment before they were reviewed. So the actual cohort was smaller than expected when that initiative was launched.

ACTING CHAIR: Okay. Can you confirm how many more are yet to be reviewed?

Ms Halbert : I believe that is right—that is—

ACTING CHAIR: So that is it then?

Ms Halbert : That is right.

ACTING CHAIR: Then the government has indicated that they are now going to be looking at people over 35.

Ms Halbert : The minister has made comments.

ACTING CHAIR: Okay. The minister has made comments. That has not been decided yet, has it?

Ms Halbert : There is no current initiative on that.

ACTING CHAIR: I am just trying to be really clear. You are not at this current stage undertaking any work looking at anybody over the age of 35?

Ms Halbert : Any of those sorts of initiatives would be done in the context of the budget.

ACTING CHAIR: We were talking about new eligibility criteria. Are you able to tell me how many people—I am just going back to the issue we were talking about earlier—

Ms S Wilson : Senator, can I just clarify: the new eligibility criteria—

Ms Halbert : The changed impairment—

ACTING CHAIR: The revised impairment tables.

Ms S Wilson : They are not actually new eligibility criteria—they are updated impairment tables. The points have not changed, but how it is assessed has changed.

ACTING CHAIR: Not since the last time.

Ms S Wilson : Since 2012. The impairment tables have been updated. The points that you require to receive DSP have not changed since 2006, I think.

ACTING CHAIR: No, we have been through this a number of times and we are talking semantics here. We changed—there was a refinement to the impairment tables or a change to the process in 2012. There was also a change in the way that people who applied for DSP were assessed. You have to then go through the 18 months of proving that you cannot find work.

Ms S Wilson : We have changed the assessment process, we have changed the administration of the payment—

ACTING CHAIR: And what counts as your manifest disability.

Ms S Wilson : We have updated—we have changed the way the manifest criteria work and we have updated and revised the impairment tables.

ACTING CHAIR: Now that we have settled that, are you able to tell me now the number of people who are going through that process of the 18 months of trying to find work before they are considered for DSP?

Ms Halbert : This is the program of support I think you are talking about. In 2014-15 there were 3,254 DSP claims rejected on the grounds that the person had not completed a program of support, so they would have undertaken that program. We will have to get that for you. But that is an indication to you of the number of people who claimed DSP but were not able to get it immediately because they had not completed a program of support.

ACTING CHAIR: These are the people who applied and then had to go back and do it. Do we know whether then they have subsequently reapplied? This is 2014-15.

Ms Halbert : Some of those people will have reapplied. I do not have that figure here, but I have one number. In 2014-15, 2,185 people who applied for DSP were assessed as having completed, so possibly those two figures together—they claimed DSP and they had already completed a program of support in 2014-15. Of those, 2,086 were granted DSP.

ACTING CHAIR: So nearly all of them?

Ms Halbert : Yes.

ACTING CHAIR: Do we know what happened to the 100 who were rejected?

Ms Halbert : They would have reclaimed another payment if they were not working. I am sorry; the number I gave you before is the people who were rejected—over 3,000 rejections. For 2014-15, 516 of those people ended up receiving DSP and 1,779 were receiving Newstart allowance as at June 2015. Those numbers will not add up to the exact number I gave you, because it is a different period, but—

Senator SIEWERT: Some may have disappeared from this system—is that what the point is there?

Ms Halbert : No, I do not think so. The figure I gave you a bit earlier is just a slightly different period. That is the 3,241. Some of them will have gone on to other payments beside Newstart Allowance.

Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the assessment process for people applying for DSP, is there a time limit that DSS sets on the period of time for that assessment to occur?

Ms Halbert : There are timeliness standards for the assessment claims. Clearly, particularly with Disability Support Pension, the claim process can be quite protracted and complicated because of the evidence that the person needs to provide and getting specialist evidence. But we do have timeliness standards that we agree with the Department of Human Services.

Senator SIEWERT: Can you tell me what they are? I have had a lot of complaints about this.

Ms Halbert : I am not sure that we have that on hand with us. We will get it for you as soon as possible. It is part of our bilateral management agreement with DHS. I just do not have that agreement and the KPIs and standards with me.

Senator SIEWERT: I really particularly would like to know and talk about that before we get to DHS tonight, because it is very pertinent to a lot of the complaints that we have been receiving.

Ms Halbert : As I say, it is readily available.

Ms S Wilson : We can get that for you, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: That would be appreciated. Have you done any analysis then of the people who have been rejected from DSP and have then presumably gone onto Newstart or youth allowance? Have you done any work on how long those people with a disability who are rejected are on Newstart and whether they are then managing to gain employment? What is happening to that group of people? They clearly have a disability—they just do not meet the requirements.

Ms S Wilson : I will see if Ms Halbert has something on it.

Ms Halbert : I do not think we have that here. We would be able to look at that, though. As I said to you before, we have where they are going after they exit from DSP and the average duration on DSP. I will just have a look at Newstart to find out whether that shows the figure you are looking for.

Ms S Wilson : We may need to break down some overall information that we have about the Newstart partial capacity to work and the youth allowance partial capacity to work groups and their duration. I just do not know that we have it in the form that you are seeking. But we will endeavour to get that for you. We need may need to take that on notice, I am sorry.

Senator SIEWERT: Okay—can you have a look at that. I am obviously keen to—again, I have had a lot of complaints from people who have a disability and who are on Newstart and cannot access DSP, their ability to engage with paid employment and the length of time that they are on Newstart.

Ms S Wilson : I have got—it does not directly relate to the specifics of your question, but we do know that, for the under 35s who have the compulsory participation requirements, of those who have chosen to participate in disability employment services as their activity, as at December last year around 3,182 job placements had been made for that group. Then 2,055 13-week employment outcomes and 1,210 26-week outcomes were achieved. So we do have some evidence of people being placed in employment as a result of having a participation plan and a compulsory activity—these are people who were on DSP.

Senator SIEWERT: Out of what cohort was that 3,182?

Ms S Wilson : I would have to look at—I do not have it with me. I will see if I could get that for you on notice.

Senator SIEWERT: I am obviously looking at—it is great that these 3,000 people have—

Ms S Wilson : It is what is the base and over what period.

Senator SIEWERT: Exactly—thank you. I am interested in that, obviously, but I am particularly interested in this instance in that broader cohort of people who have not been able to access DSP but they have a disability or a partial disability.

Ms Halbert : For partial capacity to work, out of the 113,436 Newstart and youth allowance (other) recipients—

Senator SIEWERT: Was that 113,436?

Ms Halbert : It was 813,436. Of those, 165,647 were assessed as having a partial capacity to work. They will not all be people with a disability, though. They may be people with temporary partial capacity to work et cetera or parents who have reduced capacity to look for work. Within that, I think we can get a breakdown. We will see what we can get you as quickly as we can on those who actually are people who have claimed DSP previously.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. I do have a number of other detailed questions that I will put on notice. Chair, can I throw to my colleagues while I just double-check if there are any of the ones that I am intending to put on notice that I want to ask now.

Senator Fifield: Chair, can I just add to an earlier answer. Senator Moore was asking about the newspaper article that had the word 'burden' in the title. I have checked with Minister Porter's office. Minister Porter's office did make contact with the newspaper to point out the inappropriateness of the word 'burden' and how that word in the headline did not reflect anything that Minister Porter had said. That is just further to the point that ministers do from time to time take these matters up with newspapers and Minister Porter ensured that his office did.

Senator MOORE: Thank you—I appreciate that, Minister.

CHAIR: Thank you for that clarification.

Senator MOORE: I have questions on carers. I passed up an article which purports a lot of things that Minister Porter said, but I particularly want to take up the paragraph about carers. On 15 October the minister was quoted in the Age—which you have—as indicating that he is looking for savings in his portfolio, including by making changes to the carer payment and/or carer allowance. Has a reference group been set up to investigate eligibility for carer payment and carer allowance?

Ms Halbert : As we discussed at the last estimates, I think, there is an improved assessment process being undertaken that is about looking at the tools that we use to assess the care needed and the care being provided et cetera. That is a process that is going on from now with a view to implementing in 2018. We set up a reference group of key stakeholders to consult on the first stage of the review. That is now complete. We will be moving into the second stage of the review. As I said, the outcome of this—the tools have not been updated for a long time and this is to refresh and make them more contemporary with the input of carer groups and others along the way. The intention is that a new tool—one or maybe two—will be available and be implemented from 2018. Currently we have two tools—one for adult and one for child. Part of the discussion is whether that is appropriate and still required. But that is ongoing.

Senator MOORE: These are adult and child carers or—

Ms Halbert : The people being cared for.

Ms S Wilson : The people caring for children and adults.

Senator MOORE: So the carer status is the status of whether they are caring for an adult or a child—is that right?

Ms S Wilson : That is correct. We have a tool used for carer payment for children and for adults and the same tool is used for carer allowance. There are different scores or different ways in which they work for eligibility for each of those. So we are looking at whether we need to update, modernise and refresh the tools; how well they are working; and what other information is available that could be used to reduce the red tape burden on individuals—information that is captured in other places.

Senator MOORE: And the form, Ms Wilson? The much-maligned carers—

Ms Halbert : The form is in scope.

Senator MOORE: That is part of the discussion?

Ms S Wilson : That is part of the whole process—certainly, Senator.

Senator MOORE: The reference group—was that the term you used, Ms Halbert? There are so many descriptions. Is the reference group going to continue as a reference group for the second part?

Ms Halbert : We have said we may come back to them at certain points in the process. Their input was important in that first scoping exercise to work out what should be in scope and what should not be in scope and some of the issues that they have been encountering across the group. Our next phase is to start looking at the very technical side of the tool et cetera. But we have said to that group that, as required, we could reconvene to get further input from them.

Senator MOORE: Have you given me the people who were on that reference group?

Ms Halbert : I believe I did, but we can give it to you again.

Senator MOORE: That would be good. How big is it?

Ms Halbert : It is Allied Health Professionals Australia, the Australian College of Nursing, the Australian Physiotherapy Association, Carers Australia, Children with Disability Australia, COTA Australia, First Peoples Disability Network Australia, Mental Health Australia, the National Ethnic Disability Alliance, Occupational Therapy Australia and The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. We had a couple of groups who declined to be involved. Above and beyond the reference group, we also had a broader group of stakeholders—I can give you that, but I will not go through the whole list—who we consulted. It was one each, I think, in Sydney and Melbourne.

Senator MOORE: Carers Australia was on that group, weren't they?

Ms Halbert : Of course.

Senator MOORE: The focus of this is to change the tools. I am sure this came up from the reference group. In line with some of the comments that were made in that article and elsewhere—although it may well have been taken out of context—there has been some concern in carers groups about whether it is an attempt to cut the numbers on payments and whether to pull it back. Has that concern been raised with the department or with the minister? I know, Minister, that you cannot say. Has the concern that this is an attempt to cut the numbers on carer payment and carer allowance been raised in the discussions?

Mr Pratt : Not to my knowledge.

Ms Halbert : I believe it did come up in very early stages. I do not think it was Carers Australia. But it certainly was not a persistent concern in the discussions we were having with the reference group.

Ms S Wilson : It is worth reflecting that when the tools were first developed—I was actually involved when they were first developed—similarly, we had a reference group that looked at how they would work and what sorts of thing should be taken into account et cetera. At the outset of that process, people were concerned about what the intentions were. But the intention is to have a tool that works well for the people who have to fill it out and the people for whom it is assessing their needs; that it works well for the system; and that it reflects current, up-to-date information about different diagnoses, medical conditions, care needs, technology et cetera that are part of the consideration and that you need to capture.

Senator MOORE: Through this discussion, has there been any element of discussions about further support or wrap-around support for carers or is it purely just on the assessment?

Ms Halbert : Certainly it came up in the context of what we were trying to achieve. I have to say that it was out of scope for this particular exercise.

Ms S Wilson : This is focused just on the tools themselves and how we assess eligibility.

Senator MOORE: Minister, has the government made any proposals to change eligibility for carer payment or carer allowance?

Senator Fifield: I am not aware, Senator.

Senator MOORE: In particular, one of the ones that is doing the circuit is that there would be consideration of abolishing the carer allowance. Has the government given consideration to that?

Senator Fifield: I am not aware. We have the carer allowance, which is in place.

Senator MOORE: Has any proposal gone to cabinet about these issues?

Senator Fifield: Senator, as you know, we do not comment on cabinet processes and what may have or may not have.

Senator MOORE: Can the government make any assurance to carers that they will not be kicked off the carer payment or carer allowance?

Senator Fifield: I am not aware of any proposition to that effect.

Senator MOORE: I know that you said, Ms Halbert, that this is a two-part process and that you are going into the really technical aspects. Will there be any decision about making any of the information that is gathered in this process public?

Ms Halbert : This phase that we are in is developing and testing the new assessment process. As I mentioned to you, we are willing to go back to the reference group to test what the new tool is looking at. It would be a decision for government whether it goes more public than that. But certainly we intend it to be a consultative process.

Senator MOORE: Minister, can we put on record that we would like to have as much of the information about the process as possible made public.

Senator Fifield: Sure.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I go back to the DSP issue. In terms of the breakdown of the numbers for those under 35, are you able to break that down into Aboriginality—how many identified as Aboriginal?

Ms Halbert : I cannot do that here, but we most likely can. I would have to take that on notice for now. We will see if we can get that quickly. If we cannot, we will let you know.

Senator SIEWERT: That would be appreciated. Of those that are appeal numbers, can you also break that down and let us know—

Ms Halbert : For Indigenous Australians?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. That would be appreciated. This may be a question for DHS—I do not know. I will try it here and then you can tell me. We have had examples of people who, when they change their address, have been required to submit application forms for essential medical equipment allowance. Is that—

Ms S Wilson : That is a question for DHS, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: I was just wondering whether that was a policy thing. So that will go to DHS. Can I ask about the legislation about psychiatric confinement and where the legislation that ceases access to DSP for people who are detained via mental impairment legislation is now—what is happening with that legislation?

Ms Halbert : That legislation was introduced on 28 March 2015. It was introduced to the Senate on 15 June and debate commenced on 10 August, but it has not yet been voted on in the Senate.

Senator SIEWERT: I know that.

Ms Halbert : That is the current status.

Senator SIEWERT: Minister, is there a will from the government—are they intending to proceed with that? Is the government still intending to push through with ceasing DSP for people who are detained via mental impairment legislation?

Senator Fifield: I am not aware of any change.

Senator SIEWERT: Has the government looked at what support is going to be available if the legislation proceeds—I say 'if'—and whether they would be providing support for those transitioning out of detention?

Ms Halbert : I think that, when we discussed the legislation before, the intention was that, although you would not be receiving a payment while in psychiatric confinement, as you were transitioning back to the community, at a trigger point we would start to pay the income support again. That was going to be contained in an instrument. We have had discussions with the states about the best way to do that—whether it is a number of days or a gradual increase of income support. But the intention always was that we would support the transition back to the community.

Senator SIEWERT: What has been the resolution? Has there been a resolution of that and, if so, what is it?

Ms Halbert : No, it has not yet been resolved. We are in discussions about that.

Senator SIEWERT: Do you think it will be resolved by the time we may or may not get to vote on it?

Ms Halbert : If the legislation is passed, the instrument will have to be made and it will have to be resolved then, yes.

Senator SIEWERT: So there is no timeline yet on that?

Ms Halbert : It is still before the parliament at the moment.

Senator SIEWERT: You have not yet found the timeliness guidelines?

Ms S Wilson : We are still finding them. I am sorry, Senator—we did not come prepared on that one.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I want to ask some questions about the pension portability changes. What is the purpose of the measure?

Mr McBride : The purpose of the measure is to ensure that our payments to pensioners better reflect the contribution they have made to Australia during their working life and to ensure sustainability and better alignment with international practice.

Senator CAROL BROWN: From my understanding, if you have worked here—is it worked or lived here for 35 years or more?

Mr McBride : Lived.

Ms S Wilson : Lived here during your working age years.

Mr McBride : Between 16 and 65.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So it is not necessary that you have worked for 35 years; just lived here?

Mr McBride : Yes, Senator.

Senator CAROL BROWN: They are not included in this, are they—those who have lived here for 35 years or more?

Mr McBride : They would get unlimited portability at the full rate. We have done a mud map of how the process works if that might help.

Senator CAROL BROWN: That would be good.

Senator MOORE: This mud map is going to make it very clear to us.

Mr McBride : That is what it aspires to do, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: Don't make promises you can't keep.

Mr McBride : We tried our best.

Mr Pratt : It is way better than many that we do.

Senator SIEWERT: I am just not going to bite on that one.

Senator CAROL BROWN: How did we arrive at 35 years?

Mr McBride : We have looked at international practice. It was previously 25 and it was recently put up to 35. It is difficult to make comparisons between the Australian system and international systems, because most of those are contributory—you pay during your life and then you are entitled to that pension. Notwithstanding that, some countries only allow your pension portability if there is a social security agreement. So international practice is mixed at best and the Australian system is a little bit out of whack, because we do not have that contributory system. But, in looking overseas, we thought that the 35 years which is in place now better reflected international practice. The difference that this measure makes is that pensioners have unlimited portability—it is a question of when it is proportionalised. If you go overseas and you have the pension for indefinite periods, after six weeks we say that the amount of pension that you are entitled to should reflect the period between 16 and 65 that you spent in Australia. So, if you only spent 10 years in Australia and then went to live the remainder of your retirement overseas, you would only get 10/35ths of the Australian pension. You can have the pension for as long as you want overseas, but after six weeks we say, 'How much pension should you be entitled to?', and the pension will reflect the time that you contributed to Australian society. Unless you get to 35 years, we—

Ms S Wilson : It is proposed that it will be proportionalised.

Senator CAROL BROWN: By 'contribution', you mean 'lived and worked', not necessarily just 'worked'?

Mr McBride : Yes, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: Is the question then: 'How did you pick six weeks?'

Senator CAROL BROWN: That is my next question. What is the rationale for the six-week limit?

Mr McBride : It is more in line with the way we approach—

Ms S Wilson : General portability.

Mr McBride : portability more generally. It operates slightly differently here in that for other portability requirements your payment is stopped. Here, we pause and work out the extent of your entitlement. For example, DSP: after a period of time overseas you are not entitled to the payment. We do not do that with the age pension—

Senator MOORE: Unless there are certain—

Ms S Wilson : Unless you meet certain criteria—

Senator MOORE: Yes, there are restrictions.

Mr McBride : True. But with the age pension we do not stop the payment. But at that point, which is roughly aligned with the other portability requirements, we say, 'It's time to proportionalise it, based on your Australian working life residence.

Ms S Wilson : Currently, it is 26 weeks and the proposal is to go to six. The proportionalisation already operates at 26 weeks overseas.

Mr McBride : At the moment, you can go overseas on a full pension for 26 weeks before we look at what pension you should be getting over the longer term. That will be reduced to six weeks.

CHAIR: Senator Brown, we are just past the time for a break. If you have a lot more I think it would be better if we came back after the lunch break.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I think we will come back then, because I am not sure what the answers will be.

CHAIR: No problem. We will suspend now and we will come back in one hour's time.

Proceedings suspended from 12 : 32 to 13 : 32

CHAIR: We will recommence. Senator Moore and Senator Brown were going to continue with some questioning.

Senator CAROL BROWN: We are back to the pension portability changes. How many people will be impacted by this measure each year?

Mr McBride : About 190,000 customers over the forward estimates period.

Senator SIEWERT: Sorry, what was that?

Mr McBride : It is 190,000 over the forward estimates period.

Senator GALLAGHER: That is how many people will be affected by the changes?

Mr McBride : Yes.

Senator GALLAGHER: Is that will be disadvantaged by those changes?

Mr McBride : Yes. Or will have a reduced payment by virtue of the changes.

Senator GALLAGHER: So 190,000 people will have a reduced payment. Do you have the average reduction across those 190,000, or is it standard?

Mr McBride : We do not have that here. It is something we can give on notice.

Senator GALLAGHER: You have not done that?

Mr McBride : It will be different. It will not be a standard rate. It will be dependent on the time during their working life that they have spent in Australia.

Senator GALLAGHER: Sure.

Mr McBride : And that will affect their payment. So that is an aggregate figure. We do not have an average figure here.

Mr Pratt : We could take that on notice.

Ms S Wilson : We could take that on notice.

Senator GALLAGHER: So you do not have it in your papers?

Ms S Wilson : No.

Senator SIEWERT: So is that the number that you estimate had been here under 35 years?

Mr McBride : These are the people that will go overseas for a period of greater than six weeks. Beyond that six-week mark, they will have their pension reduced by virtue of the fact that they have been in Australia during their working life less than 35 years.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So that is each and every year 190,000?

Ms S Wilson : No. It is over the forward estimates.

Mr McBride : Over the forward estimates.

Senator CAROL BROWN: In total?

Mr McBride : In total.

Senator GALLAGHER: And do you have any breakdown of who these people are and where they are travelling to? I am getting quite a lot of feedback from various migrant communities about what they are hearing about this. I am just wondering whether the department understands the who, where and how of that 190,000. What migrant communities, essentially, have been largely affected by this?

Senator CAROL BROWN: Countries of origin I think we need.

Senator GALLAGHER: Yes.

Mr McBride : We do not have that here. These people will not necessarily go back to their country of origin. It could be an extended holiday beyond six weeks. It might be an Australian resident or someone who was born in Australia that has spent a considerable part of their working life overseas who comes back to Australia. So it will impact on different people differently. It will not necessarily be the case that they go back to their country of birth.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Can you provide a list of the country of origin of those that are impacted?

Ms S Wilson : Senator, we will look at what we have. I cannot give you—

Senator CAROL BROWN: You must have some detail.

Ms S Wilson : We would have had some estimates of patterns of departures that we were able to base the estimates of the impact on. I am just not sure how granular that information is in respect of things like country of origin. So we will look at what we have and come back to you on notice.

Senator GALLAGHER: And the average reduction across the affected 190,000 people.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Can we have the information that you based the 190,000 calculation on? So you will provide that?

Ms S Wilson : Sorry, can you repeat that, Senator?

Senator CAROL BROWN: The information that you used to come to the figure of 190,000 people being impacted across the forward estimates. Can we have that information?

Mr McBride : A year-by-year breakdown?

Senator CAROL BROWN: Yes.

Mr McBride : Or a list?

Senator CAROL BROWN: What communication have you had with the members of those communities about the changes?

Ms S Wilson : I guess DHS is the organisation that principally communicates with pensioners who are impacted by changes. It would be in their general newsletter material.

Ms McLarty : Yes. It would normally be in DHS's newsletters to age pensioners and those sorts of things. They would have information on their website. I am not sure whether they would have started that yet until the legislation has passed, so that would be a question for them.

Senator GALLAGHER: Do you provide information to DHS? Is that how it works?

Ms McLarty : Yes.

Senator GALLAGHER: You have done that work?

Ms S Wilson : Yes. Certainly, Senator. We work with them on the costings and the estimates, including if there are any implications for their service systems and their call centres et cetera. If the measure is passed, that is when we talk very specifically about what the ongoing communication would be. Often with such a change like this it happens when people ring to ask what the rules around portability are, because they have to notify of departures et cetera. So it is one of the things that the discussion would be around—what the impact would be on their payments.

Senator GALLAGHER: So DHS does the delivery, essentially. Your responsibility is to provide advice. In terms of a communication strategy, is that left with DHS? Do you provide the content?

Ms S Wilson : Often we will check the content. Often there is to and fro about the content to make sure it is accurate. We will do a facts sheet. We update the guide to the Social Security Act, which is what their staff use to help them in their decision-making. A range of products flow when there is a legislative change.

Senator GALLAGHER: In the advice you might provide to DHS around these changes, have you suggested a targeted communication strategy to particular groups? Of the 190,000, have you suggested that there needs to be some targeted communication to particular communities?

Ms McLarty : No. We have not.

Mr McBride : This is something that they would do of their own volition. Communication with their cohorts is one of their key roles.

Senator GALLAGHER: All right. I am trying to understand whether as the policy arm you would have a responsibility there. But we can ask DHS.

Mr McBride : The responsibility is there. But we work with them while these initiatives are being developed and in the period afterwards so they have the correct understanding of how the measure would operate. But how they then communicate that to their DHS—

Senator GALLAGHER: But you would have an interest in making sure that those changes were communicated effectively to affected communities?

Mr McBride : And, as Ms Wilson said, we often fact check any product that they develop to communicate.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Is part of that the work you do when you are liaising with DHS on these changes? Is an element of the information provided in different languages when you are talking about rights?

Ms S Wilson : DHS has a range of modes of communication which include translated product.

Senator CAROL BROWN: But that is not something that you would suggest?

Ms S Wilson : No. Well, they do as a matter of course.

Mr Pratt : It is a standard part of their practice.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So have you spent any resources on communication about this measure?

Ms S Wilson : Well, not yet. It is in prospect, so I guess it was announced as an intention of government. There could well have been some correspondence about it that we have replied to. But in terms of communication with affected groups, that normally happens after legislation has been passed.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So do you have any funds put aside?

Mr McBride : That would be DHS.

Ms S Wilson : That would be DHS.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So all the communication will come from DHS?

Mr Pratt : That is right.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Thank you.

Senator MOORE: I have a couple of questions on the family tax benefit. With regard to the previous issue about communications, and particularly for this group, now that DSS has settlement services as part of your portfolio, is there any more interaction in terms of their knowledge of migrant groups and migrant associations in Australia? Is that kept separately?

Ms S Wilson : Well, we work with them on occasion when things cross boundaries. Their focus is principally humanitarian entrants and new arrivals. So this is really a measure that is going to impact largely on people.

Senator MOORE: My understanding is, though, they had quite a good network of the existing communities in Australia simply because of that interaction between new communities and more established ones and that they work very closely. I just thought that perhaps it was a knowledge base in terms of communications and networks that would be useful in the department.

Ms S Wilson : Certainly, Senator, that is possible. I think DHS also has and would cross over a fair bit with that network.

Senator MOORE: The ethnic liaison units, yes. I have a couple of questions on the family tax benefit that really cover what we talked about at the last estimates. Last year, we tried very hard to get the department to provide to the committee detailed cameos it had done on the impact of the proposed changes to the family tax benefit. Since then, two FOIs have also been unsuccessful. Is there any particular reason that the department is not able to release the work already done so that we can see the impact on families? We had a long discussion and I am not going to go over it. What is the rationale for our inability to get the cameos and the work—I do not want to use the 'modelling' word—that the department has done? What is the reason?

Ms S Wilson : We are very happy on notice to look at answering questions in relation to a particular scenario. But there are so many variables in looking at impacts on groups—depending on income, whether they are on income support, whether they are in work, numbers of children, age of children, income splits within household, whether private renters, whether public renters, whether home owners—that we cannot provide a general answer. We have to look at the specifics of the question, whether we have that information available and the effort required to answer that question, as we do with any other question that we take on notice. So there is no general answer in relation to, I believe, the sort of questions that have come forward, which go to the impact on families. We need specifics.

Senator MOORE: It is one of those areas where I think we could be talking in different languages, because the very reason we want the information is to see the impacts across all possible groups of families. The reason we cannot get the information seems to be that because there are so many variants of the impact, it is too—I will not say difficult—onerous to actually gather all the information together. So we are in this vexed position. From the start, we were asking about the impact to families of these changes. We talked at length, which I am not going to do again, about why and how. But it is still the department's position that because we cannot narrow our question down, it is impossible for the department to answer.

Ms S Wilson : We have given you answers, I believe, in the past about average impacts and numbers affected.

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Ms S Wilson : And we are able to do that. That is easily available. But the broader questions are more challenging for us because of those variables that I talked about.

Senator MOORE: We have standard questions we will put on notice about maximum rates of impact and numbers and all those things, which are there. But it is really the complexity of the range of impacts that we are seeking because the changes are so wide-ranging. On Wednesday, 21 October, Mr Porter said in parliament—I do have a copy of the Hansard:

…all FTB A families will receive $10 more a fortnight. That is, 1.5 million Australian families will receive $10 more a fortnight.

Is that accurate? Will all families be better off by $10 a fortnight?

Ms Halbert : In terms of the FTB A, all families would receive that if they are maximum rate families. All families will receive an increase in their fortnightly amount.

Senator MOORE: But if they are not maximum rate, Ms Halbert?

Mr Whitecross : The 1.2 million families who receive more than the base rate will get the $10.

Senator MOORE: One point two million?

Mr Whitecross : One point two million.

Senator MOORE: The minister's statement in Hansard is 1.5 million. Is there some particular group that is not caught? I am not going to be pedantic.

Mr Whitecross : Well, I think 1.5 million is probably the total number of families receiving FTB A. But ones who only receive the base rate would not get the—

Senator MOORE: Would not get $10 a fortnight?

Mr Whitecross : Would not get the $10. There may be people at the margins of that who are currently getting the base rate who may get the $10 because the extra $10 might move them from the base rate to a tapered rate.

Senator MOORE: Sure. How many families will actually receive the increase? That is the 1.2 million?

Ms S Wilson : Yes.

Senator MOORE: And how many families will lose supplements but not receive an increase?

Mr Whitecross : All families who are receiving FTB receive a supplement unless they are not receiving the supplement because they have failed to comply with one of the conditions on receipt of the supplement, such as immunisation or the Healthy Start for School.

Senator MOORE: You have to tick those boxes to get the payment?

Mr Whitecross : So there will be some families who do not currently get the supplement, but, generally speaking, all families get the supplement.

Senator MOORE: Of the 1.6 million families that will lose their FTB supplements, how many of those families have children in child care?

Ms Halbert : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator MOORE: I would expect so, Ms Halbert.

Ms Halbert : I am not sure.

Senator MOORE: But that would be a stat that we would be able to get, would it not, from the childcare records?

Mr Whitecross : We can certainly get that. I just do not have it.

Senator MOORE: I understand that. But just from the data records we have talked about before, I would have thought you could cross those.

Mr Whitecross : Yes. It is the same assessment process.

Senator MOORE: Of the three million children who will lose their supplements, how many are in child care? If I am clear, how many are of an age where they are likely to access child care? The fact is that they may be of an age to access child care.

Ms Halbert : We will take that on notice.

Senator MOORE: What proportion of the total number of children is that? I am happy for questions 4 and 5 to go on notice.

Mr Whitecross : When you say could possibly access child care, that is a bit difficult—

Senator MOORE: I know. I understand.

Mr Whitecross : because there is not really any age limit on access to child care.

Senator MOORE: I would say birth to four.

Mr Whitecross : So how many zero to four-year-olds, effectively, is what you are asking?

Senator MOORE: If I have a variation to that question, I will put it on notice to make it clear, if that is okay, just so we know what we are asking. They are the only ones I have on family.

CHAIR: Would you like to deal with those out of home as well?

Senator SIEWERT: No. I will ask about them next week at the inquiry.

Senator CAROL BROWN: We have some questions on the treatment of income from defined benefits superannuation schemes. Does the department have data on the impact of the changes to the treatment of income from defined benefits?

Mr Whitecross : As at 1 January 2016, 46,366 DSS recipients received a reduction in pension allowance by an average of $86.46 a fortnight, and 1,572 recipients had their payment cancelled.

Senator CAROL BROWN: So they all were cancelled. Are you able to provide information to us about the number of pensioners across income brackets at all? I am interested in knowing the average income for people who have been impacted and by how much.

Mr Whitecross : Well, I think we know who has been impacted, so I suppose it is possible to do some sort of breakdown by assessable income.

Senator CAROL BROWN: With regard to the information you have just provided, is that the only way you keep this information? You do not monitor it along income brackets?

Mr Whitecross : This is done as a change to their income assessment. The income assessment is recorded into the Centrelink system. We can get management information from the Centrelink system, so we certainly would know what assessable income they had before or after the change. So we could certainly do that.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I am interested in their average annual income and the amount of the impact—the reduction.

Mr Pratt : Do you want the average income they generate from the defined benefits scheme?

Senator CAROL BROWN: That is right.

Mr Pratt : And, apart from that, the loss on average?

Senator CAROL BROWN: Essentially the pension they receive from their defined benefit scheme.

Mr Whitecross : The average reduction I mentioned before is $86.46 a fortnight.

Senator CAROL BROWN: That is on average. Say somebody is on a pension of $11,400. What is the impact of these changes on them? How much would they lose, if they would lose?

Mr Whitecross : Okay. For a specific level of defined benefit pension, in a range, we could work out an average. I guess the caution is that there is not any direct relationship between the size of someone's defined benefit pension and the impact of this change on them because that would depend on the particularities of the defined benefit scheme they are in and how much pre-1983 service they might have had in relation to it. We could calculate an average, but it is whether the average would be very meaningful. You could not then turn around and say someone else with a defined benefit of $11,000 would get the same reduction as the average. You would have to look at their specific circumstances.

Senator CAROL BROWN: I think I would like to go down this exercise, because what you have said is over 46,000 people have been impacted on an average of $86.40 per week.

Mr Whitecross : Per fortnight.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Per fortnight, sorry. And 1,572 people have had whatever pension they received from the government cancelled altogether. That is a small amount of 1,572 into over 46,000. I am trying to work out where all this impact really is occurring. You must be able to give me something that is going to make it much clearer than the information you have provided here.

Mr Whitecross : We can tell you information about the range of sizes of defined benefit income streams. We can tell you things about the range of sizes of the total assessable income, because these people have usually got other sources of income as well as the defined benefit income stream.

Mr Pratt : Would it be helpful, Senator, if we were to look at the affected group and to, say by $10 per fortnight increments, tell you how many lost $10 per fortnight, how many lost $10 to $20 per fortnight and $20 to $30, or something like that?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. That would be useful.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Is it possible to get that state by state?

Mr Pratt : We will have a look at it.

Mr Whitecross : We will look at that. It will go to the size of the job. Yes, we can look at that.

Ms S Wilson : We will have a look at what we can do, Senator.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Thank you.

Senator SIEWERT: The average is $86. Did I get that right?

Mr Whitecross : It is $86 a fortnight.

Senator SIEWERT: A fortnight, yes.

Senator GALLAGHER: I have a couple of questions on the carers payment. I will be very short. I know that the issues have been covered today. Were there questions asked around the projected growth of the carers payment and carers allowance?

Mr Pratt : We did not talk specifically about that. It was implicit in the article.

Senator GALLAGHER: Yes. I noticed the article said that it had been growing at 14 per cent per year over the past decade. I was not sure whether that combined carers with the DSP.

Mr Pratt : I think that is specific to the carers payments. We can probably tell you what that growth rate is. It is probably the fastest growing of the major payments.

Senator GALLAGHER: Because the figure I remembered—I have just gone back to have a look—was in the Commission of Audit. It said that the carer payment and carer allowance was nearly $7 billion in 2013-14 and beyond. The forward estimates are now projected to grow at a rate of about seven per cent per year out to 2023-24. Was that seven per cent figure moderating the 14 per cent figure?

Mr Pratt : It could be a range of things. The 14 per cent figure could be looking backwards as to what has happened over that period. The seven per cent figure could be a projection forward. It is also possible that they are counting different things. One could be all carers payments and one could be the carer allowance, or something like that.

Senator GALLAGHER: Yes. It is hard to tell. Do you understand what is involved in that 14 per cent figure in the paper?

Mr Pratt : I cannot confirm what is in that media report. It suggests that Minister Porter said it was growing at 14 per cent per year. We would need to go and check what he said.

Senator GALLAGHER: I am just wondering whether that is accurate. It seems to be double what—

Mr Pratt : I am sure that if Minister Porter said it, it is correct.

Senator GALLAGHER: I am sure it will be. I am just wondering how that reconciles with—

Mr Pratt : With the seven per cent.

Senator GALLAGHER: With the seven per cent. It is an extraordinarily high figure. That means the carers payment is growing faster than, say, acute care in hospitals by nearly double.

Ms S Wilson : I have carer payment growth for the period from the change from 2013-14 to 2014-15. So this is an actual. For the carer payment, there was 9.1 per cent growth. I do not have the carer allowance with me; I apologise. But it certainly has been the fastest growing area of growth in payments—both the carer payment and carer allowance. I do not have with me a further breakdown on that, I am sorry.

Senator GALLAGHER: That is growth in the carer payment?

Ms S Wilson : That is the carer payment. For the period 2013-14 to 2014-15, it was 9.1 per cent. And it is estimated for 2015-16 to be a 10.7 per cent growth in outlays.

Senator GALLAGHER: So could you on notice just have a look at that 14 per cent figure over the past decade and how it relates to the Commission of Audit figure that was used, which I presume has picked up data from your department along the way? We are not quite sure what the projected growth is. You have not done any work on projected growth over the next decade?

Mr Pratt : As was answered earlier, we probably have done projections over the next four years, the forward estimates period.

Senator GALLAGHER: Four years. I understand. Could you do it for carers payments as a whole? I understand you are doing some work around that, as implied in the article quoting the minister. My question relates to whether there have been parameters around the work you are doing—high-level principle work around any changes that would be made.

Ms S Wilson : We were asked some questions earlier in response to Senator Moore about the work being done on the assessment tools. It really is a case of updating, modernising and refreshing them; looking at how well they work; whether there is new information in terms of practice diagnosis, assessment and technology that would help us redevelop them; how they work from a managing the system perspective; and how do they work from a client and customer perspective. So that work is ongoing.

Senator GALLAGHER: My question is more specifically about whether or not restrictions or parameters have been put on that—for example, a no-disadvantage test. Sure, have a look at how you can adjust these payments, modernise and streamline, but within the realms of carers not being worse off at the end of the day.

Ms S Wilson : We have not got a result from that work yet. I guess with any revision one needs to take account, as we did in our work on a range of other assessment processes, of how it affects people who are currently in the system if there is a change at a review point versus going forward and how would it affect new entrants. They are really decisions that government would make at the end of that process. We have not got to that yet.

Senator GALLAGHER: From experience, when looking at adjusting concessions or payments, it is not uncommon to have restrictions about what that work looks at and how that work is approached. For example, yes, we need to modernise, we need to reform, and we need to streamline—I understand the work that is being done around that—but against a context of not disadvantaging the 220,000-odd people in receipt of these payments. You can change and reform and review without people being worse off at the end of the day.

Mr Pratt : The options open to governments, when looking at changes of that sort, include what we do for people who are in the current system. Do we grandfather them? One option is we just leave them on the current system until they move on to another payment, get a job or whatever. So they do not get affected by the change; it only applies to new entrants, as Ms Wilson was talking about. Another option is that we potentially can freeze them at that level, so they do not go backwards, but they do not advance. Another option is they stay on it for a period and then it adjusts. Or they could be indexed at a different rate. So all of those things do get thought about.

Ms S Wilson : By way of example, when the carer allowance was introduced and there was a transition from what was then the child disability allowance to the carer allowance for children, there was a transition strategy for people in receipt of CDA at the time. They were not reviewed for a period; I think it was five years. After that, they were reviewed against the new tool. So that is one transition strategy that is open if there is going to be a significant change. We are not at the end of the process yet, but we would certainly be advising government on approaches to transition at that point.

Senator GALLAGHER: So what I am hearing is that, from the work being done, there has not been any direction or restrictions placed on that work? All options would be looked at as part of the review that is underway, and then ultimately government would make decisions about how those—

Mr Pratt : That is the typical process, yes.

Senator MOORE: I have a question about financial counselling.

Mr Pratt : That will come under families.

Senator MOORE: I note that there are bits about grant payments for financial counselling.

Ms S Wilson : Outcome 2.

Mr Pratt : Outcome 2.

Senator MOORE: That is what I have written. I just wanted to double-check that I did not miss the officers.

Ms S Wilson : Senator Siewert, I have an answer to a question that you asked earlier about the timeliness standard for DSP. Is it appropriate to provide it now?

Senator SIEWERT: That would be great, yes.

Ms S Wilson : The benchmark standard is that 70 per cent of claims should be processed and determined in 49 days.

Senator SIEWERT: So that is seven weeks?

Ms S Wilson : Seventy per cent in 49 days.

Senator SIEWERT: What happens to the other 30 per cent? Is there process around—

Ms S Wilson : They are really questions for DHS. I am sorry. I am not trying to be difficult, but I think they would be better placed to talk about their performance and their process for handling.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. I understand that. Tell me again to go off and ask DHS, but the rest of the timeliness process is then their process? You do not have any other standards?

Ms S Wilson : We have a standard against which they report, and we monitor that. We have periodic discussions, where we look at how it is going. We set the standards in agreement with DHS, so the two of us negotiate it on what the standards should be for the current bilateral management agreement, or business management agreement; I cannot remember. It is the bilateral management agreement; I got it right the first time. So there are different standards for different payments that relate to, I guess, their complexity and the extent to which they rely on third party information and the like.

Senator SIEWERT: There are a couple of questions that fall out of that. One is whether it is possible to get the standards for the different payments.

Ms S Wilson : Yes. I can give you all of them.

Senator SIEWERT: That would be fantastic. Do you want to hand up the piece of paper?

Senator MOORE: We will keep going.

Ms S Wilson : I can give it to you. I just need help with interpretation.

Mr Pratt : I need a microscope.

Ms S Wilson : It is very small.

Senator MOORE: Ms Wilson, it is just one of those things about reading it into Hansard and us taking hand notes where we will not be able to see the result until—

Ms S Wilson : Can I undertake to get it to you in the course of the hearing today?

Senator SIEWERT: That would be brilliant.

Senator MOORE: Yes, fine.

Ms S Wilson : I will make sure the font is big enough so that you can read it and you will not have the same trouble that I am having.

Senator SIEWERT: That would be great. Thank you.

Senator MOORE: The general point is that when it is read into Hansard, we cannot make sure that we have the answer right for two to three days.

Ms S Wilson : We will get it typed up for you so that it is readable.

Senator SIEWERT: That would be very much appreciated. I want to go back to the DSP, but I think the question is probably relevant to all of then. You said you get reports back from the DHS. How have they been performing against that standard?

Ms S Wilson : I think the question, as I mentioned, of their performance is really a question for DHS.

Senator SIEWERT: But you said they report back to you.

Ms S Wilson : We have a discussion about how performance is going, periodically. We reflect, when we are looking at the standards going forward, how it has been achieved and where there might be a need for change or whether there are any areas of concern. I do not have anything with me that could give you where they are currently against them. We have a formal thing of looking at it quarterly.

Senator SIEWERT: Could you take on notice—instead of making you go back to all of them—the last quarter report against the standards from DHS?

Ms S Wilson : Certainly.

Mr Pratt : In fact, we might go one better. We might advise DHS that you are interested in that and they can bring it along.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. I think that they would, if they have been listening to what has been going on.

Ms S Wilson : We will call them and let them know.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. In terms of the other 30 per cent—70 per cent are dealt with—you do not have any standards around that. Is there an agreement about what happens with that more complex set?

Ms S Wilson : Not really. We try to keep it pretty simple in terms of a benchmark to be met. That is the benchmark that we have arrived at and agreed for the DSP.

Senator SIEWERT: What happens to the 30 per cent?

Mr Pratt : There is an underlying understanding about as fast as humanly possible.

Ms S Wilson : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: I will continue that with DHS. I am pointing there because very often the officers sit there.

Senator MOORE: That is a new one, in terms of responses about timeliness. As fast as humanly possible is the new one.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes.

Mr Pratt : Well, clearly, we will have these things done as quickly as possible and have agreed a target for the bulk of people. But for anyone, often for really good reasons, who exceeds that period, we still want them to be resolved as fast as humanly possible.

Ms S Wilson : Sometimes there is a requirement for information from other sources which the customer will be getting for DHS. I am sure they can talk more about this. So it is not a one-way interaction.

Senator SIEWERT: I understand. But it is the 30 per cent that obviously we are hearing a lot of comments about. Have they been meeting the standard?

Ms S Wilson : I am sorry, but I just do not have the information with me.

Mr Pratt : I want to draw a distinction. If we are talking about a provider of ours, I think it is quite appropriate that we would report on it. What we are talking about is a colleague department. They should be the ones who talk about what they do in their area of responsibility. They are not subordinate to us in this respect or anything like that. They are a standalone department of state, so it is appropriate that they talk about it.

Senator SIEWERT: But you are the ones setting the standard.

Mr Pratt : No.

Ms S Wilson : No. We do it together. It is a bilateral agreement.

Senator SIEWERT: So you have reached an agreement with them about 70 per cent. Is it more appropriate that I ask DHS whether since the change to require the government medical examination—a doctor process—there has been a decline in the ability—

Ms S Wilson : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Ask them?

Ms S Wilson : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.

Ms Halbert : Senator Siewert, I have an answer to one of the questions you asked prior to lunch. The other three we can get, but we cannot get them today. Two of them are related to the indigeneity indicator. We cannot get that today, but we can get it. I note that it is voluntary, so it is not necessarily—

Senator SIEWERT: Yes.

Ms Halbert : The other one was how many people on Newstart allowance with partial capacity to work are ex DSP recipients. We can get that, but we cannot get it today. In relation to the under-35 reviews, I have the cancellation reasons here. The total number is going to be higher than the number I gave you because this is actual cancellations at 16 January this year. So withdrawn or voluntary surrender of payment is 103 people; did not meet the medical requirements, so not sufficiently impaired, 2,775; earnings, including partner earnings, 15; working over 30 hours, 19; failed to participate in the review process, for example, by not replying to correspondence, 411. Note that, of those 411, many will end up back on payment once they have made that contact or engaged in the process. Other, which includes people who have gone to prison or are residing overseas or other reasons, is 173.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. That is all on the DSP working age.

Senator MOORE: I have two straightforward questions about working age payments. The government has indicated that it remains committed to the one-month waiting period for job seekers under 25. Is that the understanding of the department?

Ms Halbert : The bill remains before the parliament.

Senator MOORE: Can you please update the committee on the number of people that will be affected each year by this piece of legislation?

Ms Halbert : I think we have given some of these figures before. In terms of the four-week waiting period?

Senator MOORE: Yes.

Ms Halbert : We estimate that 65,000 people will serve one waiting period; 10,000 people will serve two waiting periods in a year. They can only serve two. That means 85,000 waiting periods as opposed to people. But the number of people who would be exempt from the waiting period in the year would be 83,000.

Senator MOORE: Under the current exemptions in the legislation?

Ms Halbert : Sorry?

Senator MOORE: Under the current exemptions?

Ms Halbert : Correct.

Senator MOORE: And the other one we are updating the numbers impacted on is the eligibility age of Newstart.

Ms Halbert : That is job seekers aged 22 to 24 at any time. That is 70,000 in a year. There is 23,000 expected to be on payment in that age group at the time of implementation, and they would be grandfathered, so they would not be affected.

Senator MOORE: Thank you.

Senator SIEWERT: I cannot be next door to ask questions because they are sitting at the same time we are talking here. I know a lot of the work relates to the employment committee. Have you done any analysis of the outcomes from the work for the existing Work for the Dole process?

Ms S Wilson : No. It would not be our job to evaluate that. That really is one for the Department of Employment.

Senator SIEWERT: Even though you have policy responsibility for those on Newstart and subject to that policy?

Ms S Wilson : We have policy responsibility for the payment. The mutual obligation lead policy responsibility lies with the Department of Employment. We obviously have ongoing conversations about these issues and work together on them, but the evaluation responsibility lies with the Department of Employment.

Senator SIEWERT: Have they provided any update to you on the outcomes?

Ms S Wilson : Not that I am aware of recently.

Senator SIEWERT: So the Department of Social Services knows nothing about the outcomes of the government's current policy approach to their welfare reform agenda and the Work for the Dole measures?

Mr Pratt : No. I do not think that is correct. When evaluations are published, we would have an interest in them. If there are relevant pieces of information provided in processes which cross the employment department's responsibilities and ours, we might get visibility of those things. But it is not our area of responsibility, so any questions on that should go to the relevant department.

Senator SIEWERT: So have you had any visibility with any of the results since the program was changed for Work for the Dole?

Mr Pratt : Well, without wanting to be difficult, which change? I used to run the program in the employment department many years ago.

Senator SIEWERT: There are current changes requiring the different categories of welfare recipients to undertake Work for the Dole.

Ms Halbert : We have not had formal advice of any of the outcomes of those changes yet. I understand that Employment are still looking at that themselves, so it would be best directed to them.

CHAIR: Is there anything else in this outcome?

Senator MOORE: We hope not. I do not think there is anything else in this outcome. I can say we are finished on it.

CHAIR: We are almost on time.

Senator MOORE: We are.

CHAIR: We are only five minutes behind. Thank you for that. We will wrap up that outcome.


CHAIR: We will now move to outcome 5, disability and carers. I might briefly kick off, if I can. I have some questions on the NDIS. I hope to get a bit of an update. It may not have all happened since our last estimates, but some of it has with bilateral agreements for the transition to the full scheme, I think, with New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. Are you able to give the committee an indication of how many people are expected to benefit as a result of these agreements with New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania to roll out the NDIS?

Ms Hand : Can you hear me?

CHAIR: I cannot.

Ms Hand : I will try to talk louder. With those four states and the ACT, you have about 64 per cent of the eligible population for NDIS in Australia covered. I am not sure if you have the actual numbers, but obviously that is good. We are currently negotiating with Queensland and the Northern Territory to obviously get them signed up ASAP too.

CHAIR: Indeed. You said it was about 60 per cent.

Ms Hand : Sixty-four per cent.

CHAIR: Does Ms McDevitt have some numbers for me?

Ms McDevitt : It is around 64 per cent for those four jurisdictions plus the ACT with the signing of those bilateral agreements. That is of the total eligible NDIS population. So in New South Wales we are expecting about 140,000 people to enter the NDIS.

CHAIR: That is 140,000?

Ms McDevitt : There are 140,000. In Victoria, we expect around 105,000. In South Australia, it is around 32,500. In Tasmania, it is about 10,500. They are the estimates and they are reflected in the—

CHAIR: And, from memory, in the ACT—

Ms McDevitt : Ten thousand five hundred.

CHAIR: And from memory in the ACT it was around 5,000?

Ms McDevitt : Yes. In the ACT, it is a little over 5,000.

CHAIR: I understand that the agreement with South Australia provides additional funding in response to the underestimate of child participants during the trial. Can you elaborate for us on that?

Ms McDevitt : The South Australian bilateral agreement commenced in February. That was to make provision for the number of children to come in, because the trial was for children aged under 14. So from February the children who have not yet been able to come into the trial will be able to come in. As part of being able to cater for the extra number of children, but within the total estimate—so that 32½ thousand remains the same—there was additional funding provided by both the Commonwealth and the South Australian governments.

CHAIR: What was the level of that additional funding?

Ms McDevitt : Just under $50 million.

CHAIR: Is that $50 million each?

Ms McDevitt : Yes, each.

CHAIR: How do the agreements mitigate the Commonwealth's financial risk?

Ms McDevitt : All four bilateral agreements mitigate the risk in a number of ways. Firstly, they are much more detailed and specific than the trial agreements in that they identify quarter by quarter how many people will enter the scheme. They will identify whether they are existing clients—for example, state disability services—or whether they are anticipated to be new people coming into the scheme; an example is newly acquired disability. So that is all spelt out, including the funding commitments alone to the actual numbers of participants. What we have agreed with each jurisdiction is this number of people and this amount of funding and then during the transition period. So if there were unexpectedly many more than that, we would need to slightly adjust things and they would come in once we are in the full scheme. So specific numbers of participants and financial contributions are agreed. There is also, in most cases, a better estimate of cost. We have what we call disaggregated package cost numbers. We have identified that people who, for example, are in supported accommodation would cost this much. Some of the new people would cost less. So we have done a lot more analysis around the costs.

We also have for transition what we call a funding mechanism—and that is documented in the bilateral agreements—whereby, for example, state jurisdictions and the Commonwealth are making their payments based on the actual number of people who come into the scheme and then what those agreed package costs are. So for governments it is much more defined what their obligations are and how those payments will be made. For example, under the funding mechanism, state governments will pay in arrears based on the actual number of people rather than the estimated number of people that will come into the scheme and the agreed package costs. The Commonwealth will actually do the same but pay in advance. So those things are there to mitigate the financial risks by having a lot more detail locked into the agreements. Then, of course, there is a number of review and monitoring mechanisms built into those agreements as well.

CHAIR: There is one part of your answer that I might get you to elaborate on. I think you were saying that part of the mitigation of risk was if more came in than expected. It was not clear to me. You did not quite finish that part of the answer. How will it work if more come in than expected?

Ms McDevitt : The bilateral agreements are all based on the Productivity Commission's estimates for participants. The Productivity Commission said that at full scheme there would be around 460,000 people in the NDIS. So we are working on those scheme estimates. You may recall that in 2017 the Productivity Commission will be undertaking a review of all their cost estimates for the scheme. So we are still working on the original estimates. For example, in New South Wales, I said their estimate was for 140,000 people. In South Australia, it is for 32½ thousand people. That is what we have reflected in the bilateral agreements.

CHAIR: And how many jobs are expected to be created as a result of all of these agreements that have been concluded so far?

Ms Hand : Some very initial work has been done. A number of analyses have been done of the workforce that is needed for the NDIS nationally, not just for the agency, in terms of supports working with providers. Basically, the workforce will need to double from what it was at the beginning of the trials, which was around 70,000, to about 140,000. We have recently commissioned some work from National Disability Services. That work showed that, at the moment, the workforce is growing at the rate you would need it to in order to double in that period of time. Having said that, there are many challenges. We have a lot of work going on between DSS, the agency and stakeholders to analyse workforce requirements and work on strategies, such as attracting more people into the sector to work, accrediting them and training them, and a whole raft of other measures.

CHAIR: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Mr Pratt : Excuse me, Chair, while there is a transition happening, there are two things which, with your indulgence, I might mention. With your permission, we have the readable timeliness standards document. If you are happy, Chair, we will have that tabled.

CHAIR: Sure. Certainly.

Mr Pratt : Another point is that the Institute of Family Studies team is in the next session. They are booked on flights at 5.30 pm. We are wondering whether it might be possible to schedule them early in the next session so that they can make those flights.

Senator MOORE: Yes. We are happy to do that, of course.

Mr Pratt : Thank you very much.

CHAIR: I have another question. It is a local one. I do not know if you will be able to answer it. It is a bit of a crossover between jurisdictions, as much in this space is. The local Radio for the Print Handicapped, or RPH, in the ACT is going to lose some funding as of 1 July once funding responsibility goes to the NDIS. That is certainly how it is being reported. Is anyone aware of that case? You get these cases from time to time. Obviously, these are the unintended consequences potentially. Are you aware of that case and what might happen to Radio 1RPH?

Ms Hand : I am not, but I will check.

Ms McDevitt : I am only aware of it in the general in that it has been reported in the media. I think my colleague from the NDIA has more detail.

Ms Glanville : Yes. There is some information that has come from the NDIA. The government has agreed at the Disability Reform Council on the ILC framework, which is the framework for information linkages and capacity building. In most jurisdictions, that will roll out over a longer period of time. So we have been heavily involved already with jurisdictions in thinking about what sort of programs fit within the ILC. The agency is charged with operationalising that framework and seeing how it works in practice. As a part of that, we have been engaged in a significant consultation around the country with different groups getting their feedback on how we actually make this real and live in an NDIS environment. Because the ACT effectively starts in full from 1 July, we had to do a bit of work with them earlier in the piece. We have had numerous conversations both with, of course, the ACT government and the national radio print handicapped group and the local group in the ACT. As part of the assessments, there will be some programs that do not easily transition to the NDIS environment. A good example of that is that some business models some agencies have are based on block funding from government. Of course, we are moving to an individualised model of funding. The way some organisations will get funding is through amounts in participants' packages that can be used for particular purposes.

A lot of the work that Radio for the Print Handicapped does is very valuable, but it is not necessarily specifically related to disability. So it is not giving information about disability and the NDIS as such. We are still working with them to think about how the ways in which they operate perhaps could fit more easily within the ILC operating environment. Those discussions are ongoing as recently as the last few weeks.

CHAIR: So, in this case, what happened in those negotiations with the ACT government? Does the ACT government say, 'Well, we won't fund this anymore because it's all going to be funded under the NDIS?'

Ms Glanville : In the negotiations, we agree with state and territory governments about what fits within the ILC framework that has been agreed at that higher level by COAG. So we look at everything that is funded and we consider whether that fits within the ILC framework. That is how the negotiation works.

CHAIR: Maybe take this question on notice. I can only assume it was agreed that it did not fit within the framework, which is why it is going to lose funding from 1 July. Presumably, it is then a question for the local government as to whether they continue to fund it separately from any NDIS agreement. Is that a reasonable—

Ms Glanville : Yes. That is right. With some programs, there might be a way of helping them look at their model of how they deliver services to see if it can be something which is funded. But essentially the proposition is right as you put it.

CHAIR: Because it is very valued here in Canberra, and I am sure it is in other places where it is delivered. It does seem a pretty important service to people with disabilities. You would think we would be able to find some way of fitting it in the framework; I put that to you. If there is any additional information you are able to come back with on notice, I would appreciate it.

Ms Glanville : Yes. I am happy to do that.

Senator MOORE: I want to follow up on that. In terms of the discussions, we have been involved in Queensland as well on exactly the same issue. You talked about negotiating with the national groups that look after this media. It seems that the issues would be similar everywhere, because a lot of these organisations were formed out of families, out of need and specifically for people with not only print issues but also ageing issues, which do not fall within the NDIA.

Ms Glanville : No. That is right.

Senator MOORE: So it is just one of those things. There is a few of them around.

Ms Glanville : Yes.

Senator MOORE: As Senator Seselja said, we need to get some information on them. Certainly one of the points that we talked about here are the things that are going to fall between the cracks. In the negotiations, that is things that may not be funded and how they will be.

Ms Glanville : It is probably important to say that we can provide in this information what funding they receive from other government departments, for example, at both state and federal level.

Senator MOORE: Communications.

Ms Glanville : And how it might fit within the mainstream environment and be something that would contribute to the achievement of the national disability strategy, which is about inclusion and those sorts of areas.

Senator MOORE: Sure.

Ms Glanville : So I am happy to provide that further information.

CHAIR: Thank you for that.

Senator GALLAGHER: I will start with questions on the jurisdictions that are yet to finalise agreements. Could you update the committee on progress for Queensland, the Northern Territory and WA?

Ms Hand : For the Northern Territory, recently we acknowledged the negotiations we were having before Christmas to move towards an agreement for a transition to the full scheme. So those conversations are happening as we speak. In Queensland, we are quite advanced in negotiations. There are a few issues to work through. But we are very much hoping that we can reach agreement with both of them in the next few months. That is dependent on a few things. Western Australia has not yet signed up to the agreement to the full scheme. As you would be aware, there is a Western Australian model My Way trial going there and an NDIA one. There is an evaluation of the two trials that is due in August, I think. Governments will then consider after that where they go. I should stress that we are actively in discussions with Western Australia on what a transition to full scheme will look like even in advance of that evaluation.

Senator GALLAGHER: I want to go back to a couple of those things. I was not here in the October estimates. Is it correct that in October the estimates hearing was told that an interim report was due in December. So the final was always planned for August, was it?

Ms Hand : August. It was always that timeline, yes.

Senator GALLAGHER: Have you got that interim report? Was that provided?

Ms Hand : Yes, it was.

Ms McDevitt : It is in draft. It is still being finalised. We have received the draft.

Senator GALLAGHER: So it is a draft interim report?

Ms McDevitt : Yes.

Senator GALLAGHER: When the interim report is finalised, is there an intention to make that public?

Ms McDevitt : That will be a matter for the ministers—both the Commonwealth and WA ministers.

Senator GALLAGHER: Going back to Queensland and the Northern Territory, I think in your answer to my previous question, Ms Hand, you said a few months.

Ms Hand : It is like anything. When we were negotiating all those years ago with the ACT, obviously there was a lot of detail to work through in terms of all the schedules. But we are negotiating very much on the model of the New South Wales agreement that was signed. So that sort of served as a template for all the other agreements that followed—South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. So that is very much the model that we are talking about with those two jurisdictions.

Senator GALLAGHER: I know it is difficult to answer more specifically, but my concern is that the transition to the full scheme is due to start in July, which is only a few months away. If the answer to having agreements finalised is a few months away, that does not really give a lot of time from the signing of those agreements to moving straight to full transition.

Ms Hand : And that is always an issue, obviously, in terms of the ability to start with the 1 July ramp-up, because the agency needs lead time. So that is why we, the Commonwealth, are negotiating in earnest with those jurisdictions. All parties are very committed to signing just as soon as we possibly can.

Ms McDevitt : You may be aware that we started an early transition site into Queensland around Townsville and Palm Island, which is underway. They are very much using that as a learning experience, so we have something there to build off once we do have an agreement in place. With the Barkly trial in the Northern Territory, certainly the Northern Territory has been keen to get it right. That is why the negotiations have been prolonged in terms of the challenges of delivering the NDIS in remote communities.

Senator GALLAGHER: What is the lead-in time that the NDIA needs post agreement being signed? Is there a period of time in an ideal world and the less than ideal world that we all live in?

Mr Bowen : We have been consistent in telling governments a minimum of six months is necessary. There is some latitude with that depending upon the scale of the first quarter intake. So, for example, with South Australia and Tasmania, we have infrastructure in place right across those states. The agreement in South Australia was somewhat of an extension of what we were already doing there, so it was much more deliverable. For a brand new area to get up and running—to get offices, to get staffing on board and to get arrangements with contractors—six months is actually quite tight if there is any significant number.

Senator GALLAGHER: Ideally, it is six months. We are eating into that time now. I know there must be some flexibility around it, but is there a point at which the 1 July timetable will have to be reassessed for these jurisdictions?

Mr Bowen : If you look at the situation in Queensland, as Ms McDevitt said, we have an early commencement in the Townsville area, including Charters Towers and Palm Island. We could certainly do an expansion in that area earlier than otherwise. But for other areas of Queensland, we have passed the date we could set up for 1 July. That is just the reality of it.

Senator GALLAGHER: You have now?

Mr Bowen : Yes.

Senator GALLAGHER: You have passed that. So it is those areas where there are early transitions—Townsville, Charters Towers and Palm Island. For other people in Queensland, regardless of signing, when the bilateral agreement is finalised, there is going to have to be a later date?

Mr Bowen : There is just a physical limit on how close you can bring the bilateral agreement to get it commenced.

Ms McDevitt : These are matters that are subject to negotiation. All parties, including in our area, are looking to what is most viable when we know that we are in a state where we are pretty close to asking ministers and the Prime Minister and first ministers to sign bilateral agreements. It is important that we do it in a viable way. Yes, there would be options like building on where there is existing infrastructure. Every jurisdiction has put forward different proposals, whether it is age based, geographic based, in some cases where they might have a priority cohort. So all of those things are in the mix, which is why, as Ms Hand said, it does take us some time, once we have agreed the approach, to finalise all the numbers that have to be verified as well as test for viability with the agencies. So for those jurisdictions where we do not yet have agreements, that is very much the subject of our intense negotiations.

Mr Bowen : I will add to that. It reminds me of a very important point and an example of what is achievable. We have been keen to stress the importance of having local area coordination on the ground six months in advance of undertaking any of the planning. When, for example, the agreement with Queensland was reached for the early commencement in Townsville, we were able to negotiate with the Queensland government to use some of their existing resources and some of their local area coordinators to start that work at an earlier point in time. So certainly there are options around that to deliver some of the critical early elements of the scheme still from the July dates if agreements are reached.

Senator GALLAGHER: So, in Queensland, for people outside those early transition sites, other arrangements will be put in place on a negotiated basis over the next few months. But it is unlikely that populations outside of those early transition sites will move to full transition on 1 July?

Mr Bowen : Yes. But that is probably the case with the majority of the state.

Senator GALLAGHER: And is that the same for the Northern Territory?

Ms Hand : In terms of those sorts of flexible arrangements, yes. But note, of course, that there is quite a dispersed population and a population in very remote areas in the Northern Territory. So one of the things we are in active discussions about with the NT is the type of model that you use up there and the engagement approach with potential participants in the scheme. So it is slightly different.

Senator GALLAGHER: Does that make the work more complicated in the Northern Territory?

Ms Hand : Not necessarily. We still have to work through the usual things that you work through in a bilateral agreement around participant phasing and funding and all the other things you would have seen in the other agreements. Remember that the NT population is much, much smaller than in Queensland, so it will not—

Senator GALLAGHER: But it comes with its own particular—

Ms Hand : Yes.

Ms McDevitt : Both those jurisdictions, under the heads of agreements, have a three-year transition period, so it is about how you move within it. So we are all committed to those parameters. It is about how you phase within that and in a way that meets the community needs of that jurisdiction.

Ms Hand : It is a commitment very much from both jurisdictions and the Commonwealth to still meeting the three-year timeline even if it does not start on 1 July. We will have to monitor that once transition starts in those jurisdictions.

Senator SIEWERT: One will start quicker. Is that the idea?

Ms Hand : A different phase-in schedule.

Senator SIEWERT: All differently?

Ms Hand : That is right.

Senator GALLAGHER: I do not know if it has been discussed before, but this is the first I have heard of the 1 July date being moved away from.

Ms Hand : What I would say is that we have been committed for 18 months of negotiations to doing this as quickly as possible. The New South Wales bilateral agreement model is there. Frankly, we could sign tomorrow if those two jurisdictions were happy, but they have different objectives for their populations in certain areas. But we are negotiating through. So Queensland is very, very close. Like all negotiations, until both parties can reach agreement, you are not there.

Ms McDevitt : We have not moved away from a 1 July start date as such. I think, as Mr Bowen pointed out, if the most viable thing is actually to expand out from some of those where there are existing sites, that would still enable us to commence on 1 July. Purely by way of example to illustrate the point, if Queensland said on 1 July that they want to bring in all of Brisbane, I think the NDIA is saying that that would not be viable. But if Queensland wanted, you know, to move out from Townsville and Charters Towers, that would be very doable because we have already got an early transition site happening. It is the same in the Northern Territory. We have been working with them on how, in the NDA, to deliver in a community, expanding out to other communities. We have been very flexible in the negotiations, as have jurisdictions, so I do not think we would want to say that we are moving away from a 1 July start date.

Ms Hand : Indeed. We have started early.

Senator GALLAGHER: I understand the commitment. But what Mr Bowen said was that, for people in Queensland outside of those early transition sites, the time has lapsed for them to be moved to full scheme transition from 1 July. That is new information to me that I am just trying to explore further. I understand the sensitivities of it being not just at the Commonwealth's feet and that there are intergovernmental agreements and processes. I guess the question that would flow on is the outstanding issues. You said the ones around Queensland are minor. That leads me to believe that there are bigger issues in the Northern Territory.

Ms Hand : No.

Senator GALLAGHER: Are they issues that can be solved easily, or are we talking money?

Ms Hand : Really I cannot comment on confidential negotiations. As I said, Queensland is very close. The NT will not be nearly as complex because it is a much smaller population. Note that Queensland has already started transition. As Mr Bowen said, if we were to sign in the next few weeks, you definitely could do something that is quite flexible in some areas of Queensland. But you could not have a massive ramp-up from 1 July.

Senator GALLAGHER: Minister, perhaps this question is best for you. Considering the issues that have just been talked about, what priority is the minister giving this to resolve at that intergovernmental level to move to full scheme transition as soon as possible?

Senator Fifield: The NDIS is, I know, one of the highest priorities in Minister Porter's portfolio. He has already, in the relatively short time he has been in the portfolio, secured a number of bilaterals in addition to the Victorian and New South Wales ones and the ACT, which were concluded when I was the minister. As Ms Hand said, with these negotiations, there are two parties. The Commonwealth cannot compel the other party. You have to reach a point where both parties are happy. But every effort and every resource is being deployed in the portfolio to bring these to a conclusion as soon as possible.

Senator GALLAGHER: So the minister would have met with Queensland and Northern Territory ministers in pursuit of the finalisation of this, or is it still at departmental level?

Mr Pratt : It is both. The minister meets with his counterparts in the Disability Reform Council. I am aware that he has discussions with a number of them.

Ms Hand : In fact, he met with the Queensland minister just a week or so ago.

Senator GALLAGHER: Last week.

Mr Pratt : My assessment, going right back to where we started on this, is I am cautiously optimistic that we will land something with Queensland in the next month or so.

Senator GALLAGHER: Whilst I understand the issues around moving to full scheme transition, you probably covered that, Mr Bowen, in your discussion about how you would potentially adjust and build on existing services. I am just trying to understand whether a delay to full transition disadvantages people in those jurisdictions who are waiting to move into the NDIS.

Mr Bowen : Ms Glanville might add something to this. The agency does quite a lot of work with all of the governments around pre-NDIS communications. In Queensland, we have had officers based in Brisbane and Townsville for some time. We have done—we could get the exact number—what would run into hundreds of local and community engagements talking to people about what the NDIS is, how they will engage with us, what the plan might look like, and what sort of preparation they should be thinking about before coming to those planning meetings. All of that is critical because one of our experiences in the trials was that the lack of readiness delayed and extended the period actually required for planning. So we have that commitment to continue that. Obviously, as bilaterals are signed and new areas are identified for the early component of transition, we ramp up that activity, but we keep a significant baseline there right around the country.

Senator GALLAGHER: I shall maintain our ongoing interest in the transition arrangements. In terms of some of the transitioning to the scheme overall, I understand there is an option around guided plans being used as a way to manage.

Mr Bowen : I will ask Mr Maynard to add to the information on that.

Senator GALLAGHER: Can I get an understanding of what guided plans are, what role they have and whether they are a temporary idea or whether they are here to stay?

Mr Maynard : Thank you for the question on guided planning. Guided planning is a process that the agency is using to develop the first plan for each participant. For the agency to meet the challenging phase-in in terms of numbers of participants and still ensure that the participant is at the centre of our planning process, this guided planning approach has been developed. It ensures that we capture all of the necessary information that we need in terms of a participant's particular disability; their informal and existing family, community and other carer supports; and the existing program support that they have. It has the ability to identify any new funding, particularly capital funding items reflecting a capital need, in a way that is efficient and enables our planners and our access team to address the large numbers coming into the scheme in a very short period of time.

Senator GALLAGHER: So they are temporary arrangements for the beginning of the scheme, or is this something that is a mandatory process to go through for participants coming into the scheme?

Mr Maynard : For all participants coming into the scheme, their first plan will be developed using the guided planning process.

Senator GALLAGHER: Do you have a copy of the guided plan? Is it a pro forma document that you tick that you need these supports or this equipment?

Mr Maynard : It is an approach that is built on a face-to-face meeting or a telephone conversation with the participant depending on their needs and how they would like to transmit information to the agency. It also utilises a questionnaire which is designed in a way that is consistent with the scheme's goals and our values to get information about the participant's needs. We are at this stage piloting the guided planning process in parallel to our traditional planning process. When that pilot is concluded, it will give us very valuable information around the outcomes and outputs of a plan developed in the guided planning approach versus our traditional planning approach, which will be used for the second and any subsequent plans. We have also engaged extensively with peak bodies through the CEO forum, which we convene on a regular basis within the agency, to get input on the guided planning approach and the questionnaires. We have also sought input from the independent advisory committee. All of that input has been worked into improving and reviewing that process.

Senator GALLAGHER: When did the concept of guided planning or guided plans emerge? It is not a term that I recall from the early days of the scheme being developed.

Mr Maynard : The approach to planning that the agency uses is always subject to improvement. For an organisation that has been in trial site mode up until now, we have gathered information from all of our trial sites to determine what works effectively from a participant perspective and what is efficient to administer from an agency perspective. All of that input is regularly taken account of and our processes are revised. So as the agency has grappled with the challenge of bringing on large numbers of participants in the phase-in profile that we are working to, we are always looking for the most efficient way to do that and balance that with having a process that is participant centred.

Senator GALLAGHER: So it has come in. When did the concept of guided plans become the plan with which you enter the scheme? I would think that is relatively easy to answer. My second point is: is it a workload management tool?

Mr Maynard : As a concept, it would have emerged in September-October last year in terms of the agency coming to grips with it as a possibility. It has the participant at the very centre of it. From the agency's perspective, it is the most efficient way to undertake our planning obligations. It has been informed through consultation with peak bodies that is ongoing and a pilot that has been trialled against a full planning process.

Mr Bowen : I will add a little to that. It is really the third leg of gathering three critical areas of information to assist in the planning. I have reported to this committee previously that the early assessment tool, while it delivered packages within cost, did not correlate back to the underlying funding. We moved away from that to go back to the original Productivity Commission approach around reference packages and find better, more discrete indicators that gave us a good assessment of functional impairment and that population normed information in it. The second component was the introduction of an outcome framework. Again, I have reported that to this committee. It is quite critical that we baseline. Where people are self-reporting their position as they enter the scheme, we collect from them the information on how the scheme has affected and changed their life. We can correlate that to the types of supports and services they get.

The third element of this is really saying we understand that a person's needs are not just driven by their impairment but have to do with their circumstances at home, the environment in which they live and their ability to access the community. The guided planning is a structured conversation about those aspects. It is not the be-all and end-all of planning, but it is a great way to capture a much broader look at a person's life in a way that lets them get into the scheme. The other critical thing we have discussed at this committee previously is that the big change with the NDIS is that it is not a be-all and end-all plan. You do not have to come in and get your final plan and that is it for the rest of your life. We are very keen to communicate to people that we want to get them into the scheme and continue the conversation. I think we use regularly the term 'start of a lifetime journey'.

Senator MOORE: Where is the pilot?

Mr Maynard : The pilot is being trialled in the ACT.

Senator GALLAGHER: Could the committee be provided with a copy of the pro forma document that makes up the guided plans? Not filled in. I do not want to breach anyone's information. If there is a pro forma being used, I cannot imagine why that cannot be provided.

Mr Maynard : Yes.

Senator GALLAGHER: Thank you. Is it mandatory to come in with this plan? Is it a mandatory requirement of participants, or can people say, 'No, thank you. I'd like to have my own approach?'

Mr Bowen : We need to collect the data.

Senator GALLAGHER: So it is mandatory?

Mr Bowen : Because we need to have that understanding of a person's life. It collects data that we would otherwise collect in the current planning processes.

Senator GALLAGHER: So it is mandatory. I was someone who was involved in the very early discussions of the NDIS. I understand that it was always going to be informed by what you learned from the trial and the early start in the ACT. It does seem to be moving away from that concept of choice and control for the participant into a system. Individual plans have been around in the disability sector.

Mr Bowen : I would argue the contrary, in fact. The guided plan fits in with our approach, which is to enable people to self-plan. In fact, we have assumptions about the level of self-planning by saying through this process of data collection we can give you a good indication of a plan. It is in your control what sort of services and supports you purchase from whom at what point in time. When we were developing this model, it was critical to have a system that facilitated people doing that as far as possible. Indeed, a target and an aspiration for the agency is to see more and more people taking advantage of that over a period of time as they become more confident rather than, if they do not wish to, relying on a planning conversation. I think Mr Maynard made it clear that everyone, following the development of that first plan, will have the opportunity to enter into a dialogue with our local area coordinators or a planner, depending upon how it is streamed, for an ongoing discussion about their support needs.

Senator GALLAGHER: So people will be on the guided plans for a certain period of time before they move into the—I think these are your words, Mr Maynard—more traditional planning approach?

Mr Maynard : They will be on a guided plan for a set term. That term is set by the planner and based on an individual's circumstances. So it is quite possible—

Senator GALLAGHER: In consultation with the participant?

Mr Maynard : Entirely based on the participant. So it is quite possible that a participant might have a guided plan with a three-month duration because the circumstances are likely to change. It could be that another participant would have a guided plan with a 12-month duration.

Senator SIEWERT: It may have just been a slip of your tongue, but you said 'with the participant'. Then when you went on, it did not sound like it was actually in discussion with the participant. You said that the planner determines the plan.

Senator GALLAGHER: The planner determines the duration of the plan.

Mr Maynard : The planner will—

Senator SIEWERT: And the plan?

Mr Maynard : Sorry?

Senator SIEWERT: And the plan? Let us be really clear with this guided plan.

Mr Maynard : The planner is responsible for developing the plan. The information that informs the development of that plan comes from the participant. That information is gathered from a number of sources. If that information is able to be gathered through a telephone conversation with the participant and that works for the participant, we will gather information that way. If a face-to-face meeting is requested, we will be resourced to do that.

Senator SIEWERT: But the planner writes it. Does the participant sign off on it?

Mr Maynard : Yes. The participant signs off on that plan.

Senator SIEWERT: What happens if they do not want to sign off on it?

Mr Maynard : That will lead to a delay in the plan being finalised and implemented.

Mr Bowen : We should say that that is no different to the current circumstance. We have an internal review. We have an external review.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. But the current process has more involvement with the participant. This sounds like the planner is making the final determination of what the plan looks like and would take it or leave it.

Mr Maynard : With the planning process that is used now, the process for future plan development and for the guided plan development is that it is the agency's planner who finalises the plan. The participant has a role in approving and endorsing their plan prior to it being implemented. If we end up with a scenario where a participant is unhappy with the plan and the process used, the agency has a complaints framework. The participant would lodge a complaint. It would be assessed using that complaints framework. Ultimately, if the participant is not satisfied as that complaints process moves through, an independent investigator, who ultimately would be independent of the agency, could review those circumstances.

Mr Bowen : I think it is really important to know that the construct of the plan looks very, very different from at the start. This committee will recall some of what I would say were justifiable criticisms of those early plans, which set out in detail what very much looked like a diary of a person's life—you will do this at that point in time. The new plans are very, very flexible. The funding is determined by the agency—that is our statutory responsibility—but how that person utilises the funding for a range of different supports is very much in their control. So it is a very different concept around planning. It absolutely emphasises the choice and control of the participant in how they use their funding and where they go to get supports.

Ms Glanville : I suppose the only other thing I would add to this is that from a community engagement perspective—and that is the group I am responsible for—throughout the trial it has become very apparent that people with disabilities are very keen to get into the scheme quickly no matter where they are. That has been expressed in so many different ways and so many community meetings. This, I think, will also assist in bringing people into the scheme quickly; there is no doubt about that. From that point, there can be that position of discussion and journey as people move with us throughout the time of their plan. So there is, I think, a strong community incentive for this approach. It certainly has not been lost on the agency that people's most significant concern has often been things like 'The money will run out' and 'You'll never get to us.' The community sentiment around that has been quite significant from people with disability around the country.

Senator SIEWERT: So the planner determines the length of the guided plan?

Mr Maynard : The planner will determine the duration based on the needs of the participant.

Ms Glanville : The participant, at a point where they are not happy with their plan or, as happens regularly now, their circumstances change two or three months or a month after the plan has been developed, can trigger a review of that. So that does not change. That is an important point. As the CEO has pointed out, there are also external mechanisms that hold us to account in that space as well through external review.

Senator GALLAGHER: I have some questions on the cost of the scheme and, in particular, an editorial article published in the Australian on 21 January. I am sure people are aware of it. The article kicks off by saying:

The bipartisan goodwill behind the National Disability Insurance Scheme is souring after revelations of a billion dollar cost blowout during the trial period.

I do not know who is best to take this. My question is: is that claim true? Has there been a billion-dollar cost blowout identified during the trial period?

Senator Fifield: Let me speak to the first part of that. I think the bipartisan goodwill for the scheme is rock solid. In fact, I should say the cross-party support for the scheme is rock solid.

Senator GALLAGHER: Tripartisan.

Senator Fifield: So that is unaltered. I think it is exhibit A as to what can happen when partisanship is put aside in terms of social policy. In terms of how things are tracking with the budget, I will hand over.

Mr Pratt : To answer your questions from a departmental perspective, no and no.

Senator GALLAGHER: So the trial has not identified a cost blowout at all?

Mr Pratt : No.

Senator GALLAGHER: So it is tracking on projected costings?

Ms Hand : Very much tracking to budget.

Senator GALLAGHER: It just seems a very odd thing, then. If it is tracking as projected, there is not a cost blowout at all. There is a claim in a major newspaper that there are revelations of a billion-dollar cost blowout. Is there an indication of where this figure might have come from or what it relates to?

Ms Hand : There have been many, many inaccurate news reports about cost blowouts in the NDIS. They are all inaccurate. I do not know which one specifically you are referring to, but I can say on the record that the NDIS is tracking to budget.

Senator GALLAGHER: That is excellent news. As part of any movement in a reform program, particularly dealing with vulnerable populations, there is a lot of concern about what it means going from this to this. When you see inaccuracies like this, what steps would be taken to address that inaccuracy and correct the record?

Ms Hand : We do a lot because we get quite concerned for the same reasons as you; we do not want participants or the community worrying that this is not funded or that there will not be funds for their package, because it is completely inaccurate. So we always go back with a very accurate media response to the journalist or the editor or whoever, and usually via Minister Porter's office or Minister Porter himself. Minister Porter speaks to journalists, as do his advisers, to correct the record, because it worries us all enormously when we see this sort of reporting.

Mr Bowen : In this particular case, the chair of the board had a letter published in the Australian repeating what has been shown in all of our quarterly reports—that the scheme is tracking well against the bilaterals and remains under budget. Both the bilaterals and the projections to full scheme quarterly report for the December quarter have recently been published. That would allow us to repeat that claim. We would be projecting that through to the end of June, based on expected participant entrants and the continuing trends in the scheme, we will complete the trial within budget.

Senator GALLAGHER: In relation to this article that I am quoting from, which is the Australian editorial from 21 January this year, was it agreed that the board chair would respond publicly to that article?

Mr Bowen : Yes. We had that discussion with the department and the minister's office. The minister indicated that as it was directed to agency reports on the quarterly report, it would be appropriate for the chair to respond. The chair responded and a letter was published.

Senator GALLAGHER: But the minister in this instance declined to publicly correct the record?

Mr Bowen : I think the minister was very comfortable that the chair, who has the agency's data on which these claims rest, was in the best position to make that response.

Senator GALLAGHER: So, in a general sense, when there are stories like this—and there have been many, as you say—there are three respondents. It could be a department response, a ministerial response or an agency response. Is that determined on a case-by-case or article-by-article or misinformation-by-misinformation basis?

Ms Hand : Usually the minister would respond, if he responds. It is very rare for the department to do so.

Senator GALLAGHER: But in this instance it was the board.

Mr Bowen : We should note that the chair of the board has quite regularly made media commentary in relation to the scheme following discussion with the minister.

Senator Fifield: And with discussion and happiness from the previous minister as well.

Senator GALLAGHER: I am sure we are all very pleased to understand that it is tracking to budget, as expected, and within budget at this stage. I am conscious of the time. I have some questions on what is happening with the board. I know there is a bit of a kerfuffle with board appointments or reappointments. I think under you Minister Fifield, there was some turbulence around what was happening with the board and existing board members not being able to reapply.

Senator Fifield: There was a misunderstanding on that point. There were ads placed and all the existing board members were welcome to apply. Contrary to media reports, there was no intention to spill the board, as I think it was termed in one article.

Senator GALLAGHER: How did that get out of control, then? How did that get to be a misunderstanding? Was there not a criterion that excluded—

Senator Fifield: No.

Senator GALLAGHER: Is that not where it started?

Senator Fifield: That was one of the backgrounds, which would be useful. But that is not the exclusive background.

Senator GALLAGHER: So it is what it is. It was a misunderstanding?

Senator Fifield: Yes, there was. It was to do with a misunderstanding as to what the intent was.

Ms Hand : With the process we have talked about that was underway before at Senate estimates, which is very much underway, we are very, very much stressing that existing board members are encouraged to apply too. It is not just potential new ones.

Senator GALLAGHER: So there is a process underway now?

Ms Hand : That is right. Russell Reynolds has been engaged. I think you might have talked about it.

Senator GALLAGHER: In October?

Ms Hand : In October.

Senator GALLAGHER: That is still going, is it?

Ms Hand : Minister Porter was keen, when he came in, to look at everything properly and make sure that we were allowing sufficient time to attract the right candidates. It was announced after the Disability Reform Council that was held in November last year. In the communique that came out from that, Minister Porter and DRC members had agreed to extend all existing board members—the chair and some by six months to the end of this calendar year, and the rest of the board to 1 July next year. So we are deliberately making the process a slightly longer process.

Senator GALLAGHER: Staggered?

Ms Hand : And staggered.

Senator GALLAGHER: Staggering appointment. When will it be finalised?

Ms Hand : As you know, with these very senior level search processes, you do not want to rush them too quickly because you want to attract the right candidates. But it is very much on track to hopefully be finalised in this first part of the year.

Senator GALLAGHER: So close to finalisation. And of the current board members whose terms expire this year, they expire at the end of this calendar year, do they?

Senator Fifield: No.

Ms Hand : No. So, under their existing terms, they all expire on 30 June. It is a real risk, obviously, to the scheme to have your whole board go at once. So Minister Porter and, before him, Minister Fifield recommended a staggered approach with future recruitment. The six- and 12-month extensions will help with that too.

Senator GALLAGHER: So there will be some board turnover on 30 June this year?

Ms Hand : No, there will not, because everyone has been extended to the end. So half the board.

Senator GALLAGHER: Yes. So half is to the calendar year and half go to the 2016-17 financial year?

Ms Hand : That is right.

Senator GALLAGHER: So the first reappointments to the board will be necessary by the end of this calendar year?

Ms McDevitt : Yes. They will be necessary by the end of the year.

Senator GALLAGHER: The Victorian government has proposed a compromised board renewal process, I understand.

Ms McDevitt : No. There has been agreement between both guide level ministers and Disability Reform Council ministers on the process.

Senator GALLAGHER: So they did not offer a compromise, or it got taken over by another—

Ms McDevitt : There were discussions at the Disability Reform Council in November. There have been ongoing discussions about the reappointment process. But there has certainly been agreement, which commenced last year as part of the recruitment process, on an open process for board renewal and that it should be staggered and that new members should be able to apply. So all that has been agreed. There have obviously been discussions among ministers about the process. As Ms Hand said, in opening the communique, they will be looking at those reappointment processes as set out.

Senator GALLAGHER: Thank you. Thank you, Chair. I know I have taken up a lot of time.

CHAIR: Not at all.

Senator REYNOLDS: Good afternoon, Minister, Secretary and Mr Bowen. I greatly miss this committee, so it is lovely to be back here.

CHAIR: We miss you too, Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. I have a few questions. I have a number that, for the sake of time, I will put on notice. The first one is in relation to the young people in nursing homes report, which we tabled on 24 June last year. That is about eight months. I do not think we have had a response back yet from government on that. Minister, are you able to advise the status of that response?

Senator Fifield: I cannot. I do not obviously have carriage of that portfolio area any more. But officers will be able to give an update as to where that is at. I can indicate that there has been some progress in relation to supported accommodation both through the NDIS itself and through the Department of Social Services. When I was minister, we identified an amount of money which we thought could be a mechanism to be an interim stage, if you like, to enable applications for particular supported housing projects. I might ask Ms Hand to elaborate where that is at and the formal response to the Senate from the department.

Ms Hand : I will actually defer to Mr Christian.

Mr Christian : You are right; the government did receive the report of the Senate inquiry on 24 June. The report does include 12 recommendations for consideration by government; the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the NDIS; and the Council of Australian Governments, COAG. DSS has taken a lead for the Australian government's response to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee report. We have been, in the period from the tabling of the report to now, working with other agencies, including the Department of Health and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The MoG changes in September 2015 did mean that there was a short delay in the response being finalised. However, this time has allowed the department to engage with the Young People in Nursing Homes National Alliance, who are providing expert advice on the findings of the Senate inquiry report.

Ms Hand : The other thing I would add, Senator, is that, as you no doubt know, under the NDIS we are currently working with the states on a national quality and safeguards system. We are very much taking into account relevant things that came out of that inquiry as we develop.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. As we all know, and as a member of the NDIS committee, supported accommodation is the one of the more challenging but important issues. As you would be aware, in the NDIS committee we have had two roundtables now as a sort of adjunct almost to the committee to get not only Young People in Nursing Homes and a range of other organisations but also capital funds, developers and others and people who are doing some quite innovative work in this field. I know the NDIA and I think the department have also been engaged in this process. That is a process that will continue. The clear feedback is not just that a lot of people are inappropriately in nursing homes because there is nowhere else for them to go but that a wide range of people who will come under the NDIS remit are looking for quite different types of accommodation. This is where some of the new models have been quite successful. People are not just being provided what the NDIS or a government department thinks is appropriate housing. It is something that gives them choice, flexibility and all those sorts of things. Are those sorts of factors being taken into consideration? How is that sort of rolling out now in terms of policy implementation?

Ms Hand : We will let the NDIA answer.

Ms Glanville : Thanks for that question. The agency is quite involved in a range of initiatives in that space that are quite exciting. The first is, of course, that we are involved in consultations around the country on specialist disability housing following the framework that has been settled in relation to that. It relates to not only pricing but also models. What has been really interesting about those consultations to date, and they are ongoing, is that we have had terrific attendance not only from providers but also from people with disabilities, their families and carers, who are talking about the sorts of models that they would find interesting. So this will be very, I think, significant and creative work in terms of thinking about how we move forward.

The second is that the agency has recently closed a request for information from the Barwon trial site. It was not a request for tender. It was actually a pre-stage to that which asked people in the Barwon region to tell us about what they thought should happen in the housing space—what some of their aspirations and information might be. We had, once again, a very good response to that. We are currently going through all the submissions that have been made, once again, from providers, from people with a disability and from families and others. I think there might even be a local government one in there somewhere. We are really teasing out these sorts of issues.

The third one is very close to the CEO's heart so I could not not mention it. In New South Wales, we are currently looking to have a showcase around different housing models and best practice in innovation in housing in the not-too-distant future. We are hoping that this will act as a stimulus for people to think differently about the way in which housing will be provided.

Senator REYNOLDS: I must say that that is music to my ears.

Ms Glanville : That is very pleasing.

Senator REYNOLDS: For me, it is very encouraging. Obviously the devil is going to be in the detail of how it actually comes together and the timeframe. As you know, another issue that has come out for people either who have experience or who want to go into this area to build and/or operate new styles of supported accommodation is obviously finance. Banks and others would be very interested in investing in these sorts of developments and providing capital for them, but there is actually no-one to guarantee them to provide bank funding for some of that. Is that something that either the department or the NDIA has looked at? Is there possibly a role for the government to provide that?

Mr Bowen : The work that we are undertaking at the moment is to look at the pricing structure for specialist disability accommodation. It contemplates that as people who qualify for that type of assistance enter the scheme, funding is attached but not included in their package to create a fund that can be used to then stimulate the development of new housing options. Minister Fifield will recall that he made the point repeatedly that we do not talk about a specific sum of capital because it is part of the overall scheme costs. The reason we do that is if you just focus on the amount of capital, you will only get an investment approach that maximises the number of residences built but does not necessarily take into account how that style of housing that might be the most efficient use of the funding impacts on other costs to the scheme. Efficient housing might be five-bedroom houses in remote suburbs, which are great for that amount of money. But they will make the additional costs of providing support to people—transport costs and all the other costs—higher. So our pricing structure has to take that into account. We see good housing support as being a component of good overall package cost.

Senator REYNOLDS: Personally, I am very heartened by that approach. For the long-term future and sustainability, I think that is absolutely right. But it seems like we are caught in that transition phase now going from a supply to a demand driven model, where there are very long lead times. For example, a small example but I think an important one is the contracts and agreements between state governments now and the federal government on funding for the NDIS. There is a financial transaction between the federal government and the states that assumes that all of the 2,200-odd younger people in nursing homes in New South Wales will be out of aged care at the time. People keep saying to me, 'Where are we going to go?' While the financial sums work out, we have not actually identified accommodation yet. We are talking about a population of 7,000 or 8,000. We do not have somewhere for that 7,000 or 8,000 to go. Obviously they are there because there is nowhere else for them to go. There is going to be a long lead time under this longer term model for developers and providers to identify what their niche is going to be, how many people might benefit or want that style of accommodation and then for them come to them. It is a big field of dreams at the moment. In the interim, to not wait for years for things to be developed, how do we get through that transition period?

Mr Bowen : The critical point is that the bilateral agreements for the full scheme were essential to guarantee that the funding will be available in the long term. Neither the agency nor potential developers could sign up until that was there. That was only last year. The agencies work on pricing. We had hoped to get it before this bill comes in March, but they brought the meeting forward to the beginning of March, so I think it is more likely to be the end of March to complete that. We do want to comply with—

Senator REYNOLDS: Mr Bowen, I do not have any problem at all with the agreements and with your need to do that. It is the practical—

Mr Bowen : We can map housing need against the bilateral agreements and make some estimate of what will be needed in what locations at what point of time and start to enter into the contracts ahead of people entering the scheme because we have got reasonably good predictive modelling about who is entering in each location. As Ms McDevitt said in answer to one of those earlier questions, the bilateral agreements give us that much better information.

Ms McDevitt : One of the things that the Commonwealth has done is we have allocated $10 million from our sector development fund. In fact, applications close today for a specialist disability accommodation initiative. That was specifically to provide some upfront capital to help bring some projects to completion ideally within the next couple of years. So that is something we have done to partly address the issue that you raise about timeframes and long lead times. So that round started last year. It closed today. I will be working through and hoping to have some contracts in place by around April focussed on outside the trial sites to try to bring some of that new innovative supply on sooner.

Senator REYNOLDS: I understand that that crossover period is unavoidable. This smaller cohort of younger people in nursing homes. You have a program, ideally in the next two years. Does that mean that people who are currently inappropriately in nursing homes, as we have found, not getting the mental health support and not getting the rehabilitation support, are being progressively isolated and all the things that we know? The funding arrangements may have already come in. The Commonwealth government is not funding the aged care facilities any more. You are saying the Barwon region is already ahead. When the people come back to us or come to the planners or whomever, is the answer that we are probably going to have to be stuck there in these conditions for another two or three years until we find or build new accommodation?

Ms Hand : It is the case, and I would add that the pricing framework that DRC—

Senator REYNOLDS: Sorry, but I am having trouble hearing you, Ms Hand.

Ms Hand : Sorry. In the pricing framework that DRC approved last year, one of the criterion for the work that Mr Bowen is doing is that young people in nursing homes get absolute priority for any accommodation that is being built or being brought on board because they are identified as a critical group to move as soon as possible.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is good news. A number of the people we are in contact with now are obviously people in the trial sites. We know that there is a huge gap in terms of their needs for medical and mental health—a whole range of support—and that they have nowhere for their friends to visit and do all those sorts of things. So as a transition for the next two, three and four years, are you saying, then, that NDIS, as it rolls out, will provide more of that support in the aged care facility while they are there?

Ms Hand : If they are eligible for the NDIS, it does not matter where they are; they will get a tailored package.

Ms McDevitt : They will become NDIS participants and, therefore, have the same access to devised packages as any other participants and their choice and control. And then it is about particularly some of that capital funding as well as funding for other support. It is clearly within that category of integrated accommodation and support. So they would be eligible to receive things on the same basis as other people.

Senator REYNOLDS: Until suitable accommodation can be built, found or located for them?

Ms McDevitt : That is right, yes. But it is channelled through their package costs and subject to what the participants are saying would help.

Senator REYNOLDS: So in terms of the rollouts timetable, again, for this particular cohort, for ones that are in the later stages where we have not had trial sites or are in states that are coming online later, what is the longer lead time before they get picked up under an NDIS package? Obviously the accommodation lag would follow further on behind that.

Ms Hand : It would depend on what the participant phasing in is under the bilateral agreement in every jurisdiction. If they are in an area that is being phased in in the first year of transition, the agency will take them on as a participant.

Senator REYNOLDS: This is my last question on this area. We are talking about a very long lead time that is unavoidable, and for the right reasons. There is this particular cohort, and there may be similar cohorts in extreme disadvantage in pretty much every way that we know are going to need an NDIS package and will be eligible for one. Is there any way that the NDIS or the department could look at a separate trial or a different way of dealing with these cohort as a gap measure until the NDIS is rolled out across the country?

Mr Maynard : That is actually what we have in place at the moment. We are not waiting for potentially eligible participants in trial sites to come forward. In conjunction with the Summer Foundation, we are actively working with the operators of aged care facilitators and with carers and family members to start the dialogue with potential participants, granting their eligibility and then, in the same way as for every other participant in the scheme, developing a plan that meets their needs. To the extent that accommodation cannot be found other than their existing accommodation, the agency is still able to fund all the other supports and capacity building and capital items that are needed by that individual to meet their needs.

Senator REYNOLDS: Is that right across Australia for everybody who is currently in an aged care facility who should not or does not want to be there, or has that still got to be phased in in accordance with the national rollout?

Mr Maynard : That arrangement through the grant with the Summer Foundation applies in four trial sites. We are in the process of expanding it. The learnings that we get will inform the way that we engage with that highly vulnerable cohort as we phase out the scheme.

Senator REYNOLDS: I have one final question, possibly for Mr Pratt or Ms Hand. One of the recommendations was to get the exact number and location of those who have been subject to an ACAT so that we know exactly how many there are and where they are and what facilities they are in. I think last time we talked about it, the department was going to put that list together so at least we know exactly who is in the cohort. Has that occurred?

Ms Hand : We have numbers of young people who are in nursing homes. I have the number here somewhere. To be honest with you—

Senator REYNOLDS: I am happy for you to put that on notice. Perhaps you can do it with a state breakdown.

Ms Hand : We will take it on notice.

Senator REYNOLDS: I am happy for you to take it on notice. If you can give us a state breakdown, we would all be interested to see that. The next issue is a very small issue but I think an important one. I and I think others have had very consistent feedback, having talked to participants and their support family and groups, that there seems to be a very high turnover of planners—people who are dealing with individuals' cases. I am not saying that is the case, but it is a consistent thing. One of the biggest issues people have had is not in the way that they are treated but the fact that—people keep calling it Groundhog Day—they have just gone through it with a planner. They do not seem to have the record, so they have to explain it all over again, or they do not like what the previous planner did—they turned it upside down—and they have to go and appeal it to bring it back to what it was. I do not know how much is perception and reality, but that has been a very consistent bit of feedback. There are two things. One is the reasons for turnover, if it is occurring and, two is how you capture the records and the decisions and the reason for the decisions so planners can pick it up again.

Mr Maynard : Thank you, Senator, for that question. I want to acknowledge that wherever there is a staff turnover, be it a planner or whoever is engaging with a participant, it is a very challenging situation. We have worked hard as an agency to maintain our corps of planners. One of the challenges that we face as we expand the scheme is to ensure that we are applying the experience and knowledge of our most capable planners in areas where we need to build our capability. So at times some of our planners may work in other trial sites to be able to transfer information to apply their learnings. Generally they are temporary arrangements. I acknowledge that where that occurs, that will create some frustration for participants. If it is occurring on a regular basis or in a particular geographic area, we would love to hear about that as an agency because it might indicate turnover that has not been evident. I would like to also acknowledge the tremendous engagement that our employees have with their job. Turnover is not something we are experiencing at the planner level. In fact, it is the reverse. Our planners, in the engagement I have had with them, just love their roles. They love the opportunity to serve participants in the way that they are and are always looking to be able to share those learnings as the scheme expands.

Ms Glanville : I will just add to that. In terms of our staff engagement surveys, the agency does very well in the Commonwealth context in terms of retaining staff and in terms of people's indications of how long they wish to stay with the agency, which is reassuring.

Senator REYNOLDS: I will ask you to take this on notice. Again, I am passing on what has been passed on to me. Can you put on notice not only the turnover but also the transferring? Someone might not have left a particular office but somebody may have been passed to other people, which is the nub of the complaint. People will turn over. It is an incredibly difficult and challenging job for people. How do they physically keep the records? Some of the complaints say, 'Look, it's like they haven't read my file or someone has taken their notes with them.' If someone takes on someone else's case, I am happy if you give us on notice a bit more information about how they keep these notes-—electronically, handwritten or whatever—to transfer that knowledge over.

Mr Maynard : I am very happy to answer that now. We are currently operating on a system that was designed to serve the agency in trial site mode, so it has some limitations. The time that I have spent sitting with planners and working out how they capture information, I am confident that the vast majority of information they capture goes straight on to the system. However, the system has some constraints because it was developed for trial sites. We are in the process at the moment of migrating to a new system which will serve us in the full scheme. It is designed around our end-to-end processes which will be consistently applied across the country. One of the key features in that system design is the ability to have any planner be able to take on a case file. It may just be an instance where someone is off sick for a day but a participant rings up with a query on their plan. The new system is designed to be far more intuitive for a staff member to operate and include all of the relevant detail and linkages that are relevant to a participant. So another planner can come in and as seamlessly as possible pick up the status of that plan.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is very good. Thank you. My final series of questions—I will put the rest on notice—relate to the My Way NDIS trials in WA. Can you give us an update from the Commonwealth's perspective, or from the NDIA's perspective, on the timelines of the trial process? I know there is an evaluation process underway. Could you let us know what that evaluation process is and what it is evaluating and when you expect it to have concluded?

Ms Hand : We did cover that, actually.

Senator REYNOLDS: You have already?

Ms Hand : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. I will go back and have a look at it. I do not want to go over questions that have been asked. Did you talk about the bilateral arrangements process?

Ms Hand : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: Excellent. Thank you. Some of the concerns that have been expressed relate to three things—choice and control; concerns about inequitable levels of funding; and, if the state does adopt My Way, the transportability of packages and the transportability of the range of services they can access and the dollar values associated with that. Has that been covered already?

Ms Hand : No. It has not. To be honest, we cannot really talk about it because there has been no decision to adopt the NDIA or the My Way model. Until we have worked through whatever government has decided for a transition to full scheme in WA, it would be premature to answer those sorts of questions.

Senator REYNOLDS: So once we have a decision, we can come back and ask you more questions about the detail of those issues either through this or the NDIS committee?

Ms Hand : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. I will put the rest on notice.

Senator MOORE: I have a brief follow-up question. Go ahead.

Senator LINDGREN: Mr Maynard, you talked about the program that Senator Reynolds inquired about. I would like to know what your transparency measures are around that particular program. If something is red-flagged, for example, as an issue, is the issue somehow fed up to the next level? Is there a safeguard around that program? If someone makes a complaint and the person gets the complaint and it is an issue and it needs to be followed up, how is it followed up? That person goes sick. Is there a safeguard that says, 'Okay, this issue needs to be red-flagged.' You might be copied into that red flag and it is kept. I am a former teacher. We have a one school program in Queensland. If something is red flagged, the principal sees the copy. Is there some measure that does that?

Mr Maynard : There are a couple of issues there and I might cover them both separately. The ICT program that sits behind our planning process has limited ability at present to flag key milestones, review points or issues. It is largely incumbent on planners keeping those records themselves. One of the features of the new ICT program which is being rolled out within the agency is that it will workflow a lot of those key milestones, review points and comments et cetera. What that will do, if everything goes according to what is currently planned, is trigger diary notes in a planner's diary, for example, a period ahead of when a planning review is required, and they can start to gear up with that participant. The second part of your question relates to specific complaints. The agency has a formal complaints framework that is independent of the planning function. So if there are queries or concerns that are raised in the normal course of a plan being developed for a participant, they would be discussed with the planner or a senior planner within that work group. If that concern is not completed or addressed to the participant's satisfaction, it can be registered with the agency as a formal complaint and reviewed independent of the planning function. Ultimately, through various escalation points, if the participant is not satisfied, it is referred on to an independent investigator.

Senator LINDGREN: Thank you.

CHAIR: Just before we finish up here, I think Senator Moore had some questions.

Senator MOORE: I wanted to follow up on Senator Reynolds.

CHAIR: I do apologise to Senator Siewert. You do.

Senator SIEWERT: Do you want to ask follow-up questions on housing?

CHAIR: Yes. That is all right. So Senator Moore and then Senator Siewert.

Senator MOORE: I want to follow up particularly on the last point that Senator Reynolds raised, which is about the Western Australian experience. Certainly I take the point that no decision has been made. Already the media in WA has had publications talking about how much better the My Way system is because it is cheaper. They are actually saying that. In line with previous questions we have asked this morning, does the department have any response so that when the media comes out—I am sure you have seen it—and makes these claims in the local media, the department then tries to give some response to it? It is particularly dangerous. The particular questions we had around this area could not have responses because no decision has been made. If already it is being ceded in the community that My Way is better, that is very worrying.

Ms McDevitt : I might just comment. As part of the regular reporting on both trial sites, we do get more and more information. You would be aware that My Way expanded into the Kwinana and Cockburn region—

Senator MOORE: I do know that.

Ms McDevitt : earlier this year. In fact, WA has just published their latest quarterly report on the site. Certainly the package costs are going up and are much more in line with the NDIA model. Yes, we do constantly get reports from both trial sites—I am aware of that—and we go out of our way to make that information available. I think you will see that voices in the media—for example, the people with disability in Western Australia who did a participant survey last year—are quite active in providing participant perspectives on both of the models in WA.

Senator MOORE: We have been told by service providers that they have to register with the state system to deliver services under the NDIS in WA. My understanding is that, in the state system in WA, it is a process that can take many years to get that registration. It is complicated and restrictive. Is that your understanding?

Ms McDevitt : I am not aware in detail of the WA government's registration process for providers.

Mr Bowen : It was an issue early in the Perth field site. Part of the bilateral agreements for trial vested the states with continuing responsibility for quality and safeguards. The WA model is to go out occasionally inviting providers to register and go through that process. Our trial site was finding that that was slowing down registration early in the piece. But WA responded and that has been accelerated.

Senator MOORE: That has been stopped?

Mr Bowen : I am not aware that it has been a problem for over 12 months now.

Ms Glanville : I think that is right. If it would be useful, we could certainly give you the number of providers that are now registered in WA. I just do not have any of those to hand.

Senator MOORE: I have the number. The providers in some areas are still making complaints that it is more complex to be able to partake in the system in WA than it is in other states. I have not heard the same complications anywhere else.

Ms Glanville : Just to echo Mr Bowen's comments, that certainly was the case, but we think that has been resolved. So if you have any recent examples of that, we would very much welcome hearing about them.

Senator SIEWERT: I have. I have had it said to me recently—within the last three months—but it may be just repeating old information, so I will double-check that.

Ms Glanville : That would be great. Thank you.

Senator SIEWERT: I have some more WA questions.

CHAIR: Before we proceed, I will remind senators that we are about 40 minutes past the time for outcome 2.

Senator SIEWERT: I have two areas that I want to traverse, but I will try to do them quickly. I want to follow up on WA. You do not know yet whether the evaluation report is going to be released?

Ms McDevitt : It is being finalised and will go through both the Western Australia and Commonwealth ministers. It will be their decision whether it gets published.

Senator SIEWERT: Was that not part of the agreement in terms of the comparison approach?

Ms McDevitt : It is a matter for the ministers.

Senator SIEWERT: When is that issue going to go to the ministers for resolution?

Ms McDevitt : It should happen fairly shortly because, as I understand it, Standards International, which is doing the evaluation of the WA trials, is close to finalising its interim report. As I said, we received a draft of that report, as did all members of the WA joint steering committee that oversights the trial. They had the opportunity to provide some comment, and that work is ongoing. But that is for stage 1 of that evaluation, with the final evaluation due later this year, in around August.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. I was particularly interested in the timeframe when you think the ministers will be able to release that report.

Ms McDevitt : It has not yet gone to the ministers. We expect that will happen in potentially the next month.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. I understand Minister Porter met with the Western Australians and the Western Australian steering committee. Could you confirm whether that is in fact true? Is anyone able to confirm that?

Ms McDevitt : I am not aware that the minister met with the WA joint steering committee.

Ms Hand : We will take that on notice.

Ms McDevitt : I will take that on notice.

Senator SIEWERT: Could you take that on notice, please? There is still ongoing concern in Western Australia that we are going to go with the Western Australian model and that is it.

Ms Hand : As I said, there is absolutely no decision on which model or what model or hybrid or whatever will be pursued.

Senator SIEWERT: Sorry, I am having trouble hearing you.

Ms Hand : There is absolutely no decision in that regard. Until the evaluation is done, there is very unlikely to be a decision.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. I want to ask, then, about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and how the scheme is responding. I understand that you have been meeting with the First Peoples Disability Network. Could you update us on where you are at in negotiations particularly addressing very significant issues around access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?

CHAIR: Sorry to interrupt, Senator Siewert. I seek your guidance, Mr Pratt. I understand the Australian Institute of Family Studies had some time constraints today.

Senator SIEWERT: Sorry, yes.

CHAIR: We are probably pushing up against that, I imagine. What is their timing?

Mr Pratt : If we wrap up here shortly and they come on first, I think that would be fine.

Senator SIEWERT: I do not have a lot of questions. I want to have this update, if that is possible.

CHAIR: While I have you, Mr Pratt, and I have interrupted, Senator Xenophon had a question. It is not a line of questioning at the moment.

Senator XENOPHON: It is about the review by former Premier O'Farrell of online wagering, and particularly offshore wagering, because that is now in the media.

Mr Pratt : In the next session, Senator.

Senator XENOPHON: Next session.

CHAIR: Outcome 2.

Senator XENOPHON: Outcome 2. That is all I wanted to know. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Siewert.

Ms Glanville : Thank you, Senator. The agency continues to learn from the Barkly trial site, which covers the small communities of Epenarra and Utopia. Of course, there is the rollout of the site up in Townsville, Charters Towers and Palm Island in North Queensland. We worked very deliberatively and gently in those communities. In the Northern Territory, I think the agency has made terrific ground in terms of the number of participants that are in the scheme now. That is shown by the figures in our quarterly report. But, most importantly, I think, from the agency's perspective, we have learnt enormously about how to work with indigenous leaders in that community. That is exactly the approach we are taking in Far North Queensland as well in order to be able to ensure that indigenous Australians are very much involved not only in what their plan might look like but, most particularly, the most effective way of being engaged. Most recently I was in Townsville and met with a number of the elders there. It was terrific to get authority in that way for us to proceed into those communities and have ways of working there. The agency is in the process of finalising its indigenous community engagement plan, which also looks at rural and remote issues generally. In that vein, we have a good conceptual structure around how we wish to work in those communities and how we would partner on issues.

Senator SIEWERT: And are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples subject to the guided plan process?

Ms Glanville : That is a newer initiative and it is being tested at the moment in the ACT.

Senator SIEWERT: We were told it is mandatory. Will they be subject to that same process? If so, it sends a lot of red flags up for me.

Mr Maynard : Thank you, Senator, for that question. One of the benefits we will get from the pilot in the ACT and the differences with the traditional planning process is that it will highlight how we need to modify our engagement with different groups of people. Testing it, as we are, with peak bodies will also give us further insight.

Senator SIEWERT: Mr Maynard, with all due respect, the ACT is a vastly different place to rural Australia and, in particular, Aboriginal communities.

Ms Glanville : I have no doubt that in the Northern Territory, for example, when I look at the efforts we deliberately put in after engaging with people there and the sort of steps we needed to take to ensure that people understand what the scheme is about, they can become participants in a way which is meaningful to them. Some of those different ways of working will need to continue in some of these areas in order to get the take-up that we would want in the scheme. We have also very much worked with the First Peoples Disability Network in some of the granting that they have done to assist us in areas like South Australia as well as in the LAC space. It is very pleasing that, in our own workforce in the Northern Territory, I think out of the Barkly region, we have eight or nine staff and four of them are people from indigenous backgrounds themselves. It is hugely helpful.

Senator SIEWERT: I understand that the network has made a number of suggestions or recommendations and proposals to you. Where is that at? I do not know what they are all. I understand they have been talking to you. Could you outline where you are at in terms of looking at those proposals?

Ms Glanville : I am not sure which particular proposals you are referring to. If you are able to identify them, we would certainly give you that.

Senator SIEWERT: Maybe we should follow that up.

Ms Glanville : That would be terrific, thank you.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you. I think that brings to a close outcome 5. Thank you very much. We are now going to move to outcome 2 and start with the Australian Institute of Family Studies.