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PART 2—The Social Security Commission

PART 2 The Social Security Commission

   

7  Establishment of the Social Security Commission

             (1)  The Social Security Commission is established by this section.

             (2)  The Commission consists of:

                     (a)  the President; and

                     (b)  four Commissioners.

Note:          The Commission also has a General Manager and staff (see Part 4).

8  Functions of the Commission

                   The functions of the Commission are as follows:

                     (a)  to research, collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information and knowledge relating to social security payments and defining a fair and acceptable safety net;

                     (b)  to conduct social security payment reviews;

                     (c)  to conduct reviews, relating to social security payments, at the request of the Minister or the Parliament;

                     (d)  any other functions conferred on the Commission under this Act or any other law;

                     (e)  to undertake activities to promote public understanding of matters relevant to any of the above functions;

                      (f)  to do anything incidental or conducive to the performance of any of the above functions.

9   Powers of the Commission

                   The Commission has power to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with the performance of its functions.

10   Directions by the President

The President may give directions

             (1)  The President may give directions under subsection (2) as to the manner in which the Commission is to perform its functions, exercise its powers or deal with matters.

             (2)  The President may give a direction that is of a general nature, or that relates to a particular matter, to either or both of the following persons:

                     (a)  a Commissioner;

                     (b)  the General Manager.

             (3)  The direction must not relate to the recommendations to be set out in a report of a review under this Act.

Persons must comply with the President’s directions

             (4)  A person to whom a direction is given must comply with the direction.

Note:          For directions to the General Manager, see section 33.

Direction is not a legislative instrument

             (5)  If a direction is in writing, the direction is not a legislative instrument.

11  Social security payment reviews

             (1)  The Commission is to conduct social security payment reviews.

             (2)  A social security payment review is a review of the sufficiency of one or more social security payments. As part of a review the Commission must determine, for each social security payment reviewed:

                     (a)  the acceptable standard of living for recipients of the payment; and

                     (b)  whether the current level of the payment provides adequate support to meet that standard; and

                     (c)  if the Commission determines that the current level, or rate of indexation, of the payment does not provide adequate support to meet that standard—a recommended increase to the level of the payment, or recommended change to the rate of indexation of the payment, that the Commonwealth Government should adopt.

             (3)  In conducting the review, the Commission must take into account, to the extent that it considers appropriate, the terms upon which each payment reviewed is provided (including means-testing for the recipient or withdrawal of payments) and any other sources of income that may be available to the recipients.

             (4)  In determining the acceptable standard of living for recipients of a social security payment:

                     (a)  the Commission must take into account broader changes in community living standards, wage increases, and contemporary accepted budget standards to meet minimum standards of living; and

                     (b)  an acceptable standard of living (including housing costs) must not result in recipients falling below the poverty line, using internationally accepted definitions of “poverty line”.

             (5)  Any increase to the level of a payment, or change to a rate of indexation, recommended in accordance with paragraph (2)(c) must be such as to, in the Commission’s opinion, provide adequate support to meet the standard referred to in paragraph (2)(a).

             (6)  Subject to subsections (7) and (8), the Commission may conduct a social security payment review on its own initiative or at the request of an organisation that represents persons in receipt of one or more social security payments.

             (7)  The Commission must conduct a social security payment review in relation to a social security payment, if:

                     (a)  the Minister, by written instrument given to the President, requests the Commission to conduct a social security payment review relating to that payment; or

                     (b)  either House of the Parliament, by resolution, requests the Commission to conduct a social security payment review relating to that payment.

             (8)  The Commission must ensure that each social security payment is the subject of at least one social security payment review every 4 years.

12   Reviews at the request of the Minister or the Parliament

Scope

             (1)  This section applies if:

                     (a)  the Minister, by written instrument given to the President, requests the Commission to conduct a review under this section of such matters relating to social security payments as are specified in the instrument; or

                     (b)  either House of the Parliament, by resolution, requests the Commission to conduct a review under this section of such matters relating to social security payments as are specified in the resolution.

Review

             (2)  The Commission is to conduct a review of those matters.

Instrument

             (3)  An instrument given under paragraph (1)(a) is not a legislative instrument.

13   Procedures etc.

             (1)  Subject to this Act, the Commission may determine the procedures it will use in performing its functions.

             (2)  Without limiting subsection (1), the Commission may determine the following:

                     (a)  the timing and frequency of social security payment reviews;

                     (b)  the scope of particular social security payment reviews;

                     (c)  the manner in which social security payment reviews, or reviews under section 12, are to be conducted.

             (3)  The Commission must use its best endeavours to give a report of a social security payment review to the Minister at a time when it can be taken into account in the preparation of an annual Commonwealth budget.

             (4)  For the purposes of performing its functions, the Commission may inform itself in any way it thinks appropriate, including by:

                     (a)  undertaking or commissioning research; or

                     (b)  consulting with any other person, body or organisation.

14  Constitution of the Commission

             (1)  Subject to subsection (2), a function or power of the Commission must be performed or exercised by the President and the 4 Commissioners.

             (2)  If the President considers it necessary in circumstances where one or more Commissioners are unavailable, the President may determine that, for the purposes of performing or exercising its functions or powers in those circumstances, the Commission is to be constituted by the President and no fewer than 2 Commissioners.

15   Reviews to be open and transparent

             (1)  A review under this Act must be conducted in a manner that is open and transparent.

             (2)  Without limiting subsection (1), the Commission must, in relation to each review, ensure that all persons and bodies have a reasonable opportunity to make written submissions to the Commission for consideration in the review.

             (3)  The Commission must publish all submissions made to the Commission for consideration in the review.

             (4)  However, if a submission made by a person or body includes information that is claimed by the person or body to be confidential or commercially sensitive, and the Commission is satisfied that the information is confidential or commercially sensitive, the Commission:

                     (a)  may decide not to publish the information; and

                     (b)  may instead publish:

                              (i)  a summary of the information which contains sufficient detail to allow a reasonable understanding of the substance of the information (without disclosing anything that is confidential or commercially sensitive); or

                             (ii)  if the Commission considers that it is not practicable to prepare a summary that would comply with subparagraph (i)—a statement that confidential or commercially sensitive information in the submission has not been published.

             (5)  The Commission must ensure that all persons and bodies have a reasonable opportunity to make comments to the Commission, for consideration in the review, on the material published under subsections (3) and (4).

             (6)  The publishing of material under subsections (3) and (4) may be done in any way the Commission thinks appropriate.

16  Reports of reviews

                   The Commission must prepare and give to the Minister a report of:

                     (a)  a social security payment review; or

                     (b)  a review under section 12 (reviews at the request of the Minister or the Parliament).

17   Reports of reviews—contents

Reports of social security payment reviews

             (1)  A report of a social security payment review must set out the following for each social security payment reviewed:

                     (a)  information and research in regard to the sufficiency of the payment;

                     (b)  the acceptable standard of living for recipients of the payment (see paragraph 11(2)(a));

                     (c)  whether the current level of the payment provides adequate support to meet that standard (see paragraph 11(2)(b));

                     (d)  any recommended increase to the level of the payment or change to the rate of indexation of the payment (see paragraph 11(2)(c)).

             (2)  A report of a social security payment review may set out any other recommendations to the Commonwealth Government.

             (3)  The members must use their best endeavours to come to a unanimous decision in making a recommendation to the Commonwealth Government in a report of a social security payment review. If a recommendation is not unanimous, the report must be written in such a way that the matters of agreement and difference are disclosed.

Reports of other reviews

             (4)  A report of a review under this Act, other than a social security payment review, may set out recommendations to the Commonwealth Government.

Formulating recommendations etc.

             (5)  In formulating a recommendation that the Commonwealth Government should take particular action (including a recommendation of a kind referred to in paragraph (1)(d)), the Commission must analyse the costs and benefits of that action.

             (6)  Subsection (5) does not prevent the Commission from taking other matters into account in formulating a recommendation.

Reasons for recommendations

             (7)  If a report of a review under this Act sets out one or more recommendations to the Commonwealth Government, the report must set out the Commission’s reasons for those recommendations.

18   Government required to respond to recommendations

Government must provide response

             (1)  If a report of a social security payment review, or of a review under section 12 at the request of the Parliament, sets out one or more recom mendations to the Commonwealth Government, the Minister must, as soon as practicable after receiving the report, cause to be prepared a statement setting out the Commonwealth Government’s response to each of the recommendations.

Response to recommendations to increase levels of payments or change rates of indexation

             (2)  Without limiting subsection (1), if a report of a social security payment review sets out a recommendation of the kind referred to in paragraph 17(1)(d), the statement must:

                     (a)  set out whether the Commonwealth Government accepts the recommendation; and

                     (b)  if the Commonwealth Government accepts the recommendation—the actions the Commonwealth Government proposes to take to implement the recommendation; and

                     (c)  if the Commonwealth Government does not accept the recommendation—the reasons for not accepting the recommendation.

Response must be tabled in Parliament

             (3)  The Minister must cause a statement prepared in accordance with subsection (1) to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 6 months after receiving the report to which the statement relates.

19   Reports of reviews—tabling and publication

Tabling of reports

             (1)  The Minister must cause copies of a report of a review under this Act to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 5 sittings days of that House after receiving the report.

Publication of reports by Commission

             (2)  The Commission must publish a report of a review under this Act:

                     (a)  for a report of a social security payment review or of a review under section 12 at the request of the Parliament—as soon as practicable after giving it to the Minister; and

                     (b)  for a report of a review under section 12 at the request of the Minister—as soon as practicable after the report is tabled in each House of the Parliament.

             (3)  A report may be published in any way the Commission thinks appropriate.

20   Publication of other information

                   The Commission may, as it thinks appropriate and in any way it thinks appropriate, publish any information about the functions conferred on it by this or any other Act.

21   Annual report

                   The annual report prepared by the General Manager and given to the Minister under section 46 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 for a period must include a report from the President on the operations of the Commission during that period.