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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2271

Senator PATTERSON (6.05 p.m.) —I move—

  At the end of the motion, add:

"but the Senate:

1.notes that without amendments the bill will exclude from eligibility from the Home Child Care Allowance:

  (a)families in which the child or (otherwise eligible) parent is overseas for longer than thirteen weeks; and

  (b)families with children who are dependent full-time students aged 18 to 25 when the child's income is under $1,785 a year; and

  (c)families with children who are receiving prescribed student payments; and

  (d)families who are ineligible for the HCCA as a result of the more onerous income definitions under the Social Security Act 1991; and

2.also notes that the combined complexities of the Social Security Act 1991 and the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, made it extremely difficult for requests for amendments to be prepared that ensure that the bill would not unfairly exclude these families from access to Home Child Care Allowance without having any unforeseen consequences; and

3.recalls that during the debate on the second reading of the bill the Senate considered the legal complexity of the issues involved in amending the bill, but did not, at that time, choose to urge the Government to prepare requests for amendments and instead agreed to requests for amendments moved by Senator Harradine; and

4.notes that on 2 March 1994 these requests for amendments were the subject of a letter from the Minister for Social Security, Mr Peter Baldwin MP, to Mr Philip Ruddock MP, highlighting a range of alleged unforeseen consequences; and

5.notes that in light of this correspondence Senator Patterson arranged for the preparation of a revised amendment in the following form:

"Page 13, clause 3, after proposed Division 5, insert the following Division:

`Division 5A—Preservation of home child care allowance

Preservation of home child care allowance where rebates would be available

`929A.(1) If:

(a)under subsection 159J(1B) of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 as in force on 1 January 1994, a person or a person's spouse would be entitled to a rebate in respect of a dependent child in respect of a year of income; and

(b)a home child care allowance would not be payable to the person during a period during the year of income, or would be payable but at a lower rate than the amount of the rebate in respect of that period;

a home child care allowance is payable to the person for the child during that period at the rate equal to the amount of the rebate in respect of that period.

`(2) For the purpose of working out the amount of the rebate in respect of that period, the maximum rate of the rebate is taken to be the amount per annum for the time being applicable under section 928.

`(3) This section only applies to a person who lodges a claim in writing, in accordance with a form approved by the Secretary and with section 917, for this section to apply to the person.'."; and

6.notes that this revised amendment would go some way to addressing the concerns and unintended consequences identified by the Minister; and

7.notes that any remaining concerns or unintended consequences could have been readily overcome if the Government had ensured that the necessary expertise was made available for the drafting of amendments in such a way as to guarantee the elimination of such concerns and unintended consequences; and

8.further notes that in letters from Mr Philip Ruddock MP, and from Senator Kay Patterson, dated 3 March 1994 and dated 9 March 1994 respectively, the Minister had been asked to redraft the amendments, in order to eliminate the alleged unforseen consequences while ensuring that the proposed Home Child Care Allowance benefits were not denied to those families who would otherwise have been unfairly excluded from them; and

9.expresses its concern that on 10 March 1994 the Minister again refused to have the requests for amendments redrafted by the Government or to make available to the Senate's drafter, departmental officers expert in the intricacies of the relevant social security and income tax law; and

10.reminds the Government that, in virtually identical circumstances, on 2 March 1994, while the Senate was considering proposed amendments to the Training Guarantee (Administration) Amendment Bill 1993, Senator McMullan, the Minister for Trade and Administrative Services undertook to "to give effect in the House of Representatives to the Senate's intention by redrafting the amendments, sending them back to the Senate, and having the same purpose with better drafting", an undertaking given because of the complexity of the issues involved; and,

11.expresses its disappointment that the Government, through the Minister, Senator Crowley, has made it known that the Government will not redraft the Senate's amendments or make experts available who could assist the Senate to redraft the amendments, to ensure that the bill delivered its benefits to the families currently intended to receive them and also to those families, referred to in paragraph (1) above, to whom the Government would otherwise deny them; and

12.condemns the Government for its failure to treat all those families who should be entitled to the Home Child Care Allowance, equally.".

  Amendment agreed to.

  Report, as amended, adopted.