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Thursday, 12 November 1998
Page: 259

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Mr TRUSS (Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (10:45 AM) — I» «move» :

That the bill «be» «now» «read» «a» «second» «time .

This bill gives effect to a number of measures announced in the Government's 1998 budget that will assist in more effective and efficient social security administration.

First, more assistance will be provided to self-funded retirees through the extension of the seniors health card. This will be achieved by simplifying the application process and by applying more generous income limits. The income test that applies to the seniors health card will, in future, be based on taxable income. Retirees will, in most cases, be able to demonstrate their taxable income by simply providing their latest income tax assessment notice. In addition, the present income levels will be almost doubled, from $21,320 to $40,000 for a single person, and from $35,620 to $67,000 for a couple. It is estimated that 222,000 retirees will benefit from this measure.

The sharer's rule relating to rent assistance was introduced in the 1996 budget in recognition of the fact that people who live in shared or group accommodation derive economies of scale from that arrangement. The rule operates by reducing the maximum rate of rent assistance payable for single people, without dependent children, who share accommodation to two-thirds of that payable to non-sharing single people.

As part of its 1998 budget, the government announced that recipients of rent assistance who are lodging in commercial board and lodging type accommodation would be exempted from the operation of the sharer's rule. The exemption recognises that people living in this type of accommodation are in a different situation from those who share accommodation in private residential group houses. This bill gives effect to that announcement and is estimated to benefit 12,000 recipients.

Two further measures announced in the 1998 budget and dealt with in this bill illustrate the government's recognition of the important role played by foster carers in helping young people.

From 1 July 1999, a health care card will be issued to the fostered child of carers who receive family allowance at less than the maximum rate in respect of the child, provided that the foster child was eligible for a pensioner concession card or a health care card as a member of their original family. This measure will benefit the carers of approximately 4,400 foster children.

Further, from 1 September 1999, the 12-month waiting period for parenting payment for single foster carers will be removed, benefiting around 900 single foster carers. I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Martin) adjourned.