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Tuesday, 19 June 2001
Page: 27897

Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Community Services) (5:25 PM) —in reply—I am so glad I have the opportunity to speak, to save the House from any more whingeing and whining from the member for Shortland. Aside from her contribution, I would like to thank all members of the House for their contribution to this debate. The primary measure in the Family and Community Services Legislation (Simplification and Other Measures) Bill 2001 relates to compensation recovery. It repeals a part of the Social Security Act 1991—I am led to believe that it was actually ALP legislation—which deals with the circumstances of people who receive compensation payments. The simplification process will make the compensation recovery provisions shorter and easier to administer. The partner changes recognise moves in other areas of the social security system away from the concept of dependency based payments and towards entitlement for payments in an individual's own right. This bill provides the same level of treatment for all partners of compensation recipients. Overall, compensation recipients and their partners will be better off, especially those with low income coming largely or solely from the compensation measures. In most cases there will be no charge to the couple's income, even where the compensation recipient loses payment altogether.

Currently, if a person receives a compensation affected payment, there is a dollar for dollar reduction for the compensation recipient of the periodical compensation received. If this amount is reduced to zero, any excess compensation counts against the partner's compensation affected payment dollar for dollar. In future, if a person's partner's periodic compensation has to be taken into account in working out the person's income for social security purposes, it will be treated as ordinary income of that person. This dollar for dollar reduction for the compensation recipient recognises that the primary responsibility for assisting people suffering illness or injury rests with the compensation schemes and insurers and not with taxpayer funded social security programs.

The recovery of compensation income arrears and debits directly from the compensation payers or insurers means quicker recovery and removes the need for debt recovery action against compensation recipients. Direct recovery from the compensation payers or insurers is better for customers because there will be no ongoing deductions on the customer's income support and will help to avoid the possibility of hardship.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for the bill announced.