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Wednesday, 25 March 2015
Page: 3353

Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Social Services) (09:14): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill will implement a measure announced in the 2014-15 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, ceasing social security payments to certain people who are in psychiatric confinement because they have been charged with a serious offence.

The people involved are primarily those who have been charged with a serious offence and who, due to a mental impairment, are in psychiatric confinement, including those who have been not convicted or considered not fit to stand trial.

This essentially represents a return to the original policy intention for people in these circumstances—that a person cannot access social security payments while in psychiatric confinement as a result of criminal charges. The current arrangements flow from a 2002 Federal Court decision, meaning that most people confined in a psychiatric institution may be considered to be participating in a course of rehabilitation and therefore attract social security payments.

In fact, it is the relevant state or territory government that is responsible for taking care of a person's needs while in psychiatric confinement, including funding their treatment and rehabilitation.

People will be subject to this measure if the serious offence with which they have been charged is a violent one such as murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, rape or attempted rape.

Similarly, the measure will apply in relation to offences under Commonwealth, state or territory law that are punishable by imprisonment for life or a period of seven years or more, where a loss of or serious risk to life, wellbeing or safety is involved.

Payments will resume in certain circumstances to people who are integrating back into the community.

A social security payment will continue to be payable to a person who is undergoing psychiatric confinement because the person has been charged with an offence that is not a serious offence, if a person is undertaking a course of rehabilitation.

Similarly, a social security payment will also continue to be payable if the person's psychiatric confinement is for reasons unrelated to the commission of an offence.

The measure is due to be implemented from 1 July 2015, and I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.