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Wednesday, 6 July 2011
Page: 4131

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (11:39): I rise to speak on the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2011. This bill makes changes to the reporting obligat­ions of social security payment recipients and some technical amendments to correct drafting oversights, and includes a provision regarding the compliance of a computer program with social security law. This bill inserts a new section 66A, which imposes an obligation on particular social security recipients to inform the department of a change of personal circumstances that might affect their payment or eligibility for a concession card. The relevant schedule applies retrospectively to 20 March 2000 to address some issues in the legislation at that time which have only recently become evident.

This bill also resolves some issues affecting the operation of Centrelink's computer programs. It ensures that the operation of a computer program complies with the relevant requirements in the Social Security Administration Act 1999. The application of this provision is limited to the period from 12 June 2001. I understand that Centrelink has reviewed its processes to ensure that, in future, necessary evidence of compliance with these requirements will be available. This bill also makes some technical amendments to family assistance legislation affecting child care and the childcare rebate.

This bill has a number of retrospective elements. The coalition does not take retrospective legislation lightly; however, with respect to this particular bill there are exceptional circumstances that warrant this action. This bill will address a previously unidentified legal technicality where the failure to do so could have a negative impact on Australia's welfare system. The coalition does not believe that these amendments contravene fundamental principles of fairness or due process; and, in light of this, the coalition will not oppose the bill.