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Community Affairs Legislation Committee

O'HALLORAN, Ms Maree, President, National Welfare Rights Network

THOMAS, Mr Gerard, Policy and Media Officer, National Welfare Rights Network

WRIGLEY, Ms Katie, Caseworker and Solicitor, National Welfare Rights Network

Evidence was taken via teleconference—

CHAIR: Welcome. You are very experienced witnesses and I am sure you know about parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses. We have your submission—thank you. As always, we deeply appreciate the National Welfare Rights Network engagement with our committee on anything in this area. Ms O'Halloran, do any of the people from Welfare Rights want to make an opening statement?

Ms O'Halloran : Yes, thank you. Firstly, thank you for the opportunity to provide a submission to your committee. We did the best we could in a short period of time to collect case studies from across the Welfare Rights centres about people who may be affected by the portability changes. As I said, I am sure most of the people on the committee know about the National Welfare Rights Network. We are a peak body. Our member centres are free community legal services across Australia. There are 14 member centres and we have two associate members—the Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, NAAJA; and the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Service, CAALS. We collect information from the caseworkers on the ground in order to inform our positions that we put in our submissions.

I will start with the question of portability—which is the issue that has come up most urgently from across the centres. We ask the committee to reject the proposition that the portability should be changed from 13 weeks to six weeks. We think that there will be a number of people quite badly affected by those changes, many of whom are in very difficult circumstances due to ill health or a range of other factors in their lives.

On the first page of our submission we set out the particular types of social security payments where the portability is 13 weeks and then on page 3 we go to the question of the financial impact of the proposals. I want to dwell briefly on the question of the savings. It is unclear to us how the government has determined that those savings will in fact be made, given that people, for example, on the disability support pension who currently can travel for 13 weeks, return after 13 weeks because they need to in order to have their residential qualifications and also to be with their family in Australia. There is no evidence whatsoever that people will stay longer than six weeks and therefore not receive the income support payment. The only way the savings can be made that we can see is for the government to be projecting that people will choose to stay longer than six weeks and sacrifice the income support payment. For the disability support pension that raises a whole range of other issues for them about potentially being able to get back onto such a payment. So we question the savings but, most importantly, for us on the ground, we looked to what will actually happen to people.

We currently have people who ring us for advice if they, for example, have been denied an extension of the portability provisions. They need to see a family member who may be in extreme ill health or dying but the condition is chronic and not seen as sudden and immediate so that they are not allowed to extend the portability arrangements. The reason we raise that with you is that, while the government will say that the six weeks is there but that can be extended, our experience with people trying to get extensions of portability is very difficult. So the case studies we set out for you at pages 3, 4 and 5 are real-life case studies, but they have been de-identified of course because they are clients from different centres across Australia. They come from different centres but they are real examples of people who would be adversely by this change. Bearing in mind that we cannot see what savings would be made and where those would be directed, the effect on these people could be quite dramatic. I will not take you through those case studies but I urge committee members, as I know you will, to read them. As I said, they are real examples of the many people that we have seen in these circumstances.

The two main groups of people that we see who will be adversely affected are refugees and former refugees. One of the things we would urge you to consider is that sometimes these people have been taken in by third countries, so their families are scattered. That is often a major issue for people who are former refugees. The second group are people with medical conditions who go overseas for remedial treatment.

Some of the things that we would put to you about a rationale for maintaining the current 13-week provision is that the six weeks is just too short too adequately deal with the personal care and support and addressing the needs of people who are aged or in ill health. Many people travel to help family overseas. Given the physical location of Australia and the length of time and the expense that it takes, particularly for someone on income support payment, for someone to get to third country, the six weeks seems a very short period of time to be able to deal with the things that need to be dealt with.

Similarly, six weeks is really not sufficient time if you are seeking cheaper or alternative medical treatment. Recognising that the ability to extend the six weeks around the questions of medical treatment is very limited. It is not simply for those who are seeking cheaper or alternative medical treatment so that the possibility of extending that six weeks will be limited. Of course Australia's history as a nation is built on immigration. There is an economic contribution to be considered and, as I said, the distance we are from other countries.

An additional concern is that if someone needs to stay longer than the six weeks, they are potentially at risk of not being able to pay rent in Australia for their accommodation so that they may also lose accommodation back in Australia. These people are going to be put in quite invidious positions. We have set out for you some practical examples as well of the difficulties people currently find in trying to extend the 13 weeks for a longer period of time, and those same impediments will be there for people trying to extend the six weeks.

We consider that the current 13-week portability period is extremely restrictive. We know in the public domain that there is a potential view about people going overseas who are on income support payments and that is something that the government probably had in mind with this particular piece of legislation. But if there are concerns that people are able to travel overseas and that means that they have some other means that have not been declared to Centrelink, there are already compliance measures in place where the Department of Human Services can be notified of that and be able to investigate. That stereotypical concern that people should not be able to go overseas while they are on an income support payment is not one that we think should be then used to disadvantage the people that we have described to you, particularly when the Department of Human Services has very good compliance measures in place and they are able to investigate if it appears that people are travelling and that they therefore have other means to travel that have not been declared to Centrelink.

We also note that, with most income support payments, the portability provisions were reduced from 26 weeks to 13 weeks on 1 July 2004. They are now being reducing to six weeks, and we wonder whether in the future we are getting to a proposition where we are attempting to restrict the movement of people who are on income support—who are people who have rights just as everybody else does in the community. Often this does affect people, particularly those who are on the disability support pension who are also dealing with severe chronic disabilities and have therefore those factors in their lives to consider. That concludes the section on portability.

I will briefly turn to the question about the restrictions for income support for some young people and their families. Both Mr Thomas and Ms Wrigley may wish to speak to this matter as well, but in short I would say that we can see that the government has made savings. Those savings by and large are made from the people who are between the parental means income test cut-off of around $40,000—a little bit higher than that—up to the $70,000 bracket. If the government is to make those sorts of savings, there will of course be some people who will be disadvantaged, as there always are when government makes changes to legislation, and we will come to the point of those people. One of the important points we want to make to the committee is that if these restrictions are to be made to the family tax benefit for young people between 17 and 21, then one of the things that really should be looked at is the adequacy of the youth allowance payment in its own right. That payment is extremely low. Along with the other allowances in the social security system, it is not one that is sufficient in any way, shape or form. Along with the Australian Council of Social Services, we have been arguing for a $50 per week increase to the youth allowance. So one of the things we would say is that if the government is wanting to make savings and target those on the lowest incomes, then those savings should be directed to those on the lowest incomes.

I will come back to the question of the youth allowance and the family tax benefit A after I have allowed Mr Thomas and Ms Wrigley to say something as well.

Mr Thomas : I might go back to the portability provisions. As Ms O'Halloran said, it is unclear to us how the government is going to reap savings of this magnitude—$127 million. That is quite a significant amount. The other thing that concerned us when we were writing our submission was that we really did not have sufficient details about who accesses the portability now—when people go overseas and for what length of time. We would recognise that for some people six weeks would be sufficient, but we are talking about a totally different group.

I would stress the depth of concern that we had from our caseworkers about the clients that we deal with that are documented. The clients are often highly traumatised and emotionally fragile. Many people we see in relation to this portability issue are trying a desperate dash overseas to see a dying family member, or they think they may be ill but when they get overseas they find out that things are worse than they had thought. They then have had to try to make arrangements to stay, but they are not always successful.

You could say that there are exemptions in place. Our experience is that they are quite problematic. People tell us that when they try to get the exemption they are made to feel as if they are trying to game the system. Also, the rules are not easy to navigate. People will come back and try to get backpayments, but then we have the situation where they are trying to get documentation or material translated from Third World countries and also get copies of death certificates. They are confronted with a range of these sorts of difficulties at a time when they have just faced a significant bereavement.

When doing the submission we had a conversation with the new chairperson of the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia to see what their views were on this matter. They were surprised to hear of these changes. So I suppose I am raising the concern that one would have expected that, perhaps as the key organisation whose constituents are likely to be impacted, they would have been contacted and had discussions about these changes. They indicated to me—and they said they were okay for me to indicate this to the committee—that while some of their constituents would not have particular concerns about this others would be seriously concerned and would be extremely anxious about these proposals. Our feeling is that the level of awareness of this is zero out in the wider community and in the community services sector.

The committee members would know that community organisations have been working on a number of key issues around Newstart, the cuts to parenting payment and things like that, and responding to the budget and inquiries about household assistance. All of these things are keeping us extremely busy. It is a concern that these changes have come upon us so quickly.

Finally, in relation to the other changes to the Family Tax Benefit, often the department responsible does not make submissions to Senate inquiries on legislation, so we do not get a sense of what the circumstances are of the families or the young people who are going to be impacted by these changes. So it makes it quite difficult for us to guesstimate what the likely impacts are and who will be affected. We understand that there are around 64,000 people on Youth Allowance (Other) aged between 18 and 20; about 9,300 Indigenous people, of whom 3,800 have a partial capacity to work; about 28,000 'away from home'; and significant numbers receive 'independent'. It makes it difficult for us to give evidence when there is an absence of information. So, obviously, we are hoping the department, and then the committee, will seek to fill in those gaps.

Ms Wrigley : In relation to the transition from Family Tax Benefit to Youth Allowance, which will affect many people when the age limit changes, we have been looking at the figures for the parental income test for Youth Allowance. The figures often used are the parental income-free area of $46,000 or so, moving to $70,000. I just wanted to unpack that a bit for the committee. There is no payment at all of Youth Allowance when parental income exceeds $47,680, which I think is the figure for an 18-year-old. That figure is for combined parental income. That is quite a low figure when you think about it. The $70,000 is arrived at by adding that figure with the cut-out point for the individual personal income test—the person receiving Youth Allowance—which is going to be about $28,000 per year. But, in our experience, most people who are receiving youth allowance who are required to be a full-time student would not be earning an income at around that level—in fact, they would not be earning income even over the free area of about 10 grand. So most people would not actually qualify based on the parental income limit. I just wanted to clarify that.

In relation to portability, the litigation that we run at the tribunal level places an extraordinary evidentiary burden on the person to prove the status of their relative's medical condition. From my experience, having to try and write letters to doctors overseas to clarify whether a condition was chronic or whether it suddenly became severe, I feel that I am bothering those overseas doctors in writing those letters—who are doctors of busy emergency departments from a range of countries overseas. I just think it's a bit too difficult to put the onus on someone, who is often a refugee, who has gone to visit an sick relative overseas, and the extension is likely to affect more people in that situation.

CHAIR: Thank you. We will now move to questions. Mr Thomas, in this case—and you will know that I am on record many times checking up on departments putting in submissions—on behalf of the department, they did put a submission in on last Friday on this issue. So, whilst it may not answer all the questions that you raise, FaHCSIA did put a submission in by close of business last Friday.

Mr Thomas : Sorry, yes.

CHAIR: But I take your point generally, and this committee has always followed up on those issues. I just thought, in terms of setting the record straight, I should put that on the record.

Mr Thomas : And we know the committee is very diligent in following up those issues, so it was not a criticism.

CHAIR: No, I understand totally. We will now move to Senator Siewert.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. You have been pretty clear with your opinion on these particular changes. Can I just ask: you don't address the issues around the child support changes, so can I presume you support those changes?

Ms O'Halloran : We do not have a view on them. We do not do casework in that area, so it is not an area that we would have any expertise in or would have a remit to speak about.

Mr Thomas : There is a final paragraph in our submission that relates to the issue of the amendments around changes to childcare arrangements and the collection of reasonable-action maintenance issues. We indicated on those issues that we did not see them as problematic, but we did not think it was reasonable for us to comment when we did not really have the experience to give to the committee. So we kept our evidence to where we thought we could add value.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. You have been pretty clear about both the portability changes and the family tax benefit changes. In terms of the numbers that are going to be subject to this, I think during estimates we established there would be, as you have said, about 43,000 young people affected. And you state in your submission that these people will have no visible means of support. In your experience, where people do not have this form of support, what happens to them? How do they support themselves?

Ms O'Halloran : I am not sure if I quite understand, but we have many young people, for example, whose parents are not able to support them, or there is not enough money in the household, who have to actually move out or it is unreasonable to live at home. I don't know whether Katie wants to add anything.

Ms Wrigley : We get a lot of people who do not quite meet the criteria for independence under the parental income test. I think that is who we are talking about—those who would not qualify for youth allowance under the parental income test.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes.

Ms Wrigley : Where we then come into the picture is trying to assess their criteria for independence more carefully. So, in some situations, when you talk to the person, they would meet the 'unreasonable to live at home' criterion, following litigation about that, again; and giving evidence about whether it is reasonable to expect them to live in the parental home. The alternative is that they get advised: 'Look, unfortunately you don't qualify because of your parental means; you are going to have to ask your parents to support you'—and, in some cases, that is just not possible; it just does not happen. So I do not really have an answer as to what happens to those people—they just get no support whatsoever, I would say.

Mr Thomas : What we do know is that around 35,000 people in, say, the last financial year applied for youth allowance under the unreasonable to live at home provisions. Of those, 24,800 were granted and about 11,000 were rejected, which is quite a significant rejection rate. There are a range of reasons as to why young people believe they cannot and in reality cannot live in the parental home. At times they will be couch surfing with a relative if they can find one or persevering in a quite difficult family environment, where there will be resentment perhaps from parents who had an expectation that there would be financial assistance. It is not clear that it is cheaper for someone who is studying or how much cheaper it is. It is not clear what evidence there is that it is cheaper for an 18-year-old person who is studying than for a young person of the same age who is looking for work. There are a range of costs associated with looking for work as well as food, shelter and utilities. All of those costs are similar and certainly the government has recognised with recent changes to the family tax benefit the costs of raising young people. We think that across the board the cost-of-living pressures need to be addressed, and so we find some of the arguments difficult to understand.

Senator BOYCE: Looking at the portability part of your submission, the case studies certainly are very helpful. On the basis that the government is intending to proceed with this, do you have any thoughts around the way the criteria to prove special circumstances should be altered or assessed?

Ms Wrigley : I think the guide at the moment is quite tight in terms of the policy of what needs to be shown before an extension can be granted. This is not a legislative change, but I think that the guide needs to be amended to be a bit more forgiving, particularly in situations where someone is going overseas to visit a family member who is ill. That could be dealt with on a legislative basis as well, I guess, to make it more clear.

Senator BOYCE: But it would be more FaHCSIA directing Centrelink on how to undertake these—

Ms Wrigley : How to assess those exceptions.

Senator BOYCE: What the criteria for the assessments were. I can fully appreciate the points you make about the difficulty of getting documentation in some circumstances. Do you have suggestions as to how reasonable requests for documentation might be made?

Ms Wrigley : We have a standard form letter that we have prepared to give to people who contact us when they say they are about to go overseas to visit a relative who is unwell. It is difficult to know at what point that can be fixed up.

Senator BOYCE: Clearly, there is going to continue to be a requirement for documentation from the body that is providing the funding and there is going to continue to be a difficulty around providing that documentation, so I am wondering if you have—

Ms Wrigley : The easiest way to get it is when you are overseas, I think, by having the doctor fill out a form when the person is there. So I would say that the way around that would be if Centrelink had a brochure to give to someone who has contacted them to say, 'I'm about to go overseas,' in the event that they needed to get a letter from their doctor.

Senator BOYCE: Saying, 'These are the things you'll need to get whilst you are over there if you want your payments to continue.

Ms Wrigley : Exactly, yes.

Senator BOYCE: Thank you.

Senator SMITH: I am curious to know: what gender or age profile do you come across in your work with regard to the portability access issue?

Ms Wrigley : It varies. The last refugee matter that I ran was a person who was actually of age pension age but because the documents had been filled out incorrectly originally she was receiving Newstart allowance. I would say generally the cases that we have tended to run have been elderly refugees wanting to visit their own parents who are dying, but there can be a full spectrum of people. We try and intervene for the situations that present the most degree of unfairness.

Senator SMITH: Just going back to your earlier comments around evidential burden, I would have thought it would have been more difficult for some particular age groups or demographics to meet the evidence requirements than others. That was the reason for my question. In your view, how timely are exemptions or special circumstance issues dealt with by the department?

Ms Wrigley : They are dealt with quite swiftly, but in our experience they are dealt with quite swiftly at the lowest end of the spectrum. For example, if we have lodged an appeal for someone about the length of time they should be granted payments overseas, the appeal can come back quite swiftly with an approval for one week's extension when in fact the person was required to be there for four weeks to deal with a funeral. We are then required to lodge at the SSAT and attend the hearing, which can then blow it out for the further three months before the issue is dealt with, and then at the tribunal level you get the situation corrected with, for example, four months being granted.

Senator SMITH: Have you put your mind to considering any remedies to those timeliness issues?

Ms Wrigley : In a way it is a back payments issue usually by that point in time so the person is not in a situation of dire financial hardship. But we have developed the form letter for people to take overseas so that they can have the evidence by the time they get back, which would speed things up and not require a hearing at all.

Mr Thomas : When we were preparing our submission we received a range of feedback from across our network which went to a whole range of problems associated with the processing and administration of portability issues around recent changes as well as these changes. Some of those had suggestions on how things could be treated differently in terms of other instructions in the guide and things like that. Welfare Rights would be keen to work with the department, if the rules are going to be tightened up, to address some of those problems or to make some suggestions about how to fix some of the pointy problems that people experience.

The problem for us, and this is an ongoing one, is our capacity to engage with government on these important issues, which is what we want to do. We simply do not have the resources and the capacity to do that sort of policy and other work. Despite the fact that it is desperately needed we are not funded to do it, so we are raising a real dilemma that I think is worth indicating to you as well. Certainly we think there need to be much better processes for people going through this experience and for recognition by Centrelink of a lot of the traumatic difficulties people are facing. We do not get the sense that that is clearly understood at the moment in some cases.

Senator SMITH: I am assuming that you are expecting an increase in your caseload around these portability issues as a result of the changes.

Mr Thomas : Yes. I have been at the centre for 10 years now and whenever there is a change to the portability rules we notice a spike, and that continues.

Senator SMITH: Yes. My final question just relates to this: given that you are dealing with this on a day-to-day basis, what evidence do you have in regard to the extent to which the portability arrangements might be being abused by people in the community? I note that in your submission you talk about the fact that there are mechanisms by which the department can currently evaluate whether or not people are taking extended travel arrangements when they can afford to, but I am just curious to know what evidence there is in regard to abuse of the current portability arrangements.

Ms O'Halloran : I think it is hard for us to assess. We take across the country—take Sydney, for example—4,000 to 5,000 calls. We would give some immediate advice to everyone, but the cases that we take on, as Ms Wrigley said, are those where we think there is an element of unfairness; we have seen from the client some evidence to that effect. So it is hard for us to assess, but we recognise that the government is concerned about that and we recognise that also, within the public domain, there is perhaps a misconception about potential abuse of the portability rules. We point out, as we have already said and as you have acknowledged, that there are other procedures within the Department of Human Services that have significant resources directed to them to make sure that there is that element of investigation and compliance where there needs to be.

Senator SMITH: I accept that and your point that you are effectively filtering through the inquiries you get. That is the end of my questions.

CHAIR: I just have a couple of questions. Mr Thomas, you talked about the fact that the organisation has naturally built up a degree of knowledge across a whole range of issues within the welfare sector, but you have built up a particular range of issues in the portability area. That was your evidence?

Mr Thomas : I would say our network has. I would not say I have.

CHAIR: No, the Welfare Rights Network as such.

Mr Thomas : That is right.

CHAIR: Have you had the opportunity to share that knowledge with the department?

Mr Thomas : To be frank, I would say no. Over the period I have had some discussions with some colleagues in FaHCSIA. I think the last time was probably when there was an inquiry into the DSP changes from the committee a few years ago.

CHAIR: That is right—in the same room.

Mr Thomas : We had bursts of engagement with FaHCSIA on these issues, but there is really not a sustained engagement. There are issues that we are alive to looking at in terms of our engagement with the department.

CHAIR: In terms of one of your case studies in particular—it was the one that was looking at the gentleman who was involved with a natural disaster, and his child was killed; you have put that down as a case—do you and the Welfare Rights Network have any understanding or knowledge of the role of DFAT in those occasions? Certainly my understanding of what happens when there is a natural disaster involving Australian citizens is that there is an immediate response from DFAT, which is supposed to include information on such things as this gentleman whose case you describe and his ongoing concerns about Centrelink. Have you had any discussion with people about the interaction between DFAT services and welfare services?

Mr Thomas : No, I have not. That issue did not come up in the discussion, but I could go back to the caseworker and ask them about what their experience was in that interaction.

CHAIR: That would be very useful. All of the cases are tragic, and you are talking about people in trauma, but it is just that I thought that with the use of that one in particular there were issues around a whole-of-government response to someone who is caught in that circumstance. Can you also—this is my prurient interest—let me know whether that situation has been fixed. Can you take that on notice.

Ms O'Halloran : We will take that on notice and go back to the caseworker who gave us that case.

CHAIR: That would be very useful.

Ms O'Halloran : We will also ask about the DFAT implications. Often what happens, of course, is that the caseworker can only deal in the area because of their caseload.

CHAIR: Absolutely.

Ms O'Halloran : They will only have the information about their dealings with Centrelink and the client, but we can find out what was available and what happened.

CHAIR: Okay. In terms of the ongoing work with refugees—and you have made a particular point in your submission about your concerns currently and in the future about the impact of legislation on refugees—does the Welfare Rights Network work with refugee organisations?

Ms O'Halloran : To the extent that we are able to we do. Certainly on the ground level our caseworkers will, where they need to, interact with the organisations, and at a national level we will as well in terms of our peak work. But we would not necessarily have the capacity to be doing joint casework with, for example, the organisations you have referred to.

CHAIR: Thank you. In particular, one of the issues I think you have all mentioned is effective sharing of information with I think the term Human Services use now is 'citizens' who are about to go overseas and looking at portability issues when going overseas when they need to tell the department that they are leaving the country—information sharing at that point. I think all of you who have raised the concern that your clients have not known about their entitlements or what happens if they need to spend longer or any kind of clear understanding of their responsibilities. Is that a fair statement of your evidence?

Ms O'Halloran : Of those cases we have taken forward in the way we describe to you, yes, that would be a fair assumption underpinning it. However, of course, in terms of the calls that we take across the nation there are other people who do understand the portability rules. We are not suggesting for a moment that there are not those people who do understand those quite clearly.

CHAIR: Sure—some don't.

Ms O'Halloran : The cases we are bringing to you are those we feel will be most adversely affected, and they are the people who will not understand, because the rules are complex, as are all the social security rules. The cases we bring forward are those that we know the people in these situations will be adversely affected. Particularly, we add onto that, where it is not clear what the savings really will be to government, whether those potential projected savings are worth suffering of people that we have described.

CHAIR: Your submission quite rightly responds to the proposed legislation put forward by government. What I cannot see in your submission is any recommendation of what you believe the portability rules should be. Does Welfare Rights have a position on what the rules should be for portability of our welfare payments?

Ms O'Halloran : Our view is that there should not be a reduction from where they are now, and we think there will be an overriding temptation for government to continue to make those reductions in the way they have. We already have put forward to you people who have had difficult circumstances with the 13-week portability rule. So while we would not say to you that we think it should be this amount, we certainly will say to you that it should not be less that it currently is.

CHAIR: Okay. I was just wanting to see whether you had, through your evidence, come up without having any time limit. Not that I am making that recommendation myself, but I am just wondering whether the organisation had such a view. But you do not; you are actually responding specifically to the current change?

Ms O'Halloran : That is right. We do not have a policy position about what the portability rule should be, although we could probably, if we had the time, have a look at the difference between what is happening when it was 26 weeks in 2004 and our clients that were affected between the reduction from 2004 onwards. Essentially what we are worried about is what will happen in the future to people.

Mr Thomas : Obviously we can see the rationale and the sense behind the restrictions on people on Newstart and things like that. The rules are very difficult for people on Newstart. It is certainly not true that people can go and trot down the Louvre and things like that on Newstart payment. It is reasonable that those payments are tight. In some circumstances they are so tight that they are restrictive to family relationships and responding to family needs. So we are certainly not supporting laissez-faire or relaxing the rules as they currently are, but the tightening of them is going to cause problems, quite clearly.

CHAIR: Thank you very much.

Ms Wrigley : If we were looking globally at it I would say, yes, I would agree with Gerard Thomas that the current situations in which a person can be paid Newstart while overseas would really need to be looked at. The definitions of what is an acute family crisis under section 1212A of the act would really need to be broadened, because at the moment it is quite difficult for a person on Newstart to go and visit a family member who is ill or is hospitalised with serious illness.

CHAIR: Is there anything that any of you would like to add before we close?

Ms O'Halloran : No, thank you very much.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, as always, to National Welfare Rights Network.

Mr Thomas : Thank you.

Ms Wrigley : Thank you.