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Social Services Legislation Amendment (Ending the Poverty Trap) Bill 2018

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2016-2017-2018

 

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL SERVICES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ENDING THE POVERTY TRAP) BILL 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of Senator Siewert)



SOCIAL SERVICES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ENDING THE POVERTY TRAP) BILL 2018

 

OUTLINE

 

The purpose of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Ending the Poverty Trap) Bill 2018 is to provide additional financial assistance to recipients of Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY, Sickness Allowance, Special Benefit, Widow Allowance, Crisis Payment and Jobseeker Payment (once it comes into effect) to assist in alleviating poverty and, where appropriate, to help people to more effectively access study and employment.

 

The Bill:

·       increases the maximum single rates of Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance (away from home rates only), Austudy, Sickness Allowance, Special Benefit, Widow Allowance and Crisis Payment by $150 a fortnight; and

·       provides the same indexation arrangements for certain pensions and allowances, being the higher of CPI (Consumer Price Index) or pensioner and beneficiary living cost index amount.

 

The rates of Special Benefit and Crisis Payment are calculated with reference to the rates of Newstart, Austudy or Youth Allowance payments. As the Bill raises the rates of these three payments, the increase will be reflected in the maximum rates for Crisis Payment and Special Benefit.

 

The intention is for ABSTUDY to be increased by $150 a fortnight. This payment is based in policy, rather than legislation. For the intention to be realised, the Government would need to increase this payment.

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

Clause 1: Short Title

1.           Clause 1 is a formal provision specifying the short title of the Bill.

Clause 2: Commencement

2.           This clause provides for sections 1 to 3 of the Act to commence on the day it receives Royal Assent and Schedule 1, Parts 1 to 5 of the Act to commence on 1 January 2019. Schedule 1, Part 6, will commence immediately after the commencement of Parts 1 to 5 of Schedule 1 to the Social Services Legislation (Welfare Reform) Act 2018, or not at all if those Parts do not commence.

Clause 3: Schedules

3.           Each Act specified in a Schedule to this Act is amended or repealed as is set out in the applicable items in the Schedule.  Any other item in a Schedule to this Act has effect according to its terms.

Schedule 1—Amendments

Part 1 - Newstart, sickness and widow allowance amendments

Social Security Act 1991

Item 1

6.                   This item inserts an additional step into the method statement at point 1068-A1 of the Social Security Act 1991 . This item is a consequential amendment to item 2.

Item 2

7.                   This item inserts a new Module CA into the Social Security Act 1991 after point 1068-C4 providing for a Newstart supplement amount. The Newstart supplement amount is $150 a fortnight paid to a person who is qualified for the Newstart Allowance, Sickness Allowance or Widow Allowance and who is single, a member of an illness separated couple or a partnered couple where one of the partners is in gaol.

Part 2 - Youth allowance amendments

Social Security Act 1991

Item 3

8.                   This item amends the table in point 1067G-B2 of the Social Security Act 1991 to increase the amount in column 3 item 3 by $150. This amendment implements a $150 a fortnight increase to the maximum basic rate for non-independent, single recipients of Youth Allowance required to live away from home. 

Items 4 to 8

9.                   These items amend the table in point 1067G-B3 of the Social Security Act 1991 to increase the amounts in column 3 items 3-6 and 8 by $150. These amendments implement a $150 a fortnight increase to the maximum basic rates for unaccommodated independent, single recipients of Youth Allowance.

Items 9 and 10

10.               These items amend the table in point 1067G-B4 of the Social Security Act 1991 to increase the amounts in column 3 items 2 and 4 by $150. These amendments implement a $150 a fortnight increase to the maximum basic rates for single, long term income support student recipients of Youth Allowance. More specifically, item 9 affects single, long term income support student recipients who are not independent but are required to live away from home and item 10 affects unaccommodated independent, single, long term income support student recipients.

Part 3 - Austudy amendments

Social Security Act 1991

Items 11 and 12

11.               These items amend the table in point 1067L-B2 of the Social Security Act 1991 to increase the amounts in column 3 items 1 and 3 by $150. These amendments implement a $150 a fortnight increase to the maximum basic rates for single recipients of Austudy who are not long term income support students. Item 11 will also capture coupled recipients of Austudy who are not long term income support students and do not have a dependent child or a Youth Allowance child because of how the Social Security Act 1991 is currently drafted.

Item 13

12.               This item amends the table in point 1067L-B3 of the Social Security Act 1991 to increase the amount in column 3 item 2 by $150. This amendment implements a $150 a fortnight increase to the maximum basic rate for single recipients of Austudy who are long term income support students. 

Part 4 - Indexation amendments

Social Security Act 1991

Item 14

13.               This item inserts a new row to the table in section 1190 to include reference to the additional Newstart supplement being a payment that is indexed.

Item 15

14.               This item inserts a new row to the table in subsection 1191(1) to include a reference to the additional Newstart supplement being a payment that is indexed to CPI.

Item 16

15.               This item inserts a new section 1195A providing for certain pension and allowance payments to be indexed in the same way, being the higher of CPI or pensioner and beneficiary living cost index amount.

 

    

 

  Subsection (1) lists the pension and allowance payments to be indexed by reference to the payments listed in section 1191. 

 

    

 

  Subsection (2) provides the method statement for determining the indexation for the payments listed in subsection (1). The method is to determine the CPI indexed amount in accordance with section 1192, and to determine the pensioner and beneficiary living cost index amount in accordance with section 1196. The indexed amount is then the higher of those two amounts.  

Part 5 - Other amendments

Social Security (Administration) Act 1999

Items 17 and 18

16.               These items confirm that payments made as a result of this Bill cannot be made until Parliament has made an appropriation for that purpose.

Part 6 - Other amendments

Social Security (Administration) Act 1999

Item 19

17.               This item will amend item 2 of the Act to allow the Newstart supplement to be paid to recipients of Jobseeker Payment once the relevant provisions of the Social Services Legislation (Welfare Reform) Act 2018 commence.

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Social Services Legislation Amendment (Ending the Poverty Trap) Bill 2018

 

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

The Bill:

·       increases the maximum single rates of Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance (away from home rates only), Austudy, Sickness Allowance, Special Benefit, Widow Allowance, Crisis Payment and Jobseeker Payment (once it comes into effect) by $150 a fortnight;

·       provides the same indexation arrangements for certain pensions and allowances, being the higher of CPI or pensioner and beneficiary living cost index amount.

 

Human rights implications

The Bill engages the following human rights:

 

Right to social security

 

Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognises the right of everyone to social security.

 

The Bill will promote the right to social security by increasing the amount of financial support for certain recipients of Newstart, Youth Allowance, Austudy, Sickness Allowance, Special Benefit, Widow Allowance, Crisis Payment and Jobseeker Payment and providing more appropriate indexation for some social security basic payment rates.

 

The focus on singles is based on evidence that these households are the most at risk of poverty. The ACOSS report Poverty in Australia 2016 found that single people generally faced a significantly higher risk of poverty than couples (24.6% to 10.1%) while 33.2% of single parent families are living in poverty compared with 11.3% of couples with children. This reflects in part the economies of scale available to people living with partners. This focus is therefore aimed at a legitimate objective, and is reasonable, necessary and proportionate to achieving that objective.

 

Conclusion

This Bill is compatible with human rights because it generally advances human rights and to the extent that it may limit human rights, those limitations are reasonable, necessary and proportionate.

 

Senator Rachel Siewert