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Monday, 19 March 2018
Page: 1530

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (21:33): I am still trying to fix schedule 15, so I move amendment (1) on sheet 8288:

(1) Schedule 15, item 1, page 208 (line 3), after section 42AP, insert:

42APA Secretary may require person to comply with additional requirements

(1) The Secretary may require a person to comply with a requirement during a period in respect of which:

(a) the person's participation payment is to be cancelled; or

(b) instalments of the person's participation payment are to be reduced.

(2) Despite any other provision of this Subdivision, if the person complies with the requirement at any time during the period:

(a) the person's participation payment is not cancelled during that period; and

(b) an instalment of the person's participation payment is not reduced during that period.

(3) The Minister may, by legislative instrument, make rules specifying the requirements, or the kinds of requirements, that the Secretary may make if:

(a) a person's participation payment is cancelled; or

(b) instalments of a person's participation payment are reduced by 50%; or

(c) instalments of a person's participation payment are reduced by 100%.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (3), the rules may specify different requirements, or different kinds of requirements, in respect of each of the circumstances mentioned in paragraphs (3) (a), (b) and (c).

42APB Cap on periods during which payments may be cancelled or instalments reduced

A person's participation payment must not be cancelled and instalments of the person's participation payment must not be reduced in any continuous 6 month period if, for at least 7 weeks of that period, the person's participation payment has been cancelled or instalments of that payment have been reduced.

This amendment relates to additional requirements and a cap, and I have a couple of questions relating to this issue. This amendment relates to provisions for avoiding a reduction in or cancellation of a payment by undertaking a requirement and also addresses the cap of seven weeks, during which time a participant payment can be reduced or cancelled.

The eight-week compliance penalty of the old compliance regime had a very significant impact and it happened all at once. So we can appreciate what the government is trying to do in having a one-week suspension, a two-week suspension and a four-week suspension. But by the time you get to a four-week suspension from payments you've already had a three-week non-payment period. By the time you get to four, that's seven. The concern is that somebody could go through a cycle of a number of weeks of suspension. People can be almost as badly off, potentially, as they were under the old regime. We want to apply a cap to this process so it's really clear.

I want to ask the government: what is the process for ensuring that people don't get into this trap? This is supposed to be about improving the system. If you don't think this is going the work, how are you going to ensure that people don't end up suffering multiple periods of a lot of time off income support?