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Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2016



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ISSN 1328-8091

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BILLS DIGEST NO. 25, 2016-17 17 OCTOBER 2016

Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2016 Don Arthur Social Policy Section

This Bills Digest updates an earlier version dated 3 February 2016.

Contents

The Bills Digest at a glance ................................................... 3

History of the Bill ................................................................. 4

Purpose .............................................................................. 4

Table 1: List of measures and previous Bills where the measure has appeared .......................................................... 4

Background ......................................................................... 5

Proportional payment of pensions outside Australia .............. 6

Pensioner Education Supplement and Education Entry Payment ................................................................................... 6

Pensioner Education Supplement ......................................... 6

Education Entry Payment ...................................................... 6

Pause indexation for three years of income free areas .......... 7

Committee consideration .................................................... 7

Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee .................. 7

Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills .............. 7

Policy position of non-government parties/independents ..... 8

Position of major interest groups ......................................... 8

Proportional payment of pensions outside Australia .............. 8

Cease pensioner education supplement and cease education entry payment ........................................................ 9

Pause indexation for three years of income free areas .......... 9

Financial implications .......................................................... 9

Table 2: Financial impact over the forward estimates by measure ............................................................................... 10

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights .................. 10

Date introduced: 1 September 2016

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Social Services

Commencement: Sections 1 to 3 and Schedule 4 of the Bill commence on Royal Assent. Schedule 1 commences on 1 January 2017 if Royal Assent is received before that date. If Royal Assent is received on or after 1 January 2017, Schedule 1 commences on the first 1 January, 1 April, 1 July or 1 October after Royal Assent. Schedules 2 and 3 commence on the first 1 January or 1 July to occur after Royal Assent.

Links: The links to the Bill, its Explanatory Memorandum and second reading speech can be found on the Bill’s home page, or through the Australian Parliament website.

When Bills have been passed and have received Royal Assent, they become Acts, which can be found at the Federal Register of Legislation website.

All hyperlinks in this Bills Digest are correct as at

October 2016.

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Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights ................ 10

Key issues and provisions................................................... 10

Schedule 1—Proportional payment of pensions outside Australia ................................................................................. 10

Amendments to the Social Security Act 1991 ..................... 11

Table 3: Amendments to the Social Security Act 1991 ........ 11

Media coverage ................................................................... 11

Schedule 2—Cease pensioner education supplement .......... 11

Schedule 3— Cease Education Entry payment ...................... 11

Schedule 4—Indexation......................................................... 12

Pause indexation for three years of income free areas ...... 12

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The Bills Digest at a glance  The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2016 reintroduces four savings measures previously included in earlier Bills.

 The Government announced the first measure, earlier proportional payment of pensions outside Australia (Schedule 1), in the 2015 budget. The remaining three measures, which were first announced in the 2014 budget, are:

- cease pensioner education supplement (Schedule 2) - cease education entry payment (Schedule 3) and - pausing indexation for three years of: • the income free areas for all working age allowances (other than student payments) and for parenting

payment single • the income free areas and other means test thresholds for student payments, including student income bank limits (Schedule 4).

 All of the measures in the Bill are savings measures. Much of the criticism from interest groups relates to the claim that the savings come at the expense of people who are on low incomes.

 The measure on earlier proportional payment of pensions outside Australia has attracted the most attention from the public. This measure achieves savings by reducing the period of time some pensioners can receive the full means tested rate of payment while they are overseas from 26 weeks to six weeks.

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History of the Bill A version of this Bill was introduced into the 44th Parliament on 2 December 2015.1 That Bill had passed the House of Representatives and was before the Senate when Parliament was dissolved. The Bill lapsed on dissolution of Parliament.

Purpose The purpose of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2016 (the Bill) is to amend eight Acts, including the Social Security Act 19912, Social Security (Administration) Act 19993, A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 19994, Farm Household Support Act 20145, Veterans’ Entitlements Act 19866, and Income Tax Assessment Act 19977 to re-introduce four savings measures previously introduced in earlier Bills.

The Bill contains four schedules with each schedule dealing with a single measure (see table below).

Table 1: List of measures and previous Bills where the measure has appeared

Measure Previous Bills

Schedule 1—Proportional payment of pensions outside Australia. Measure removed from the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable

Pensions) Bill 20158 during its passage through the Parliament in June 2015.9

Schedule 2—Cease pensioner education supplement.

Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014.10 This Bill was discharged from the Notice Paper on 28 October 2014.11

Reintroduced: Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 4) Bill 2014.12 This Bill was introduced into the Senate on 28 October 2014 and second reading was adjourned on that date. The Bill lapsed when Parliament was prorogued for the 2016 election.

Reintroduced: Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015.13 Measure removed during the passage of the Bill through the Parliament in June 2015.

1. Parliament of Australia, ‘Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015 homepage’, Australian Parliament website. 2. Social Security Act 1991. 3. Social Security (Administration) Act 1999. 4. A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999. 5. Farm Household Support Act 2014. 6. Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986. 7. Income Tax Assessment Act 1997. 8. Parliament of Australia, ‘Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015 homepage’, Australian Parliament

website.

9. The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015 passed both Houses on 22 June 2015 and received Royal Assent on 30 June 2015—see Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Act 2015. 10. Parliament of Australia, ‘Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014 homepage’, Australian Parliament website. 11. Parliament of Australia, Final Senate Bills List for 2014, 15 December 2014. 12. Parliament of Australia, ‘Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 4) Bill 2014 homepage’, Australian

Parliament website. 13. Parliament of Australia, ‘Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015 homepage’, Australian Parliament website.

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Measure Previous Bills

Schedule 3—Cease education entry payment.

Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014.14

Reintroduced: Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 4) Bill 2014.15

Reintroduced: Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015.16 Measure removed during the passage of the Bill through the Parliament in June 2015.

Schedule 4—Pausing indexation for three years of:

 the income free areas for all working age allowances (other than student payments) and for parenting payment single and

 the income free areas and other means test thresholds for student payments, including student income bank limits.

Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 1) Bill 2014 (working age payments).17 This Bill was discharged from the Notice Paper on 28 October 2014.

Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014 (student payments).18

Reintroduced: Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 4) Bill 2014.19

Reintroduced: Social Services Legislation Amendment (Youth Employment and Other Measures) Bill 2015.20 This Bill was negatived in the Senate at second reading.

Background The Government announced the first measure, earlier proportional payment of pensions outside Australia (Schedule 1), in the 2015 budget.21 The remaining three measures were first announced in the 2014 budget. These are:

 cease pensioner education supplement (Schedule 2)22

 cease education entry payment (Schedule 3)23 and

 pausing indexation for three years of:

- the income free areas for all working age allowances (other than student payments) and for parenting payment single and - the income free areas and other means test thresholds for student payments, including student income bank limits (Schedule 4).24

14. Parliament of Australia, ‘Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014 homepage’, op. cit. 15. Parliament of Australia, ‘Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 4) Bill 2014 homepage’, op. cit. 16. Parliament of Australia, ‘Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015 homepage’, op. cit. 17. Parliament of Australia, ‘Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 1) Bill 2014 homepage’, Australian

Parliament website. 18. Parliament of Australia, ‘Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014 homepage’, op. cit. 19. Parliament of Australia, ‘Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 4) Bill 2014 homepage’, op. cit. 20. Parliament of Australia, ‘Social Services Legislation Amendment (Youth Employment and Other Measures) Bill 2015 homepage’, Australian

Parliament website. 21. Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2 2015-16, p. 150. 22. Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2 2014-15, p. 206. 23. Ibid., p. 197.

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Proportional payment of pensions outside Australia An income support payment is ‘portable’ when a recipient can continue to receive the payment when they are overseas. Portability varies by payment type and the recipient’s circumstances. For most payments portability is temporary (usually limited to six weeks). However, in most circumstances, recipients of the Age Pension can continue to receive payment indefinitely. This is known as unlimited portability.25 A limited number of recipients of Wife Pension, Widow B Pension and Disability Support Pension also have unlimited portability.26

While income support recipients with unlimited portability can continue to receive a payment indefinitely while overseas, those who have not resided in Australia for at least 35 years (between the age of 16 and pension age) currently receive a reduced amount after they have been overseas for more than 26 weeks.

The reduction in payment is based on the period of time the person has resided in Australia between the age of 16 and pension age. This is known as their Australian Working Life Residence (AWLR). The payment rate is calculated by dividing the AWLR by 35. For example, a person who has resided in Australia for 10 years between 16 and age pension age will usually receive 10/35ths of the full means tested rate.27 This reduction in payments is known as ‘proportionality’.

Pensioner Education Supplement and Education Entry Payment

Pensioner Education Supplement The Pensioner Education Supplement (PES) helps eligible income support recipients meet some of the ongoing costs associated with study. The rationale for making the payment is to improve recipients’ later employment prospects.28

PES is not means tested and is non-taxable. Depending on their study load, eligible students receive $62.40 or $31.20 per fortnight.29 It is available to recipients of Parenting Payment (single), Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Widow B Pension, Widow Allowance, Wife Pension, and certain other groups of income support recipients (including recipients of some Veterans’ Affairs payments).30

There is a separate ABSTUDY Pensioner Education Supplement available to Indigenous income support recipients.31 As the ABSTUDY Pensioner Education Supplement is not administered under the Social Security Act 1991 it is not affected by this measure (ABSTUDY is governed by the ABSTUDY Policy Manual).32

The National Commission of Audit noted that recipients of the PES received the payment during vacation periods as well as during study terms or semesters. The Commission recommended ‘that the Supplement only be provided to recipients during study terms or semesters.’33

Education Entry Payment The Education Entry Payment is a taxable lump sum payment of $208 to help recipients meet the up-front costs of education and training. It is paid once a year.34

24. Department of Human Services (DHS), ‘Maintain eligibility thresholds for Australian Government payments for three years’, DHS website, last updated 16 March 2016. 25. Department of Social Services (DSS), ‘Portability of Australian income support payments’, DSS website, last updated 26 June 2015. 26. For details on the application of portability rules see: DSS, ‘7.1.2.20 Application of Portability Rules (Portability Table)’, Guide to social security

law, version 1.2226, released 4 October 2016, DSS website. 27. DHS, ‘Age pension while travelling outside Australia’, DHS website, last updated 4 August 2016. 28. DSS, ‘1.2.7.30 Pensioner Education Supplement (PES) - Description’, Guide to social security law, 4 January 2016. 29. Ibid.

30. DSS, ‘Pensioner Education Supplement’, DSS website, last updated 7 November 2014. 31. DSS, ‘ABSTUDY policy manual’, DSS website, last updated 30 June 2016, pp. 237-240. 32. Ibid.

33. National Commission of Audit, Towards responsible government, ‘Phase two’, National Commission of Audit, Canberra, March 2014, pp. 107- 108. 34. DSS, ‘1.2.7.60 Education Entry Payment (EdEP) - Description’, Guide to social security law, version 1.218, released 4 January 2016, DSS website, last updated 2 January 2016.

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The National Commission of Audit recommended that the Education Entry Payment be abolished, partly on the grounds that it duplicated the assistance available through the PES.35

Pause indexation for three years of income free areas Indexation of income free areas was explained in the Bills Digest for the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 1) Bill 2014:

Currently, the income test free area for a single person for most of the working age income support allowance payments is $100 per fortnight. The free area is $200 a fortnight (combined) for partnered persons. Once income is in excess of these free areas in a fortnight, the maximum rate payable is reduced by 50 cents for each dollar of income over the free area. Income over $250 in a fortnight reduces the rate by 60 cents in each dollar. These income test free areas are indexed once a year on 1 July to increases in the [Consumer Price Index] CPI. The working age income support allowance payments that use this income test are Newstart Allowance, Widow Allowance, Partner Allowance and Sickness Allowance.

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Since that digest was published the income free areas have been indexed. The current income test free area is $104 per fortnight; payments are reduced by 50 cents for each dollar between $102 and $254, and $75 plus 60 cents for each dollar over $254.37 Further background about the indexation of income free areas is available in the Bills Digest for the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 1) Bill 2014.38

Committee consideration Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee The previous version of this Bill, the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015 (the 2015 Bill) was referred to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry. The Committee reported on 4 February 2016.

The Committee made two recommendations, that the Bill be passed and that it be amended to include transitional arrangements for current recipients of the Pensioner Education Supplement, to enable them to complete their education or training course.39

In their dissenting report, Labor Senators rejected the majority report’s recommendations and recommended that the Senate reject the Bill.40 Australian Greens Senators also recommended that the Bill not be passed.41

On 15 September 2016, the Senate referred the current version of the Bill Committee for inquiry and report. The Committee reported on 10 October 2016.42

In its report on the current Bill, the Committee made the same two recommendations as it did in its report on the 2015 Bill. The recommendations in the two dissenting reports were also the same.43

Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills had no comment on this Bill or the 2015 Bill. 44

35. National Commission of Audit, Towards responsible government, op. cit., p. 107. 36. P Yeend and L Buckmaster, Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 1) Bill 2014, Bills digest, 14, 2014- 15, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, p. 12. 37. DHS, ‘Income test for Newstart Allowance, Partner Allowance, Sickness Allowance and Widow Allowance’, DHS website, last updated

27 September 2016. 38. Yeend and Buckmaster, Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 1) Bill 2014, op. cit., p. 12. 39. Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015 [provisions], The Senate,

Canberra, 4 February 2016, p. vii. 40. Labor Senators, Dissenting report, Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015 [provisions], The Senate, Canberra, 4 February 2016, p. 20. 41. Australian Greens, Dissenting report, Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget

Repair) Bill 2015 [provisions], The Senate, Canberra, 4 February 2016, p. 24. 42. Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2016 [Provisions], The Senate, Canberra, 10 October 2016. 43. Australian Greens and Labor Senators, Dissenting reports, Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Social Services Legislation

Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2016 [Provisions], The Senate, Canberra, 10 October 2016.

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Policy position of non-government parties/independents In their dissenting reports to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, Opposition and Greens Senators recommended that the Senate reject the Bill.

As of 14 September 2016 no public comments from independent members or senators have been identified.

Position of major interest groups All of the measures in the Bill are savings measures. Much of the criticism from interest groups relates to the idea that the savings should come at the expense of people who are on low incomes.

As these measures have all been introduced in earlier bills, interest groups have outlined their positions in previous submissions. A number of interest groups made submissions on this Bill.45 None of the interest groups making a submission on this Bill indicated support for any of the measures.

Proportional payment of pensions outside Australia UnitingCare Australia supported this measure when it was put forward in the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015 on the grounds ‘that budget expenditure should be targeted to those most vulnerable’.46

However, the measure is opposed by a number of other groups including the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia (FECCA), the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA), COTA Australia, and the National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN).47

FECCA argues that treating migrants differently to those born in Australia is an equity issue and notes:

Nearly 40 per cent of those receiving the Age Pension were not born in Australia. It is concerning to see tightening of portability provisions, as they will disadvantage a significant section of the Australian population who were born overseas and maintain important ties with their places of birth. 48

The Welfare Rights Centre Sydney shares the concerns of FECCA and notes that: ‘Family issues, including bereavement and caring responsibilities may dictate that overseas stays need to be for extended periods of time.’49 The CPSA argues that: ‘Those who travel to care for friends and relatives (or to be cared for themselves) will be particularly affected.’50

44. Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Alert digest, 1, 2016, The Senate, 3 February 2016, p. 35; Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Alert digest, 6, 2016, The Senate, 14 September 2016, p. 31. 45. Submissions to Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2016, September 2016. 46. UnitingCare Australia, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation

Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015, 11 June 2015, pp. 1-2. 47. Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA), Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, 14 January 2016; Australian Council of Social Service

(ACOSS), Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, 18 January 2016; Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of NSW Inc (CPSA), Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, January 2016; COTA, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015, 15 June 2015, pp. 6-7; National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN), Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, 15 January 2016. 48. FECCA, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget

Repair) Bill 2015, op. cit., p. 1. 49. Welfare Rights Centre Sydney, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, 15 January 2016, pp. 2-3. 50. CPSA, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget

Repair) Bill 2015, op. cit., p. 3.

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Cease pensioner education supplement and cease education entry payment These measures have been opposed by a number of major interest groups including ACOSS, the NWRN, the Refugee Council of Australia, and the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW).51

The AASW is particularly concerned about the effect ending the pensioner education supplement will have on recipients of the Disability Support Pension (DSP). In their submission they report the results of a survey that found social work students on DSP were more likely than other social work students to regularly go without food or other necessities (55 per cent for DSP students compared with 30 per cent for all social work students). According to the AASW submission ‘[t]he evidence suggests that the well-targeted Pensioner Education Supplement should be increased rather than removed.’52

Pause indexation for three years of income free areas This measure has been opposed by a number of major interest groups including ACOSS, the NWRN, the Salvation Army, and the St Vincent de Paul Society.53

In its submission on the Bill, ACOSS argues that ‘[i]income free areas should not be adjusted through ad-hoc freezing of indexation to achieve short term budget savings at the expense of reducing the incomes of people on low wages.’54 The National Welfare Rights Network argues that governments need to address the problems of adequacy and incentives in working age payments and that: ‘[t]o propose undermining existing free areas by freezing indexation, in the face of clear inadequacy of workforce age payments, is indefensible.’55 The Salvation Army argues that this measure reduces incentives to work and ‘reduces incomes solely for the purposes of budget savings …’56

Financial implications The table below shows the financial impact of the four measures in the Bill as set out in the Explanatory Memorandum.

51. ACOSS, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, op. cit.; NWRN, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, op. cit.; Refugee Council of Australia, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, January 2016; Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, January 2016.

52. AASW, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, op. cit., p. 4. 53. ACOSS, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, op. cit.; NWRN, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services

Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, op. cit.; The Salvation Army Australia, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, 18 January 2016; St Vincent de Paul Society National Council, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, 18 January 2016. 54. ACOSS, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget

Repair) Bill 2015, op. cit., p. 2. 55. NWRN, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015, op. cit., p. 5. 56. Salvation Army, Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment

(Budget Repair) Bill 2015, op. cit., p. 3.

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Table 2: Financial impact over the forward estimates by measure

Measure Financial impact over the forward

estimates (savings)

Proportional payment of pensions outside Australia $168.4 million

Pensioner education supplement $252.4 million*

Education entry payment $64.4 million*

Indexation $107.4 million*

* Financial impact refers to administered funding for affected social security payments only and is not net of implementation funding.

Source: Explanatory Memorandum, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2016, pp. 1-2.

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights As required under Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth), the Government has assessed the Bill’s compatibility with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of that Act. The Government considers that the Bill is compatible.57

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights concluded that neither the 2015 Bill nor the current Bill raised human rights concerns.58

Key issues and provisions Schedule 1—Proportional payment of pensions outside Australia This measure was announced in the 2015-16 Budget and was first introduced in the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015. The government removed the measure to secure passage of that Bill through the Senate.

This measure was outlined in the Parliamentary Library’s Budget Review 2015-16:

While most income support payments can only be paid for a limited period of time if a recipient is overseas (known as the portability of the payment), the Age Pension, Widow B Pension, Wife Pension and the Disability Support Pension (in special circumstances) can continue to be paid while a person is overseas indefinitely and even where an eligible pensioner chooses to reside in another country. However, if a pensioner is overseas for a period longer than 26 weeks, their payment rate may be reduced to a proportion of the time they spent in Australia between the age of 16 years and the age pension age. This period is known as their Australian Working Life Residence (AWLR). Those with less than 35 years AWLR will, after 26 weeks overseas, have their payment reduced to a rate equivalent to the proportion of 35 years their AWLR represents. For example, a person with 16 years of AWLR will receive 46 per cent of the rate otherwise payable if they resided in Australia. Those with 35 years or more AWLR residence will not have their payment reduced.

The Budget proposes to commence payment of the proportionalised rate earlier—after six weeks overseas rather than 26 weeks … Pensioners overseas at the time of the measure’s commencement will not be affected unless they return to Australia and make another trip overseas. The measure follows on from an increase in the AWLR required to receive a full pension rate from 25 years to 35 years which commenced on 1 July 2014.

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The measure achieves savings by reducing the period of time some pensioners can receive the full means tested rate of payment while they are overseas from 26 weeks to six weeks. It affects recipients of the age pension and a limited number of recipients of Widow B Pension, Wife Pension, and Disability Support Pension who have

57. The Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights can be found after page 15 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill. 58. Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (PJCHR), Thirty-third report of the 44th Parliament, 2 February 2016, p. 2. PJCHR, Report, 7, 2016, The Senate, Canberra, 11 October 2016, p. 99. 59. M Klapdor, ‘Pensions’, Budget review 2015-16, Parliament of Australia, Canberra, May 2015, p. 143-45.

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unlimited portability and who have resided in Australia for less than 35 years between the age of 16 and age pension age.

The changes would commence from 1 January 2017 if the Act receives Royal Assent before that date. In the event that the Act receives Royal Assent on or after 1 January 2017, the changes will commence on the first 1 January, 1 April, 1 July or 1 October after Royal Assent.

Amendments to the Social Security Act 1991 Items 1 to 4 of Schedule 1 of the Bill apply the measure by omitting references to ‘26 weeks’ and substituting ‘6 weeks’ in sections referring to proportionality (see Table 3).60 Item 5 is an application provision, which provides that the amendments only apply to periods of absence from Australia starting on or after the Schedule commences.

Table 3: Amendments to the Social Security Act 1991

Item 1: Subsection 1214(1) (note 2) Payments that are portable with no time limit—a consequential amendment is made to Note 2 to change the time period to ‘6 weeks’.

Item 2: Paragraph 1220A(a) Proportionality—age pension rate.

Item 3: Paragraph 1220B(1)(a) Proportionality—Disability Support Pension rate for a severely disabled person.

Item 4: Paragraph 1221(1)(a) Proportionality—wife pension and widow B pension rate for entitled persons.

Media coverage Judith Ireland reported that the Government ‘is under fire from migrant and refugee groups, who say a plan to limit the time pensioners can spend in another country before their pension is cut discriminates against Australians born overseas.’61

Schedule 2—Cease pensioner education supplement Under Schedule 2 of the Bill, the Pensioner Education Supplement will cease. Schedule 2 amends the Social Security Act 1991, the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999, A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999, Farm Household Support Act 2014 and Income Tax Assessment Act 1997. Item 17 of Schedule 2 repeals Part 2.24A of the Social Security Act 1991 which regulates the Pensioner Education Supplement.

This Schedule is expressed to commence from the first 1 January or 1 July after the day the Act receives Royal Assent.

Schedule 3— Cease Education Entry payment Under Schedule 3 of the Bill the Education Entry Payment will cease. The Schedule amends the Social Security Act 1991, the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999, Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986, Farm Household Support Act 2014, Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 and the Taxation Administration Act 1953.

Item 3 of Schedule 3 of the Bill repeals Part 2.13A of the Social Security Act 1991 which currently regulates the education entry payment.

Other than the delayed commencement of the measure, there are no differences between the amendments proposed by Schedules 2 and 3 of this Bill and Schedules 6 and 7 of the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014. According to the Bills Digest for that earlier Bill:

Since its introduction, the [Education Entry Payment] has been aimed at aiding people on income support to meet the one-off costs of commencing an education course such as entry fees, transport costs and books. The removal of the [Education Entry Payment] will make it financially harder for recipients of an income support payment to

60. Social Security Act 1991. 61. J Ireland, ‘Travel link to pension "discriminatory"’, The Age, 25 January 2016, p. 4.

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commence study. Study has been regarded as a desirable activity for income support recipients as it is considered to enhance their capacity to self-support. The cancellation of the [Education Entry Payment] will save money, but, as with the cessation of the PES, it may also see some income support recipients ceasing their study or choosing not to undertake study.

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This Schedule is expressed to commence from the first 1 January or 1 July after the day the Act receives Royal Assent.

Schedule 4—Indexation

Pause indexation for three years of income free areas Schedule 4 of the Bill amends the Social Security Act 1991 to:

 pause the indexation of income free areas for all working age allowances (other than student payments) and for parenting payment single and

 pause the indexation of income free areas and other means test thresholds for student payments, including the student income bank limits.

If the Bill receives Royal Assent on or before 1 July 2017, there will be no indexation on 1 July 2017, 2018 and 2019 and will recommence on 1 July 2020. If the Bill receives Royal Assent after 1 July 2017 indexation will not recommence until 1 July 2021.63

This measure was previously introduced as part of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Youth Employment and Other Measures) Bill 2015.64 As the Bills Digest for that Bill explained:

These means test levels are usually adjusted once a year (on either 1 January or 1 July) in line with movements in the CPI. Pausing indexation (that is, not adjusting the amounts) is a simple way of finding budget savings without directly cutting benefits or limiting eligibility. The threshold amounts will decline in real value over time and savings arise as payment rates are reduced as recipients’ income and assets gradually increase beyond the relevant thresholds.

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62. C Ey, M Klapdor, M Thomas and P Yeend, Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014, Bills digest, 16, 2014-15, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 21 August 2014, p.32. 63. Proposed subsection 1192(5AAA) makes changes to the indexation of the pension free area. Proposed subsection 1192(5AAB) makes changes to income test free areas and means test limits for student payments. Item 24 of the table at 1191(1),which proposed subsection 1192(5AAB)

refers to, was repealed with effect from 1 January 2016 by item 18 of Schedule 1 to the Social Services Legislation Amendment (More Generous Means Testing for Youth Payments) Act 2015. 64. The last time it was introduced was in the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Budget Repair) Bill 2015. 65. M Klapdor and M Thomas, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Youth Employment and Other Measures) Bill 2015, Bills digest, 120, 2014- 15, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 15 June 2015, p. 15.

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