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Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016



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ISSN 1328-8091

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BILLS DIGEST NO. 49, 2016-17 30 NOVEMBER 2016

Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016 Michael Klapdor Social Policy Section

Contents

Purpose of the Bill ............................................................... 3

Structure of the Bill and the Bills Digest ................................ 3

Committee consideration .................................................... 3

Senate Community Affairs Committee .................................... 3

Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills .............. 3

Policy position of non-government parties/independents ..... 3

Position of major interest groups ......................................... 4

Financial implications .......................................................... 4

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights .................... 4

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights .................. 4

Schedule 1—Means testing for social security benefits ......... 4

Asset test exemption for students with a partner in receipt of income support ....................................................... 4

Background ............................................................................ 4

Table 1: Asset test limits for allowances as at 1 July 2016 ............................................................................. 5

Table 2: Asset test free areas for full pension and limits for part pension as at 1 July 2016 ......................................... 5

Key issues and provisions ...................................................... 5

Means test treatment of private companies and trusts ......... 6

Background ............................................................................ 6

Key issues and provisions ...................................................... 6

Income from gift payments ..................................................... 6

Background ............................................................................ 6

Key issues and provisions ...................................................... 7

Date introduced: 14 September 2016

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Social Services

Commencement: Schedule 1 on the first 1 January or 1 July after Royal Assent; Schedule 2 on 1 January 2019; Schedule 3 on 1 January 2017 (if Royal Assent before 1 January 2017) or the first 1 January or 1 July to occur after Royal Assent (if Royal Assent after 1 January 2017).

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

November 2016.

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Parental income test for Youth Allowance .............................. 7

Background ............................................................................ 7

Key issues and provisions ...................................................... 8

Schedule 2—Health care cards ............................................. 8

Background .............................................................................. 8

Table 3: Income limits for the Low Income Health Card ....... 9

Key issues and provisions ........................................................ 9

Schedule 3—Remoteness structure ...................................... 9

Background ............................................................................ 10

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

Concluding comments ....................................................... 11

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Purpose of the Bill The purpose of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016 (the Bill) is to amend the Social Security Act 19911 (the SS Act) to:

• remove an assets test exemption for student payment recipients who have a partner in receipt of certain social security or veterans’ payments

• remove an assets test exemption for student payment recipients who have assets held by private companies or trusts

• exempt regular/ongoing gifts from family members from the social security benefit income tests

• include tax free pensions and benefits in the parental income test for Youth Allowance

• automatically provide a Health Care Card to student payment recipients (currently they must apply and meet certain criteria related to income) and

• update the remoteness structure for student payments to align with the latest Australian Statistical Geography Standard (this affects those claiming Independence under the earnings criteria and eligibility for/payment rate of Relocation Scholarships). The measure will also mean that the remoteness structure is updated automatically in the future.

The measures were announced in the 2016-17 Budget and are expected to have no net fiscal impact over the forward estimates period.2

Structure of the Bill and the Bills Digest The Bill is divided into three Schedules:

• Schedule 1 provides for the measures affecting the means testing of social security benefits

• Schedule 2 provides for the Health Care Card measure and

• Schedule 3 provides for the remoteness structure measure.

As the Schedules contain distinct and unrelated measures, the Bills Digest will address the background, key issues and provisions of each Schedule in separate sections.

Committee consideration Senate Community Affairs Committee The Bill was referred to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 7 November 2016. 3

The Committee reported on 7 November 2016 and recommended the Bill be passed.4 The Committee’s report did not raise any issues with the Bill and no dissenting reports or additional comments from other senators were issued.

Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills had no comment on the Bill.5

Policy position of non-government parties/independents At the time of writing, none of the non-government parties or independents had stated their position on the Bill.

1. Social Security Act 1991. 2. Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2016-17, p. 145. 3. Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016 [Provisions], The Senate, November 2016, p. vii.

4. Ibid., p. 7.

5. Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Alert digest, 7, 2016, The Senate, 12 October 2016, p. 94.

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Position of major interest groups The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the National Welfare Rights Network made submissions to the Senate Community Affairs Committee’s inquiry into the Bill.6

Both stated their support for the Bill and recommended it be passed.

Financial implications According to the Explanatory Memorandum, the Bill will provide $52,000 in net savings over the forward estimates.7 The changes to means testing arrangements for social security benefits will provide savings of $778,000. The Health Care Card measures will cost an estimated $726,000 over the forward estimates. The remoteness structure measure is not expected to have any financial impact.8

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.9 According to the Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights, Schedules 1-3 engage the right to social security under Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and Schedule 3 also engages the right to education under Article 13 of the ICESCR. The Government considers that the Bill is compatible.10

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights considered the Bill in its Seventh Report of 2016 and found that Bill raised no human rights concerns.11

Schedule 1—Means testing for social security benefits Schedule 1 proposes changes to social security means testing arrangements to:

• remove an assets test exemption for student payment recipients who have a partner in receipt of certain social security or veterans’ payments

• remove an assets test exemption for student payment recipients who have assets held by private companies or trusts

• exempt regular ongoing gifts from family members from the student payment income tests and

• include tax free pensions and benefits in the parental income test for Youth Allowance.

The changes will commence on the first 1 January or 1 July after Royal Assent.

Asset test exemption for students with a partner in receipt of income support

Background Currently, Youth Allowance (YA) recipients who are considered independent from their parents/carers and Austudy Payment recipients are exempt from the personal assets test if they have a partner who is in receipt of an income support payment (such as a pension or allowance).12 The personal assets test limits eligibility for YA and Austudy Payment to those recipients with assets (or combined assets if partnered) below a certain limit. The current assets test limits are set out in Table 1.

6. Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Submission to Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016, 24 October 2016; National Welfare Rights Network, Submission to Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016, 24 October 2016.

7. Explanatory Memorandum, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016, p. 2. 8. Ibid.

9. The Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights can be found at pages 12-16 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill. 10. Ibid., pp. 12-16. 11. Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Report 7 of 2016, 11 October 2016, p. 100. 12. Department of Social Services (DSS), ‘4.2.8.30 Independent YA - personal assets test & limits’, Guide to social security law, version 1.227, DSS

website, last reviewed 11 August 2014.

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Table 1: Asset test limits for allowances as at 1 July 2016

Family circumstances Homeowners Non-homeowners

Single $202,000 $348,500

Couple (Combined) $286,500 $433,000

Source: Department of Human Services (DHS), ‘Assets’, DHS website, page updated 3 November 2016.

If the person’s partner is in receipt of a payment other than YA or Austudy Payment, they will still be subject to an assets test. However, the pension assets test applies in a different way to the allowance asset test with pension rates being reduced for assets over a certain threshold (rather than automatic ineligibility) and much higher asset test limits where no payment is payable (Table 2).

Table 2: Asset test free areas for full pension and limits for part pension as at 1 July 2016

Free area for full pension Limit for part pension

Family circumstances Homeowners Non-homeowners Homeowners Non-homeowners

Single $209,000 $360,500 $793,750 $945,250

Couple (Combined) $296,500 $448,000 $1,178,500 $1,330,000

Source: DHS, ‘Assets’, DHS website, page updated 3 November 2016.

The current asset test exemption for YA and Austudy Payment recipients with partners in receipt of income support means that these couples can have a much higher level of assets than other couples (or single persons) and still receive a government payment. The Minister for Social Services described the exemption as an ‘anomaly’.13

The asset test exemption was included in the means testing arrangements for YA and Austudy Payment when they were introduced in 1998.14 The Explanatory Memorandum for the Bill which created Austudy Payment explained the exemption in the following way: ‘the couple will already have been subject to an assets test and therefore need not be tested again’.15 While this justification is relevant for couples who are both eligible for allowance payments, it does not really apply to those with a partner on a pension as the asset test that applies is different.

As at June 2016, only 7,740 recipients of YA (Student and Apprentice) were partnered out of 226,515 recipients (3.4 per cent).16 5,711 YA (Other) recipients were partnered out of 98,100 recipients (5.8 per cent) and 10,745 Austudy Payment recipients were partnered out of 48,910 recipients (22.0 per cent).17 No data is published on how many of these partners were also in receipt of income support.

Key issues and provisions The measures will affect a small number of YA and Austudy Payment recipients who, together with their partner, own a significant amount of assets. Those affected are likely to be those with a partner in receipt of a pension payment such as Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment or the Age Pension. Removing the current exemption will ensure these YA and Austudy Payment recipients will have their means assessed in a similar way to other income support recipients.

Item 1 repeals subsection 547B(1) of the SS Act which provides the exemption from the assets test for YA claimants who are independent but whose partner is in receipt of an income support payment such as a pension or benefit.

13. C Porter, ‘Second reading speech: Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016’, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 2016, p. 856. 14. Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Allowance) Act 1998; Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Allowance Consequential and Related Measures) Act 1998. 15. Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Allowance Consequential and Related Measures) Bill 1998, p. 11. 16. DSS, ‘DSS demographics June 2016’, data.gov.au website, last updated 13 October 2016. 17. Ibid.

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Item 3 repeals sections 573 and 573A of the SS Act, which provide a similar exemption for Austudy Payment recipients and substitutes new section 573 to apply the assets test to Austudy Payment (the payment is not payable where a person’s assets exceed the asset test limit for allowances/benefits).

Means test treatment of private companies and trusts

Background Part 3.18 of the SS Act sets out in detail the way income and assets of privates companies and trusts are to be assessed under the social security means tests. The provisions include methods for determining who has effective control of, or is the source of the funds held by, the trust or company.18 However, these provisions do not apply to the assets test for YA or Austudy Payment; or to ABSTUDY, an administrative scheme which applies a means test similar to that used for YA and Austudy Payment.

The assets test treatment of private trusts for YA and Austudy Payment is very limited and there are no provisions for the assessment of company assets. For example, Section 547E is the only provision in the YA assets test relating to trusts:

547E Assets of trust in which person benefits

A person’s assets include:

(a) any benefit to which the person is entitled directly or indirectly out of the assets of a trust; and

(b) any asset of a trust that the person can deal with directly or indirectly to his or her advantage; and

(c) any interest in the assets of a trust which has been assigned to someone else but which the person can directly or indirectly control. 19

The Austudy Payment asset test treatment at section 573D of the SS Act is identical.

This very limited assessment of private company and trust assets dates back to introduction of YA and Austudy Payment in 1998.20

Key issues and provisions The amendments proposed by the Bill will apply the standard social security means test treatment of private companies and trusts to YA and Austudy Payment. It is unclear how many recipients of these payments actually hold assets in private companies or trusts but, given the very small financial impact of the Bill, it is unlikely to be many.

Items 5-7 amend section 547D of the SS Act to remove clauses that disregard the application of the Part 3.18 provisions in the assessment of assets for YA recipients. Item 8 repeals section 547E (the current YA assessment of private trust assets).

Items 9-10 make similar amendments to the asset test provisions for Austudy Payment so that the provisions in Part 3.18 will now be applied.

Income from gift payments

Background Currently, different rules apply for pension recipients and benefit recipients in relation to gifts of money from family members. For pensioners, income regularly received as a gift from an immediate family member is not treated as income and is not assessed under the income test. For benefit recipients (such as Newstart Allowance and YA recipients) such regular gifts from immediate family members are treated as income and can affect payment rates under the income test.

18. Explanatory Memorandum, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016, p. 2. 19. Social Security Act 1991, s. 547E. 20. Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Allowance) Act 1998; Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Allowance Consequential and Related Measures) Act 1998.

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The income test exemption for gifts from family members for pension recipients dates back to 1912 when gifts or allowances from children or grandchildren were excluded from the assessment of income.21 This was extended in 1932 to exclude from the means test, any gifts and allowances from the person’s husband, wife, father or mother.22 In 1958, the exemption was extended to gifts or allowances from a brother or sister.23

These exemptions for gifts and allowances from immediate family members have not applied to non-pension payments such as the unemployment benefit (now Newstart Allowance).

There is no published data on how many benefit recipients currently receive gifts or allowances from immediate family members. It is likely that such gifts or allowances are under-reported as the amounts would be provided as cash and would be difficult to track.

Key issues and provisions The amendments proposed by the Bill will mean that the definition of income for the purposes of means testing all social security payments will exclude periodical payments or benefits by way of gift or allowance from a parent, child, brother or sister of the payment claimant. This will effectively extend the current exemption for pension payments to YA, Austudy Payment, Newstart Allowance and Parenting Payment (Partnered).

Dependent YA recipients (those considered able to draw on the support of their parents or carers) will still be subject to the parental income test to determine their eligibility and rate of payment.

While the intent of the amendments is to provide consistency in the treatment of regular gifts from family members across the social security system, the issue of how ‘independence’ for YA is determined could lead to perceived anomalies. The current determination of independence is not based on whether or not a person is actually receiving support from their family—rather, it can be determined by a range of different criteria such as the age of the YA recipient (22 or over), if they are a member of a couple, have a dependent child, have supported themselves through a set amount of employment or have earned a certain amount of income since leaving school (and have moved from a regional or inner regional area), or have parents who cannot exercise their responsibilities (for example, because they are in prison or mentally incapacitated).24 A young person who does not meet any of these criteria but who receives no financial support from their parents will still have their parents’ income taken into account in determining their eligibility for and rate of YA. However, under the proposed amendments, an independent young person (for example, a student aged 22) could receive YA and a significant weekly allowance from their wealthy parents that is not assessed as income; and, because they are deemed independent, their parents’ income will not be assessed in determining their eligibility for YA or rate of payment.

This independence issue may give rise to perceived inequities in the social security system, but overall the changes are beneficial and will mean family members can provide assistance to income support recipients without being worried that it will affect their eligibility for income support.

Items 13-16 repeal the points in the income tests for the various affected payments that specify that periodical payments or benefits by way of gift or allowance from a parent, child, brother or sister of the person are to be included in the person’s ordinary income.

Parental income test for Youth Allowance

Background The parental income test for dependent recipients of YA currently excludes any tax free pensions or benefits the parents are receiving. While most pensions and benefits are taxable, some are not. Tax free payments include:

21. Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1912. At the time, invalid pension applications from those deemed to be adequately maintained by their relatives could be refused. From 1932-1935, maintenance contributions from the relatives of old age pension claimants were also required— and a claimant would become ineligible if their relatives could support them. The provisions requiring contributions from relatives for old-age pensioners were repealed in 1935. The adequate maintenance provisions for invalid pensions were not fully repealed until 1952. See TH Kewley, Social security in Australia: 1900-72, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1973, pp. 126-128, p. 288.

22. Financial Emergency Act 1932. See footnote 21 regarding the requirement that family members support old age pensioners, introduced in the same Act. 23. Social Services Act 1958. 24. DSS, ‘3.2.5.10 Qualification for YA & DSP as an independent young person’, Guide to social security law, version 1.227, DSS website, last

reviewed 9 February 2015.

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Disability Support Pension (for those under age pension age), Carer Payment (if both the carer and care-recipient are under age pension age), Carer Allowance and a large number of supplementary payments. Payments such as Newstart Allowance, Parenting Payment and Age Pension are taxable.

The YA parental income test does not apply to individuals whose parents are in receipt of a pension, benefit, allowance or veterans’ compensation payment. However, if the parent is not currently in receipt of one of these payments, the income test would apply and would assess any assessable income in the appropriate tax year used for the income test (this is usually the financial year ending in the calendar year prior to the calendar year in which YA payment is being claimed).25

The Family Tax Benefit income test (similar to the YA parental income test in that it assesses combined parental income) does include tax free pensions and benefits in its assessment.

Key issues and provisions The Bill will amend the SS Act to include tax free pensions and benefit in the parental income test for YA. The Minister for Social Services stated in his second reading speech that this will ‘harmonise’ the YA parental income test with the Family Tax Benefit income test:

… so that Family Tax Benefit income details can be automatically reused for the youth Parental Income Test. Parents will no longer be required to resubmit their income information to support a youth payment claim by one of their children. 26

Aligning the income tests will improve the administration of these payments and make it easier for claimants.

However, the Bill may negatively affect the children of those previously in receipt of a tax free payment who could have their payment rate reduced under the parental income test, or be deemed ineligible (depending on their total income for the assessed tax year). As noted above, those whose parents are in receipt of a pension or benefit are not subject to the parental income test.

Item 18 inserts new paragraph 1067G-F10(d) which adds ‘the parent’s tax free pensions or benefits’ to the list of income components assessed as YA claimant’s combined parental income.

Schedule 2—Health care cards Schedule 2 will allow all students receiving certain income support payments to automatically access a Health Care Card (HCC) from 1 January 2019. Currently, YA (Student), Austudy Payment and ABSTUDY Living Allowance recipients must apply for a Low Income HCC, unlike all other income support payment recipients who qualify for the card automatically with their payment.

The measure is expected to cost $726,000 over the forward estimates.27

Background The HCC is one of a number of Commonwealth concession cards which provide similar (but not identical) access to various concessions. The main cards are the HCC, the Pensioner Concession Card and the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs also issues cards which entitle holders to various concessions (as well as other health/medical benefits).

HCC holders (and in some cases, their dependants) are entitled to discounted medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme; lower expenditure thresholds for accessing the Medicare Safety Net; incentives for GPs to bulk-bill HCC holders; and discounted mail redirection through Australia Post. Sickness Allowance recipients holding a HCC may also receive free hearing services through the Office for Hearing.28 Holders may be eligible for a range of concessions from state, territory and local governments as well as private businesses.

The HCC is automatically issued to people not qualified for a Pensioner Concession Card and who are receiving:

25. DSS, ‘4.2.8.10 Dependent YA - parental income test & limits’, Guide to social security law, version 1.227, DSS website, last reviewed, 1 July 2016. 26. Porter, ‘Second reading speech: Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016’, op. cit., p. 855. 27. Explanatory Memorandum, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016, p. 2. 28. DHS, ‘Health Care Card’, DHS website, last updated 25 August 2016.

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• Newstart Allowance, Partner Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Widow Allowance, YA (job seeker), Mobility Allowance, Special Benefit, or Parenting Payment (partnered), Farm Household Allowance

• Carer Allowance (child)

• Carer Payment (child) on a short-term or episodic basis

• Family Tax Benefit Part A (maximum rate fortnightly instalments).29

Newstart Allowance and YA recipients who are single principal carers of a dependent child or who have a partial capacity to work will normally receive the Pensioner Concession Card instead of the HCC.

The HCC is also available to some low-income earners (including student payment recipients), foster carers and former Carer Allowance (child) recipients who meet eligibility requirements and upon application.

Eligibility for the Low Income HCC is assessed on gross income over the eight weeks prior to application for the card—income must be below a set limit during over that period (Table 3).

Table 3: Income limits for the Low Income Health Card

Family circumstances Weekly income Income in an eight week period

Single, no children $537.00 $4,296.00

Couple combined, no children $928.00 $7,424.00

Single, one dependent child $928.00 $7,424.00

For each additional child, add $34.00 $272.00

Source: DHS, ‘Income test for Low Income Health Care Card’, DHS website, last updated 20 September 2016.

To retain the card, the cardholder’s income must remain under separate limits over its entitlement period.30

As at June 2016, there were around 1.5 million automatic HCC holders and around 400,000 Low Income HCC holders.31

Key issues and provisions The Bill will allow full-time students and apprentices to automatically receive a HCC if they are in receipt of YA, Austudy Payment or ABSTUDY. This will mean that these payment recipients will no longer have to apply for, and meet the eligibility requirements for, a Low Income HCC.

The Minister for Social Services stated that the changes will mean an extra 4,000 students will be made eligible for the HCC.32 In total, around 240,000 students will be HCC holders following the changes.33

The measures proposed in Schedule 2 are beneficial to those students who were previously ineligible for the card as they will be able to access a range of concessions, particularly discounted medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The measures will also mean that other student payment recipients no longer have to apply for the HCC and provide proof of eight weeks’ income. This will significantly reduce the administrative burden on the Department of Human Services (given that there are around 240,000 student HCC-holders).

Item 1 of Schedule 2 replaces current subsection 1061ZK(5) and inserts new subsection 1061ZK(6) to add YA and Austudy Payment to the list of payments which automatically qualify a recipient for the HCC, and to provide for recipients of an ABSTUDY Living Allowance to also be automatically eligible for the HCC.

Schedule 3—Remoteness structure Schedule 3 will amend the SS Act so that the geographical classifications used for determining eligibility for some student payments refers to the most recent Australian Standard Geographical Classification published by the

29. DHS, ‘Eligibility for a Health Care Card’, DHS website, last updated 27 June 2016. 30. DHS, ‘Income test for Low Income Health Care Card’, DHS website, last updated 20 September 2016. 31. DSS, ‘DSS Demographics June 2016’, data.gov.au website, last updated 13 October 2016. 32. Porter, ‘Second reading speech: Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016’, op. cit. 33. Ibid.

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Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and to provide for the SS Act to automatically refer to any updated version of the geographical classifications published by the ABS (which is updated every five years after the Census).

The amendments will commence on 1 January 2017 or the first 1 January or 1 July to occur after Royal Assent (if not 1 January 2017).

Background YA recipients whose family home is in an area classified as inner regional, outer regional, remote or very remote can access some additional benefits and different eligibility criteria compared to those whose family home is located in a major city. The location of the recipient’s family home is categorised according to remoteness structure in the Australia Standard Geographical Classification 2006.34

There are two major benefits for YA recipients which use the remoteness structure:

• recipients whose family home is outside a major city can qualify as independent based on the workforce participation criteria (known as the ‘gap year’ criteria), provided they are required to live away from home to study and their parental income is below $150,000 per year35 and

• eligibility for the Relocation Scholarship (worth up to $4,333) is dependent on a student moving to or from a regional or remote area to study (students who relocate within or between major cities for study are ineligible for the Relocation Scholarship).36

Other payments, such as the Remote Area Allowance, make use of different remoteness classifications such as the taxation zones defined in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936.37

The Australian Standard Geographical Classification 2006 used for the purposes of YA benefits is now out of date. A 2011 edition was produced but since 2011, the ABS has adopted a new classification system known as the Australian Statistical Geography Standard.38

Key issues and provisions Schedule 3 will amend the SS Act so that the remoteness structure used for certain YA-related criteria refers to the remoteness structure in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard July 2011 and any replacement standard published by the ABS in the future.39 Any replacement document will take effect on the 1 January or 1 July that occurs after the day the new standard is published. The amendments also provide for the Secretary to determine via a notifiable instrument that a different document will be used for the purposes of setting out the remoteness structure but only if the Australian Statistician has notified the Secretary of the Department of Social Services that the ABS will no longer be publishing replacements to the Australian Statistical Geography Standard.

The changes will ensure that the remoteness structure used for the relevant SS Act provisions is kept up to date.

However, changes to the classification of some areas in the updated standard will means that some students about to commence studies may no longer be eligible for the workforce participation independence criteria and some may no longer qualify a Relocation Scholarship. There are no grandfathering or transitional provisions and this will mean that some young people who have delayed commencement of post-secondary study in order to qualify as independent under the workforce participation criteria may suddenly find themselves ineligible for this criteria (if their family home is reclassified as being located in a major city prior to them claiming YA). The Minister for Social Services stated that the numbers affected in such a way are likely to be very small.40 Those

34. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Statistical geography volume 1 - Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), cat. no. 1216.0, ABS, Canberra, July 2006. 35. Independent for YA purposes means that the claimant is not subject to the parental income test, which can affect their eligibility or payment rate of YA. The workforce participation criteria for independence allows students from outside major cities to be deemed as independent if

they have been undertaking part-time employment of 15 hours per week for at least two years since they left secondary school or if they have had cumulative earnings totalling 75 per cent of Wage Level A of the National Training Wage in an 18-month period since they left secondary school. DSS, ‘3.2.5.80 YA & DSP - self-supporting through paid employment’, Guide to social security law, version 1.227, DSS website, last reviewed 1 July 2015; DHS, ‘Independence for Youth Allowance’, DHS website, last updated 11 August 2016; DSS, ‘1.1.N.12 National Training Wage schedule rate (YA, DSP)’, Guide to social security law, version 1.227, DSS website, last reviewed 15 August 2016. 36. DHS, ‘Eligibility for the Relocation Scholarship’, DHS website, last updated 11 August 2016. 37. DSS, ‘1.1.R.150 Remote area (RAA)’, Guide to social security law, version 1.227, DSS website, last reviewed 1 July 2016. 38. ABS, ‘Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC)’, ABS website, last updated 10 June 2014. 39. ABS, ‘Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS)’, ABS website, last updated 10 June 2014. 40. Porter, ‘Second reading speech: Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016’, op. cit., p. 857.

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who have already qualified for YA under the workforce participation criteria will not have their YA qualification reassessed if their family home’s location is reassessed.

Item 1 of Schedule 3 replaces subsections 1067A(10F) to (10H) of the SS Act with new subsections 1067A(10F) to (10J) so that the definition of Remoteness structure refers to the Australian Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 5 - Remoteness Structure published by the Australian Statistician, any replacement published by the Australian Statistician, or another document determined by the Secretary where the Statistician has advised that they will no longer be publishing a replacement.

Concluding comments The measures in the Bill will improve the operation of social security means testing, provide benefits to student payment recipients and ensure the remoteness structure used for social security is consistent with the ABS standard. While some issues may arise in relation to the exemption for regular gift payments to social security recipients, particularly inequities between some dependent and independent student payment recipients, the overall impact of the Bill is beneficial.

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