Thursday, 28 June 2012
Social Security Legislation Amendment (Fair Incentives to Work) Bill 2012; Second Reading
I would not have thought the opposition would be negative on this one. I am quite astonished by that. We have been accused of hypocrisy by people who introduced this policy themselves in 2006. They now obviously do not think it was a good idea, even though it was their policy. I am quite astonished. I will try and ignore it, I think, and talk about the bill. The bill does three things. Firstly, it makes amendments to the Social Security Act 1991 to bring all parents under the same treatment in terms of when they move from parenting payment to Newstart allowance. At the moment, we have a situation where, depending on when your child is born, you are treated differently for taxpayer payments. This bill brings all parents into line with each other—and I will come back to that. It also amends the liquid assets waiting period.
The third amendment is quite technical, but I am going to talk about it first. It makes adjustments to the income maintenance period. The income maintenance period amendment applies when a person finds themselves out of work. In determining whether and when a person can start to receive income support payments, the Department of Human Services, which we all know as Centrelink, considers the liquid assets that a person has available to them, but it also considers any termination payment that a person has received. This bill makes really quite a simple amendment by extending the definition. The income maintenance period is the period for which the termination payment is treated as income under the act. It is designed to ensure that when people receive a lump-sum termination payment and use that payment to support themselves for a time, they are not eligible for support from Centrelink for a period of time. But currently the definition of a termination payment for the purposes of the income maintenance period only includes leave payment or redundancy payment, when in reality these days payments that are made at the end of a period of employment can be across a whole range of types of payments. So this amendment changes the definition so that those types of payments can be taken into account. It is quite a technical amendment, but an important one given the different ways that people are compensated at the end of an employment period.
Returning to the parenting payment reform which the member for Solomon predominantly concentrated on, back in 2006 when the Howard government introduced the Welfare to Work reforms—and the member for Solomon is right, we were very critical of them at the time—