Bills Digest 110 1996-97 Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency Bill 1996


Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

WARNING:
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

CONTENTS

Passage History

Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency Bill 1996

Date Introduced: 4 December 1996
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Social Security
Commencement: 1 July 1997

Purpose

The Bill will establish the Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency that will principally combine the functions of the Commonwealth Employment Service and the Department of Social Security in relation to the provision of services to the unemployed. The Agency will also deal with other matters, including the provision of childcare cash rebates. The Bill also provides that additional functions may be given to the Agency.

Background

Currently, assistance to members of the public is provided by a range of government bodies, including the Department of Social Security; the Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs; the Department of Health and Family Services; and the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The wide range of agencies can cause both confusion and inconvenience for those seeking to use their services or apply for benefits. The usual example given is that of the unemployed. Such people are currently required to register with the Commonwealth Employment Service, which also offers assistance in employment placement, although the role of the Commonwealth in this area will be substantially changed if the Reform of Employment Services Bill 1996 is passed, and then go to a social security office to register for the Jobsearch or Newstart allowances. This is not only inconvenient for the person, but can also result in greater cost to the Commonwealth.

However, the advantage in the current system is that the people dealing with applicants are more specialised in their particular field as, for example, an employee at a social security office will only deal with social security matters. Given the complexity of the Social Security Act 1991 and the guidelines for its implementation, which consists of three volumes plus a handbook, it may be argued that there is a need for greater, rather than less, specialisation. It should also be noted that with the changes to employment assistance for those requiring intensive employment assistance, which will be provided by either the proposed Public Employment Placement Enterprise or private employment placement enterprises, there will still be a need for such people to go to more than one agency.

It was announced in the 1996-97 Budget that a new agency would be established to deal with:

  • income support payments administered by the Department of Social Security;
  • the registration, assessment and referral functions carried on by the Commonwealth Employment Service;
  • student assistance payments administered by the Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs; and
  • Childcare Assistance and the Childcare Cash rebate, currently administered by the Department of Health and Family Services.(1)

The Minister notes in the second reading speech to the Bill that there is the potential for the areas covered by the agency to expand over time.

The explanatory memorandum to the Bill estimates that the measures contained in the Bill will cost $23.7 million in 1996-97 and save $25.1 million in 1997-98, $53.6 million in 1998-99 and $66.2 million in 1999-2000.

Main Provisions

The Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency (the Agency) will be established by clause 6 and is to consist of the Board, a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Agency's staff.

The CEO will be able to enter into arrangements with Commonwealth authorities (ie. a Department or other body established for a public purpose) for the provision of the services specified in the agreement (clause 7).

The functions of the Agency will be:

  • to provide services specified in agreements;
  • any functions conferred on the Agency by other Acts;
  • any function that the Minister directs the Agency to perform (the instrument directing the Agency will be disallowable by either House of Parliament); and
  • anything incidental to the Agency's functions (clause 8).

The Minister may give the Agency directions regarding the performance of its functions (clause 9), and must consult with the Board prior to giving it a direction (clause 10).

There is to be a Board of Management of the Agency, which will be established by clause 11 and will have the functions of determining the Agency's goals, priorities, policies and strategies; and to ensure that the Agency's functions are performed efficiently (clause 12). The Minister may give the Board directions relating to the performance of it's functions; the conduct of it's meetings; and the terms and conditions of employment of the CEO. Such directions are to be published in the Agency's annual report and must be complied with by the Board. Directions will not be subject to disallowance by Parliament (clause 13).The Minister may also advise the Agency of government policy and the Board of the Agency will be obliged to follow this policy (clause 14). The Minister will also have power to require the Agency to provide information (clause 15).

Membership of the Board is dealt with in clause 16. There is to be a Chairman, the CEO and at least 4 other members. At least 2 of the other members are not to be the head of Commonwealth Departments or authorities and members are to be appointed by the Minister. The maximum term of appointment is three years, although members of the Board will be eligible for re-appointment. However, if the member is the head of a Commonwealth Department or Authority the term of the appointment will be at the Minister's discretion (clause 23). The termination of members of the Board is dealt with in clause 28. Appointments may be terminated on the following grounds:

  • misbehaviour or physical or mental incapacity;
  • the member becomes bankrupt or takes advantage of laws relating to arrangements with creditors or assigns their remuneration to a creditor/s;
  • without reasonable excuse fails to comply with the disclosure of interest rules (see below);
  • is absent, without reasonable excuse, from three or more consecutive meetings of the Board; or
  • in the Minister's opinion, has performed their functions on the Board in an unsatisfactory manner for a significant period.

There is no requirement that that members of the Board have expertise in the delivery of services to the unemployed or other disadvantaged groups.

The Board may delegate all or any of its functions to employees of the Agency (clause 18).

Other provisions of the Bill are largely administrative, the major ones relate to:

  • the Board is to hold such meetings as are necessary for the performance of it's functions and the Minister may require a meeting at any time (clause 20);
  • members of the Board are to disclose if they have a pecuniary interest in a matter before the Board and, unless the Board otherwise determines, is not to be present during the making of a decision in relation to the matter (clause 21);
  • the position of CEO is to be established by clause 29, and is to be appointed by the Board after consultation with the Minister. The Board is also to determine the terms and conditions of the CEO although, as noted above, the Minister may give the Board directions in regard to this matter. The Board may terminate the appointment of the CEO at any time (clause 30);
  • staff are to be employed under the Public Service Act 1922 (clause 35);
  • the Audit Act 1901is to apply to the Agency (clause 39); and
  • the Agency is to provide an annual report (clause 40).

Endnotes

  1. 1996-97 Budget Paper No. 1, p. 3-122.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Chris Field
26 February 1997
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1323-9031
Commonwealth of Australia 1996

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1997.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: 8 April 1997



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