Chapter 1 Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011
Referral and conduct of the inquiry
The Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 (the
Bill) was referred for inquiry to the House Standing Committee on Social Policy
and Legal Affairs on Thursday 2 June 2011 by the Selection Committee. The
Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the
Hon Jenny Macklin MP, indicated that it would be desirable for the Committee to
report to the House on Tuesday 14 June 2011 to enable consideration of the Bill
The Committee met by teleconference on Friday 3 June 2011 to determine
the conduct of the inquiry. It was noted that this Bill contains five separate
measures, all of which warrant some scrutiny, and that the timeframe for
reporting was particularly short.
The Committee determined that adequate consultation of stakeholders
could not be conducted within the time available and the Committee would rely
on material and statements already available to investigate and report on each
of the measures.
The Committee also noted that the Senate Committee on Community Affairs (the
Senate Committee) was referred the same Bill on the same date for inquiry. A
reporting date for the Senate Committee was initially set for 14 June 2011,
however an interim report was presented stating that:
In order to give proper consideration to this bill, the
committee has agreed to present this interim report and intends to present the
final report on Monday, 20 June 2011.
Given the longer reporting time, the Senate Committee has issued a call
for submissions and is conducting hearings as part of its inquiry and report on
The consultation work being undertaken by the Senate Committee is an
important contribution to the two inquiries into this Bill, especially in light
of the constraints placed on this Committee inquiry.
This Committee also expresses its concern that, should it have decided
to issue a call for submissions, then the same stakeholders would be obliged to
hurriedly prepare a different submission for each inquiry. Similarly if
hearings were conducted by each Committee, then stakeholders would have to
appear before each inquiry. This appears an unnecessary and unproductive burden
to place on stakeholders, and especially on non-government organisations.
This Committee notes the limitations that not engaging in public
hearings or calling for submission has placed on the investigative breadth of
its advisory report. However, given that any consultation would have been
cursory at best, given the reporting timeline, the Committee determined that it
would rather the Senate Committee have the time and opportunity to engage in
this manner and it would be the task of this House Committee to indicate issues
of policy or process concern in its advisory report.
These findings are then available to the Senate Committee to aid them in
their further investigations of the Bill. The Parliamentary Library is
preparing a Bills Digest which should be available in the week following the
tabling of this report.
The Committee has assessed the integrity of the amendments in achieving
the aims set out in the Explanatory Memorandum, and given consideration to any
unintended consequences with regard to these amendments. It has also considered
the views of peak stakeholder groups, where these are already available.
In the concluding comments to this advisory report, the Committee notes
some of its broader concerns regarding the conduct of Bills inquiries and
mechanisms to facilitate the continuing integrity and contribution of
Committees of both Houses.
Outline of Bill
The Bill contains five Schedules which address amendments to legislation
across a range of areas. Four of the Schedules propose amendments to
legislation in order to give effect to 2011–12 Budget measures. Three of these Schedules
relate to new changes announced as part of the Budget which affect eligibility
for certain assistance payments or adjust the commencement date for indexation
of certain benefits.
These measures are:
- Schedule 1: Age of Family
- Schedule 2:
Indexation arrangements for family assistance payments and paid parental leave;
- Schedule 3:
Qualification for disability support pension.
Schedule 4 is a further 2011–12 Budget measure and proposes an extension
to the welfare reform trial in the Cape York area.
The final schedule in the Bill, Schedule 5, is not related to a Budget
measure and proposes to exempt Aboriginal Land Trusts from the Public Works