On 31 March 2021, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights resolved to conduct a short inquiry into the Social Security (Parenting payment participation requirements – class of persons) Instrument 2021 [F2021L00064] (the measure) as part of its function of examining legislative instruments for compatibility with human rights (under section 7(a) of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011).
The committee sought evidence on the human rights implications of this measure, and in particular, evidence in relation to the following issues:
- whether and how it has been demonstrated that participants in the ParentsNext program who have had their Parenting Payment reduced, suspended or cancelled for non-compliance are able to meet their basic needs (and those of their children) in practice, such that they have an adequate standard of living, and whether and how this is assessed before payments may be affected;
- the extent to which the ParentsNext program operates flexibly in practice, such that it treats different cases differently (including for parents in regional areas and Indigenous parents);
- the extent to which participation in the ParentsNext program meets its stated objectives of effectively addressing barriers to education and employment for young parents in practice, and whether making participation compulsory is effective to achieve those objectives;
- what consultation has there been with Indigenous groups in relation to the compulsory participation of Indigenous peoples in the ParentsNext program;
- whether, and based on what evidence, it has been demonstrated that less rights restrictive alternatives to compulsory participation (such as voluntary or incentivised participation) would not be as effective to achieve the stated objectives of this scheme; and
- the extent to which linking welfare payments to the performance of certain activities by the welfare recipient is consistent with international human rights law, particularly the rights to social security, an adequate standard of living, equality and non-discrimination, a private life, and the rights of the child.
The Social Security (Parenting payment participation requirements – class of persons) Instrument 2021 can be found here and its explanatory statement here.
The committee published a preliminary analysis of the legislative instrument in its scrutiny Report 2 of 2021 (at pages 58–66), and sought a response from the Minister. The Minister's response to the preliminary analysis can be accessed here.
On Wednesday, 16 June 2021 the committee wrote to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment seeking responses to a series of questions by 5 July 2021. Responses to those questions were received on 14, 20, 21, 26 and 30 July 2021.
Submissions to this inquiry have now closed.
The committee held a public hearing on Friday, 25 June 2021 at Parliament House in Canberra.
The committee tabled a report on 4 August 2021.