Chapter 1


Purpose of the Bill

1.1        The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Student Payments) Bill 2016 (the Bill) gives effect to a package of measures announced in the 2016-17 Budget.[1] The purpose of these measures is two-fold:

1.2        The Minister for Social Services (Minister), the Hon Christian Porter MP, stated that the measures in the Bill support future welfare reform by aligning payment settings across the social security system; simplifying the administration of payments; and make eligibility for payments fairer.[3]

Key provisions of the Bill

1.3        The Bill is comprised of three schedules proposing changes to the Social Security Act 1991 (Social Security Act).

Schedule 1—Means testing for social security benefits

1.4        Schedule 1 would simplify means testing for student payments by:

1.5         These measures would commence from 1 January 2017, or the first 1 January or 1 July after Royal Assent.

1.6        The measures are expected to save $0.778 million over the forward estimates.[5]

Schedule 2—Health care cards

1.7        Schedule 2 would make amendments to allow for health care cards to be automatically issued to all students receiving income support from 1 January 2019.

1.8        This measure is expected to cost $0.726 million over the forward estimates.[6]

Schedule 3—Remoteness Structure

1.9         Schedule 3 would allow for the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) remoteness structure in the Social Security Act to be updated automatically after a new document is published by the Australian Statistician. The ASGS remoteness standard is used to assess eligibility for student payments.[7]

1.10      This measure has nil financial impact and would commence on 1 January 2017, or the first 1 January or 1 July after Royal Assent.

Consideration of the Bill by other committees

Scrutiny of Bills

1.11      At the time of tabling this report, the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills Committee had not made any comments on the Bill.

Human Rights

1.12      At the time of tabling this report, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights had not made any comments on the Bill.

Conduct of the inquiry

1.13      The provisions of the Bill were referred to the Community Affairs Legislation Committee on Thursday 13 October 2016 for inquiry and report by 7 November 2016.[8] The proposals to refer the Bill requested that the committee consider the impact of the Bill on young people.[9]

1.14      Details of the inquiry, including a link to the Bill and associated documents, were place on the committee's website.[10] The committee wrote to 57 organisations and individuals inviting submissions by 24 October 2016. Submissions continued to be accepted after that date.

1.15      The committee received two submissions to the inquiry. Submissions accepted by the committee are listed at Appendix 1. The committee decided not to hold a public hearing for this inquiry.

1.16      The committee thanks those organisations that made submissions to the inquiry.

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