On 17 March 2014, the Senate referred the Social Security Legislation
Amendment (Green Army Programme) Bill 2014 (Bill) to the Education and
Employment Legislation Committee (committee) for inquiry and report by 13 May 2014.
The Bill had previously been referred to the Community Affairs
Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 25 March 2014.
That committee determined that the issues raised in relation to the Bill would
best be considered within the Education and Employment portfolio. Accordingly,
the Community Affairs Legislation Committee tabled its report on 17 March 2014,
recommending that the Bill instead be referred to the committee.
The establishment of a 'Green Army Programme' (GAP) was a Coalition commitment
at the 2010 and 2013 federal elections.
Following the 2013 federal election, the Coalition Government committed $300
million over the forward estimates toward the new measure.
The cost of the measure is expected to be partially offset by a reduction in
income support payments in the Social Services portfolio.
The GAP is a voluntary initiative for young people aged 17 to 24 years
to participate for up to 30 hours per week in a variety of environmental
conservation projects. The projects include activities such as restoring
and protecting habitat, weeding, planting, cleaning up creeks and rivers, and
conserving cultural heritage sites. Each project must be undertaken over a
continuous period of 20 to 26 weeks.
One or more external service providers are to deliver the GAP, including
the recruitment of participants, and the establishment, management and training
of the teams which will implement approved projects (Green Army Team). Green
Army Teams will be comprised of nine participants and one team supervisor.
Participants will receive a 'green army allowance' (allowance) of
between $10.14 per hour and $16.45 per hour. Team supervisors are employed by
the relevant external service provider and are paid a wage, as negotiated
between the individual and the employer.
Participants in the GAP will also have the opportunity to undertake vocationally‑oriented
accredited training qualifications (Certificate I/II) or nationally endorsed
skills sets, to be delivered under the Australian Qualifications Framework by Registered
The GAP will commence on 1 July 2014, with 250 projects approved and
undertaken in its first financial year. The number of approved projects is
expected to increase to 1,500 projects in 2018-19:
The Coalition will create a standing 'Green Army' that will
gradually build to a 15,000 strong environmental workforce. We will create and
properly resource the Green Army, as a larger and more lasting version of the
former Green Corps. It will be Australia's largest-ever environmental
On introduction of the Bill into the Parliament, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP,
Minister for the Environment, emphasised that the GAP is 'both an environment
and a training program'.
Further, at the broader level:
[T]he Green Army is a central component of the government's
cleaner environment plan which is focused on the four pillars of clean air, clean
land, clean water and heritage protection.
Purpose and key provisions of the Bill
The Bill seeks to amend the Social Security Act 1991 (Act) and
the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Administration Act), to clarify
social security arrangements for participants receiving the allowance paid
under the GAP.
Item 2 of Schedule 1 inserts new Part 1.3A – Green Army Programme into
the Act to:
- clarify that a social security benefit or social security pension
is not payable to a person who is receiving an allowance (proposed new
provide that certain persons participating in the GAP are not
workers or employees for the purposes of various Commonwealth laws, including:
the Work Health and Safety Act 2001; the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation
Act 1988; and the Fair Work Act 2009 (proposed new section 38J);
outline income test arrangements for a person's social security
pension, if an allowance is payable to the person's partner during the same
instalment period (proposed new section 38K).
In addition, item 5 of Schedule 1 will amend current section 118 of the
Administration Act, to specify that a determination relating to the non-payment
of a social security benefit or social security pension to a person receiving an
allowance may be backdated (proposed new subsection 118(2C)).
Conduct of the inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry in The Australian on 2 April
2014. Details of the inquiry, including a link to the Bill and associated
documents, were placed on the committee's website.
The committee also wrote to 91 organisations and individuals, inviting
submissions by 17 April 2014. Submissions continued to be accepted after that
The committee received five submissions, which are listed at Appendix 1
and published on the committee's website.
The committee thanks those organisations and individuals who made
submissions to the inquiry.
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