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Government should use projected $2.1 billion in savings from Bill passed today towards compensating victims of illegal robodebts

The Australian Greens are concerned that there will be a rushed start of the Simplified Income Reporting measure coming in on 1 July this year as a result of the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Simplifying Income Reporting and Other Measures) Bill 2020 passing through the Senate today.

Income support recipients will now report the gross income that has been paid to them by their employer(s), instead of estimating the amount of income they have earned, a long overdue reform.
 
“It is unclear whether the unnecessary rushed for this measure was driven by the need to align the process with the start of the financial year or because of the significant savings of $2.1billion that the Government claims will be generated by this measure,” Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said.
 
“The fact is the Government has had since the 2019-20 Budget to work on this measure. Despite all this time, there was an incredibly limited consultation phrase and short timeframe provided for stakeholders to consider the Bill.
 
“This is a significant change to the social security system. It is critical that we get these changes right  and it is the Senate’s responsibility to ensure this Bill does not cause unintended harm which is why I am disappointed that the Government has so blatantly ignored stakeholders and refused to delay the start of the measure until September this year.
 
“Simplifying income reporting has broad in principle support from the social services sector, provided that a number of issues are clarified and some protections put in place such as an independent public review, adequate times for user testing and communication with income support recipients.
 
“The Government did not adequately address these concerns.
 
“I am deeply concerned about the transition period. The Government must guarantee that people will not be unduly penalised if they have difficulties adjusting to the new system and misreport their income during the transition period.
 
“As it stands the department does not have a good track record of communicating changes to income support recipients.
 
“The small scale of user testing being undertaken will not adequately capture the complexities and vulnerabilities experienced by income support recipients.
 
“During the hearing, ACOSS urged the Government to test the new scheme on a large number of people in different circumstances, different geographical locations and with different levels of access to online forms of communication.
 
“I’m pleased that some changes to the legislation were supported by the Senate that will ensure an independent review of the measure after 12 months and that there is now some guidance around the Secretary’s discretion. 
 
“We will monitor the implementation of these measures very carefully.” 
 

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