Federal Register of Legislation - Australian Government

Primary content

A Bill for an Act to amend the law relating to social security, and for related purposes
Administered by: Environment
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Registered 26 Feb 2014
Introduced HR 26 Feb 2014

 

 

2013–2014

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (GREEN ARMY PROGRAMME) BILL 2014

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for the Environment, the Honourable Greg Hunt MP)


EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

SOCIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (GREEN ARMY PROGRAMME) BILL 2014

GENERAL OUTLINE

Purpose

The Social Security Legislation (Green Army Programme) Amendment Bill 2014 amends the Social Security Act 1991 and the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 to clarify social security arrangements for participants receiving the green army allowance paid under the Green Army Programme.

Background

The Green Army is a key Coalition Government election commitment and will commence from July 2014. This voluntary initiative will recruit young people aged 17–24 years who are interested in protecting their local environment while gaining hands-on, practical skills, training and experience.

The Green Army will become Australia’s largest-ever environmental workforce, building to 15,000 participants by 2018, capable of delivering on-ground environmental projects.

The Green Army will make a real difference to the environment and local communities through projects such as restoring and protecting habitat, weeding, planting, cleaning up creeks and rivers and restoring cultural heritage places.

Fostering teamwork, local ownership and community spirit, the Green Army will deliver tangible benefits for the environment and skills development for thousands of young Australians.

The Programme will be delivered by an external Service Provider(s) who will be responsible for recruiting, establishing and managing Green Army Teams across Australia to engage in approved projects, alongside communities, to support local environment and heritage protection and restoration activities, consistent with regional, national and international priorities of the Government.

Participation in the Programme will be available to a diverse spectrum of young people, including Indigenous Australians, school leavers, gap year students, graduates and unemployed job seekers. Up to nine eligible participants and at least one Team Supervisor will constitute a Green Army Team. Participants will be eligible to receive a green army allowance while participating in the Programme, and will also have the opportunity to undertake training. The Service Provider(s) will be responsible for the disbursement of green army allowances and the provision of training. The Team Supervisor will be employed by the Service Provider and paid a wage.

Project proposals will be submitted to the Department of the Environment by individuals and organisations, such as local groups, councils and natural resource management bodies. A Green Army Project involves environmental and/or heritage activities that can be undertaken by a Green Army Team for 20-26 weeks.

The Programme will commence in 2014–15 with the rollout of 250 Green Army Projects and approximately 2,500 people undertaking on-the-ground environmental activities in the first financial year. By 30 June 2017, the Programme will have had 1,500 Green Army Projects and 15,000 placements undertaken. The Programme will scale up to 15,000 placements and 1,500 Projects per annum from 2018–19.

The Bill amends the Social Security Act 1991 and the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 to specify that persons receiving a green army allowance under the Green Army Programme cannot also receive a social security benefit or social security pension and that a determination made in this regard may be backdated. The Bill does not impact entitlement to family assistance and child care payments which will remain payable to Green Army participants where eligible.

The Bill also specifies that participants of the Green Army Programme will not be considered workers or employees for the purposes of various Commonwealth laws.

The Bill also amends the Social Security Act 1991 to specify the income testing arrangements that will apply to a person receiving a social security pension if their partner is receiving a green army allowance. These arrangements will be similar to comparable schemes under the Social Security Act 1991.

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

The Bill by itself has no financial implications.

 

REGULATORY IMPACT STATEMENT

The Office of Best Practice Regulation advised that a formal Regulatory Impact Statement is not required for this Bill.


 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

Part 1―Preliminary

Clause 1: Short Title

 

1.             This Item establishes the short title of the Act as the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Green Army Programme) Act 2014.

Clause 2: Commencement

 

2.             This Item provides the commencement date for this Act is on 1 July 2014.

Clause 3: Schedules

 

3.             This Item specifies that each Act that is specified in a schedule to this Act is amended or repealed as set out in the applicable items in the schedule.

Schedule 1 ―Amendments

Social Security Act 1991

Item 1: Subsection 23(1)

 

4.             This Item amends subsection 23(1) of the Social Security Act 1991 to provide definitions of ‘green army allowance’ and ‘Green Army Programme’ when used in the Act.

5.             The definition of ‘green army allowance’ means green army allowance paid to participants under the Green Army programme.

6.             The ‘Green Army Programme’ is the programme administered by the Commonwealth and known as the Green Army Programme.

Item 2: After Part 1.3 of Chapter 1

38G Simplified outline of this Part

 

7.             The simplified outline of this Part summarises that participants receiving a green army allowance under the Green Army Programme cannot receive a social security benefit or social security pension; that persons participating in the Green Army Programme will not be considered workers or employees for the purposes of various Commonwealth laws; that there are income testing arrangements for partners of Green Army participants.

8.             While simplified outlines are included to assist readers to understand the substantive provisions, the outlines are not intended to be comprehensive. It is intended that readers should rely on the substantive provisions.

38H  Non‑payment of security benefit or social security pension if person receiving green army allowance

9.             Section 38H is inserted into the Social Security Act 1991 to state that, despite any other provision of the social security law, a social security benefit or social security pension is not payable to a person if the person is receiving green army allowance. This means that a green army participant cannot receive the green army allowance and a social security benefit or social security pension simultaneously. In general, participants of the Green Army Programme will receive the green army allowance; however, in some circumstances, part-time participants may be able to choose to continue to receive their social security pension or benefit instead.

10.         Section 38H also includes a note referring to subsection 23(1) for a definition of ‘green army allowance’.

38J  Certain participants in Green Army Programme are not workers or employees under Commonwealth laws

                

11.         The Green Army Programme will be a voluntary ‘opt-in’ programme that will involve short-term placements in a Green Army Team. Where applicable, Participants in the Green Army Programme will generally receive a green army allowance as an alternative to receiving income support. The Green Army Programme will provide work-like experience and activities and training opportunities to young Australians. The Green Army Programme does not guarantee long-term employment following a participant’s participation in the Programme.

12.         Section 38J is inserted into the Social Security Act 1991 to specify that people participating in the Green Army Programme are not taken to be workers or employees under certain Commonwealth laws, including the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, and the Fair Work Act 2009, merely because of their participation in the Green Army Programme. This includes a person who participates in the Green Army Programme either on a full-time or part-time basis and who is receiving a green army allowance or a part-time participant who is not receiving green army allowance.

13.         There may be occasions when Green Army Team supervisors who are not receiving the green army allowance (as they will be paid a wage by their Service Provider employer) may be employed on a part-time basis. It is not the intention that section 38J apply in these situations. For this reason, subsection 38J(2) and subsection 38J(3) allows the Secretary to prescribe in a legislative instrument  that subsection 38J(1) does not apply to a class of persons.

14.         Section 38J also includes a note referring to subsection 23(1) for a definition of ‘Green Army Programme’ and ‘green army allowance’.

38K  Income test for person’s social security pension if green army allowance payable to person’s partner

15.         Section 38K is inserted into the Social Security Act 1991 to outline income test arrangements for a person’s social security pension if a green army allowance is payable to the person’s partner during the same instalment period.

16.         Section 38K specifies that if the amount of the green army allowance paid during an instalment period does not exceed the threshold applicable under subsection 38K(2), then the green army allowance is not ordinary income of the person’s partner. Section 38K continues that if the amount of the green army allowance exceeds the threshold applicable under subsection 38K(2) then the part of the green army allowance that does not exceed that threshold is not ordinary income of the person’s partner; and the part of the green army allowance that exceeds that threshold is ordinary income of the person’s partner.

17.         Subsection 38K(2) outlines the thresholds applicable. If the person’s partner is aged under 22 and has a dependent child the threshold is the amount under column 3 of item 7 of Table BB in point 1067G‑B3. Otherwise the threshold is the amount under column 3 of item 8 of Table BB in point 1067G‑B3. If the person’s partner is aged 22 or over the threshold is the amount under column 3B of item 7 of Table B in point 1068‑B1.

18.         The partner income treatment outlined in this section is similar to that applied to payments under the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) Programme, a comparable Government programme paying an alternative to income support for people undertaking certain projects or activities.

19.      Section 38K also includes a note referring to subsection 23(1) for a definition of ‘green army allowance’. A second note clarifies that any part of a green army allowance that is ordinary income of the person’s partner will be taken into account in applying the ordinary income test in working out the person’s rate of social security pension.

20.      Section 38K applies only to people receiving a social security pension. Where a person is receiving a social security benefit and has partner receiving green army allowance, the full amount of that green army allowance will be ordinary income of the person’s partner as per existing provisions within section 8 of the Social Security Act 1991.

Item 3:  Application provision

 

21.         This item specifies that the application of paragraph 38K(1)(a) applies in relation to instalment periods ending on or after the commencement of this item.

Social Security (Administration) Act 1999

Item 4:  Subsection 118(2)

 

22.         Item 4 is consequential to item 5, which inserts new subsection 118(2C) into the Social Security (Administration) Act 1991.

Item 5:  After subsection 118(2B)

 

23.         Section 118 of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1991 sets out the day of effect of an adverse determination in relation to a social security payment. Section 117 provides that an adverse determination includes a determination to suspend or cancel a social security payment under section 80. Under current section 118, if a determination is made to suspend or cancel a social security payment because the person is receiving a green army allowance, that determination could only take effect from the day the determination is made or a later date.

24.         Subsection 118(2C) is inserted to specify that where an adverse determination is made to give effect to section 38H of the Social Security Act 1991, as inserted by item 2 and relating to the non-payment of a social security benefit or social security pension if a person is receiving a green army allowance, the determination may be backdated to take effect on the day specified in the determination. 

25.         It is intended that the date specified in the determination will align with the date that the person commences participation in the Green Army Programme and receipt of the green army allowance. This is to ensure that participants in the Green Army Programme do not receive Government support from two sources for the same period.       

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

Prepared in Accordance of Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

Social Security Legislation Amendment (Green Army Programme) Bill 2014

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.

Overview of the Bill

The Bill amends the Social Security Act 1991 and the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 to clarify social security arrangements for participants receiving the green army allowance paid under the Green Army Programme.

 

In particular, the Bill specifies:

·         that participants receiving a green army allowance under the Green Army Programme cannot receive a social security benefit or social security pension simultaneously;

·         that certain persons participating in the Green Army Programme will not be considered workers or employees for the purposes of various Commonwealth laws;

·         the income testing arrangements that will apply to a social security pensioner whose partner is receiving green army allowance, which are similar to comparable schemes under the Social Security Act 1991; and

·         that a determination relating to non-payment of a social security benefit or social security pension to a person receiving a green army allowance may be backdated.

Human Rights implications

This Bill has been assessed against the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.

This Bill does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms.

Conclusion

This Bill is compatible with human rights as it does not raise any human rights issues.

 

 

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for the Environment