Page 4979 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 28 November 2018

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Around one in five Canberra households currently benefit from at least one of these programs. They are targeted to Canberrans who are both income and asset poor, because we know that people who are renting or who have very low incomes face the biggest challenges in meeting their daily needs and staying clear of financial crisis.

In addition to these programs, which are linked to commonwealth concession eligibility, we provide programs targeted to Canberrans who are on fixed incomes, to assist with their daily cost of living. Home owners over the age of 65, as well as those suffering significant financial hardship, have the option of deferring their rates indefinitely or until they sell their property. The deferral scheme has been designed to ensure that no-one is worse off by deferring their rates bill, and eligibility for the scheme was expanded in this year’s budget so that more Canberrans can now take advantage of it.

On the question of fines, which Ms Le Couteur focused most of her discussion on, the government has taken steps to better manage the payment of fines, fees and penalties to assist people in our community who may be having difficulty making payments.

In particular, I draw the Assembly’s attention to the recently made amendments to the road transport act so that, in addition to paying fines up-front, Canberra motorists can manage vehicle-related infringement notices by entering into a payment plan; undertaking community work or a social development plan; or, in exceptional circumstances, even seeking a waiver of the infringement notice penalty.

I am advised that as of this month there have been almost 33,000 instances—32,800—of someone accessing an infringement notice management plan. Of these, over 31,740 entered into a payment plan; 570 participated in a social development program; and 485 participated in a community work program. This, I am told, means that over $1 million in penalties have been offset by people participating in community work or social development programs. One great example of this is the workshops that have been run by Care financial services, which give people a chance to reduce their debts by participating in sessions that are aimed at improving financial literacy and dealing with issues like household budget management and debt.

Following discussions with Ms Le Couteur and her office, and contact by constituents, I am aware of issues about notification. I have already asked the ACT Revenue Office to provide better notification of what concessions Canberrans may be eligible for and how they can access these. There was a piece of work undertaken a few years ago to consolidate information about all of those concessions into one website, one portal, so that there was one central location where you could go to find out where all of those concessions were available.

We have also committed, though, to continuing to improve the information available on ACT government websites and publications, including, as Ms Le Couteur has called for, in annual rates notices, so that people who may be experiencing financial hardship know where they can go for assistance. The government remains committed to delivering fair, accessible and sustainable concessions. Our program will continue to target support to those in our community who most need that helping hand.

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