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Statutes Amendment (Civil Enforcement) Bill

9 February 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise briefly to speak on the Statutes Amendment (Civil Enforcement) Bill. This is a new version of a bill that, as the Hon. Ms Lensink has pointed out, was first brought before us in 2021. Some honourable members may recall back then that the Greens were supportive of the bill, and we also supported a proposal from the then Labor opposition to make some changes to the bill. The bill before us today aims to address a concern the Hon. Kyam Maher, I believe, had at that time, which was regarding the implications of this reform for people on low incomes and looking at how garnishee orders could result in them not being able to meet their financial needs.

The new clause, which aims to protect low income workers, could have some adverse effects for those who have inconsistent incomes. The Greens are concerned that there may be people who work as a casual employee or work seasonally who could be impacted. Indeed, as the Hon. Connie Bonaros pointed out, a submission from the Law Society raised these concerns about the implementation of the clause, given that a seasonal or periodic worker may earn significantly more than the national minimum wage in a short period of time and then may earn nothing for the remainder of the year.

In such circumstances, when averaged over a year, it is possible that a garnishee could earn less than 90 per cent of the minimum wage but then still be required to pay in those weeks where they earned a greater amount. I recognise, of course, that was not the government's intent, but that could have been an effect.

We have worked with the government to improve the bill and to ensure that it is fairer for people who live on inconsistent incomes. I understand that the government will be advancing an amendment to address that concern that has been raised by the Greens and others and we are certainly supportive of that.

The other issue that the Greens had some concerns about was the protection of personal information supplied under investigation notices. In the last year, we have seen multiple examples of data breaches that have resulted in personal information being compromised and we know that that has significant implications for our community. Most recently, there has been the Medibank saga, the Optus saga and others.

The Law Society raised concerns about personal information being obtained under an investigation notice and the need for this to be protected from uses other than that for which it was intended. We will therefore be moving an amendment to ensure that these protections are in place. The Greens will be supporting the bill with the amendments that I have outlined.