Payroll Tax Rebate Scheme (Disability Employment) Bill 2011Back to Speeches
The Hon. MICK VEITCH [9.54 p.m.]: I lead for the Opposition in the debate on the Payroll Tax Rebate Scheme (Disability Employment) Bill 2011. The overview of the bill states that:
The object of this bill is to establish a payroll tax rebate scheme to encourage the employment of people with disabilities. The rebate scheme provides for a rebate (up to a maximum of $4,000) in respect of the employment of a disabled person on or after 1 January 2012 and before 1 July 2016.
This bill is part of the second phase of Stronger Together. Stronger Together was the previous Labor Government's plan to improve disability services in New South Wales. The direction and policies contained within the Stronger Together plan were born from extensive stakeholder consultation. Some of the priorities of Stronger Together are to increase social inclusion for people with a disability, increase capacity for the sector, move towards an individualised funding model, and deliver new supported accommodation and respite places. Stronger Together's other major aim is to close the gap in unemployment between people with a disability and the rest of the community. The appalling statistics about this gap reflect the many barriers faced by people with a disability when entering the workforce. This bill should be commended for taking some small steps in eliminating these barriers.
In practice this bill will enable employers who pay payroll tax—and that is important to note—to claim a rebate for employing workers with moderate to high support needs who are a target group as defined by the Disability Services Act 1993. It will provide a $4,000 payroll tax rebate to those who employ new employees with a disability from 1 January 2012, with the rebate to be made in two instalments: $2,000 after three months employment and $2,000 after six months employment. The employees must also be completing the Transition to Work Program. Transition to Work is a program targeted towards young people with a disability that offers skill enhancement and support systems to assist them in achieving their employment goals.
I point out that this bill will not only benefit people with a disability; it will benefit employers and their employees alike. I do not just mean it will benefit them financially. Numerous studies done on the positive impact people with a disability have on any workplace. In my previous role working for a not-for-profit organisation in the disability employment sector I saw firsthand evidence of this in many different industries and workplaces. I would also like to comment on the bipartisan support for this bill. I doubt that there would be one member in this House who does not support measures to improve service provision to people with a disability.
I certainly hope that this is not the only initiative the Government brings forward to assist people with a disability to achieve mainstream employment. Financial incentive for an employer is only one element of any strategy to assist people with a disability to achieve sustainable, long-term and meaningful employment. Workplace modifications, workplace adjustments, co-worker education and support, on-the-job training and support, and family empowerment are all extremely important elements of a well-developed disability employment program or strategy. Indeed, in my view, the most important element of any disability employment strategy is a well-funded not-for-profit service provider. It is most important that any service provider in the disability sector is able to develop a relationship with an individual with a disability so that an honest approach can be taken when developing on-the-job training and support. Funding for the service providers is essential and must always be adequate.
It is also important for the House to note that not a large number of employers west of the Dividing Range pay payroll tax, so whilst this is a commendable initiative honourable members should be mindful that a number of employers are unable to access the program, particularly those in small business. I seek clarification from the Minister in relation to a couple of matters and ask him to take them on notice and respond when he replies to the debate. What does the $2 million budget for this program, which was mentioned in the Minister's speech in the other place, involve? For instance, will it cover marketing for the program and education and advice to service providers on implementation of the program? Will any departmental costs for administering the program come out of the Government's $2 million per annum commitment? I would also like to know whether benchmarks or measurements of the success of the program have been established and over what period those benchmarks will be put in place.
The Opposition supports the bill. As I said, I doubt whether any member of this House does not support an initiative that provides ongoing gainful and meaningful employment for people with disabilities. A number of members in the House have been affected in some way by the impacts of disability. They have either worked with people with disabilities or are the parents of children with disabilities. This initiative is important, and all political parties should fully support ongoing gainful and meaningful employment for people with disabilities. I commend the bill to the House.