Under Australia's current social security breach penalty regime, harsh monetary penalties are imposed on income support recipients who commit (often very minor) breaches of their mutual obligation requirements. The current regime offends a number of provisions of international human rights law, including the rights to social security, an adequate standard of living, free choice of employment and rest and leisure. In addition, the regime contravenes certain provisions in the Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) and offends established rules of natural justice required under administrative law. Further, the penalty regime breaches a number of established principles of common law, including freedom of contract, the presumption of innocence and the principle that the best interests of the child should be considered paramount in decisions affecting children. The recently passed AWT Act 2003 (Cth) will go some way towards rectifying some of these contraventions; however, further reforms will be required before it can be said that the government's breach penalty regime does not amount to a breach of the law
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