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Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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Omnibus Bill compromise to find further savings from family payments

The Government and Opposition have agreed on amendments to secure passage of the Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016 that includes a new Family Tax Benefit (FTB) savings measure. The measure would see families with adjusted taxable income of $80,000 or more per year ineligible to receive the Family Tax Benefit Part A (FTB-A) supplement from 1 July 2016. Read more...

Working age population welfare dependence continues to fall

Relatively low unemployment rates and the effect of a series of changes to eligibility for some payments has seen the proportion of the working age population receiving income support continue to decline, since peaking at over 25% in 1994. Read more...

The 'mind-body problem' and proposed DSP reforms

The interim report of the Review of Australia’s Welfare System led by Patrick McClure was released on 29 June 2014. The report contains proposals for significant reforms to the Disability Support Pension (DSP). The reforms would see the DSP reserved for people with a permanent impairment and no capacity to work. Those people with a partial capacity to work would be placed on a lower tiered working age payment and provided with support to improve their employment capacity. The proposals represent an attempt to deal with the perverse incentive for income support claimants to apply for DSP, which has a higher rate of payment and reduced activity testing, rather than allowance payments l... Read more...

New restrictions on disability pensioners travelling overseas

In the midst of heated debate over the Budget’s welfare reforms some significant measures have escaped the headlines, including new restrictions on Disability Support Pension (DSP) recipients travelling overseas. The measures, proposed by the Social Services and Other Legislation (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014, will reduce the time disability pensioners can spend overseas from six-weeks at a time to four weeks in a 12-month period. A number of submissions to the Senate committee inquiry into the Bill, from individual DSP recipients and from welfare groups, took issue with the changes suggesting that DSP was being unfairly targeted and that the measures would increase red tape. Read more...

Social services budget bills propose major changes to welfare

The 2014-15 federal budget included proposals for major changes in the social services portfolio, including payments to the unemployed, aged, people with disability and families with children. With most of these measures being introduced through two large and complex pieces of social services legislation, there is likely to be some confusion about the changes being made and which changes are being introduced where. This FlagPost provides a brief outline of what is in each of the social services bills. Most of the significant (and contentious) changes are introduced in the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (2014 Budget Measures No. 2) Bill 2014. This Bill includes proposals t... Read more...

The Forrest review and 'cashless welfare'

One of the more contentious elements in Andrew Forrest’s recent Indigenous Jobs and Training Review was the proposal for a for ‘cashless welfare’ system, provided through what he calls a ‘Healthy Welfare Card’. This FlagPost outlines key aspects of the proposal, highlighting where it differs from both the current income management system and Australia’s welfare arrangements in general. What is proposed? The Healthy Welfare Card would be based on the Basics Card which currently underpins the various income management schemes across Australia. It would be: issued as a debit card through a financial institution able to be used at any Austra... Read more...

Pension indexation: a brief history

In the lead-up to the Coalition Government’s first Budget, speculation has focused on possible changes to the age pension, including adjusting the way pension rates are indexed. Indexation is a complex and important component of the Australian social security system but one that is often misunderstood. The following provides an explanation and brief history of indexation. How pension rates are adjusted Currently, pensions (including the Age Pension, Service Pension, Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment) are indexed twice each year by the greater of the movement in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI). They are then ‘b... Read more...

What’s happening with the McClure welfare review?

The Government is conducting a review into welfare payments, headed by former Mission Australia CEO, Patrick McClure. This post briefly outlines what is currently known about the McClure review, including its objectives, processes and possible outcomes. Late in 2013, it was reported that McClure had been asked to provide recommendations on streamlining and improving Australia’s system of welfare payments. While initially it was thought that the review would examine the entire system, the Government clarified that it would only be looking into working age payments such as Newstart Allowance (NSA) and the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Payments such as Age Pension and the various for... Read more...

Growth in Age Pension receipt: the elephant in the room of the welfare reform debate

The Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, has recently expressed concern at the continued growth in the number of people in receipt of income support payments, and suggested that the welfare system is unsustainable. He has therefore commissioned Patrick McClure to undertake a review of the welfare system. Mr McClure’s previous review led to the Welfare to Work changes in 2006. However a closer investigation of the figures, released by the Department of Social Security, suggests that welfare receipt among those of working age is already declining, and hence the scope to make further large reductions may be limited. However Age Pension take up rates continue to increase. Read more...

Extending income management in Cape York

Legislation introduced into Parliament last week proposes to extend operation of income management in Cape York for a further two years until the end of 2015. This will be the third time income management has been extended in Cape York since it began in 2008. The Government argues that income management is a key element of welfare reform efforts in Cape York, which it says have 'seen improved school attendance, care and protection of children and community safety'.Cape York income managementIncome management refers to a policy under which a percentage of the welfare payments of certain people is set aside to be spent only on ‘priority items’ such as food, housing, clothing, education and hea... Read more...