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

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Do waiting periods for income support improve employment outcomes? Lessons from Belgium

Since 2013 the Government has sought to introduce a four-week waiting period for the most work-ready new claimants of Youth Allowance (Other) and Special Benefit who are aged under 25 years. During this waiting period, new claimants would be required to undertake a number of job search activities in order to qualify for income support after their waiting period has been served. The stated objective of the waiting period measure is to ‘set the clear expectation that young people must make every effort to maximise their chances of successfully obtaining work’. There are very few international examples of up-front waiting periods for income support. If there could be said to be a &... Read more...

Polygamy, multiple relationships and welfare

Recent media reports have raised an issue with the access to welfare payments by Muslim people in multiple relationships. This FlagPost sets out the status of such relationships under social security law and how such relationships affect social security entitlements.  Read more...

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...

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...

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...

Paid Parental Leave: Robin Hood or piggy bank?

While there are numerous differences between the Labor and Coalition policies on parental leave pay, the most controversial is the rate of payment. While the current Government scheme is paid at the National Minimum Wage ($606.50 per week), the Coalition proposal is for parents to be paid at their full salary capped at an income level of $150,000.The difference between the two approaches highlights the complicated relationship present in both schemes between the idea of Parental Leave Pay as a workplace entitlement and a payment made through the social security system.Australia's current Paid Parental Leave scheme operates within the framework of social security benefits paid through the Dep... Read more...

Can means testing of welfare really save the budget?

One suggestion for addressing Australia's budget deficit has been to make cuts to 'middle class welfare'are'—that is, welfare payments made to households other than those with low incomes.The problem with such suggestions is that they are frequently light on details about precisely which welfare payments are the source of the 'problem' and what 'middle class' means. Nor do they tend to address the unintended consequences of making changes to eligibility for payments though tightening of means tests.One way of making cuts to middle class welfare would be to ensure that payments are means tested. The problem with this strategy is that Australia already means tests just about every possible pay... Read more...

Why the Pensioner Concession Card is so valuable

The Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr, has ordered Centrelink to apologise to tens of thousands of single parents who were mistakenly told that they were no longer eligible for a Pensioner Concession Card (PCC) after being moved from Parenting Payment Single (PPS) to Newstart Allowance on 1 January 2013. The letter to parents affected by changes to PPS eligibility arising from the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Fair Incentives to Work) Act 2012 advised them to destroy their concession cards even though most would still be eligible for a PCC. The PCC is a valuable supplementary benefit which provides access to a wide range of discounts and subsidies. The following explains... Read more...