Bills Digest no. 63 2008–09
Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment
(Economic Security Strategy) Bill 2008
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as
introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest
does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be
consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the
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Social Security and Other Legislation
Amendment (Economic Security Strategy) Bill
introduced: 11 November
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Families, Housing, Community Services
and Indigenous Affairs
On the day of Royal
relevant links to the Bill, Explanatory Memorandum and second
reading speech can be accessed via BillsNet, which is at http://www.aph.gov.au/bills/.
When Bills have been passed they can be found at ComLaw, which is
To enable the payment of economic
security strategy payments to designated individuals who have been
in receipt of income support or allowances, and economic security
strategy payments to families in receipt of Family Tax Benefits or
other income supplement payments.
The government announced the $4.8 billion package of economic
security strategy payments to pensioners, seniors, carers, veterans
and families on 14 October 2008. It is a major component of the overall $10.4
billion Economic Security Strategy.
The government s stated purpose of the economic security
strategy payments is to provide pensioners:
with immediate financial help in the lead up to
comprehensive reform of the pension system. This decisive action is
part of the Rudd Government s $10.4 billion Economic Security
Strategy to boost the Australian economy and support pensioners and
families during the global financial crisis. This decisive action
is part of the Rudd Government s $10.4 billion Economic Security
Strategy to boost the Australian economy and support pensioners and
families during the global financial crisis.
The Bill also provides for economic security strategy payments
to carers and families.
The payments will be tax-free and will not count as income for
the purposes of means-testing of various Commonwealth social
security and veterans entitlements. They will be paid automatically
to eligible persons and families, and so do not require a claim to
The $4.8 billion economic security strategy payments will be
made available through a lump sum payment of $1 400 to singles and
$2 100 to couples, which will be paid to recipients of:
- Age Pension,
- Disability Support Pension,
- Carer Payment,
- Wife Pension and Widow B Pension, Partner, Widow and
- Veterans Affairs Service Pension,
- Veterans Income Support Supplement,
- Veterans Affairs Gold Card who are also eligible for Seniors
- Parenting Payment, Special Benefit, or Austudy and who are also
of Age Pension age, and
- Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC).
These economic security strategy payments mainly target pension
payment income support recipients, so in effect the government is
targeting those on lower incomes. There are some income support
payment recipients who do not get a payment see Who does not get a
The exception to this targeting of pension payment recipients is
the payment to self funded retiree CSHC holders. These are self-funded retirees
over age pension age and for a single person have adjusted annual
taxable income below $50 000 (single) or a partnered person below
$80 000 (partnered combined). These persons are not on low income.
As at June 2008 there were 278 378 CSHC holders.
People who are receiving Carer Allowance will receive $1 000 for each eligible
person being cared for. As at June 2008, Carer Allowance was paid to 278 000
persons caring for 286 000 adults. Carer allowance was also paid to
116 000 persons caring for 133 000 children. If this was the same number of
persons being cared for by carer allowance recipients on 14 October
2008, it would make up a total of 564 000 $1 000 payments.
Individuals in receipt of both carer payment and also carer
allowance can receive both economic security strategy payments.
That is $1 400 (or $2 100 (partnered)) and also $1 000 for each
person they are receiving payment of carer allowance.
An economic security strategy payment of $1 000 will also be
made for each child eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part A (FTB-A)
on 14 October 2008. As at June 2008 FTB-A was paid to 1.734 million
families in respect of 3.384 million children. The number of families on FTB-A
on 14 October will not be exactly the same as applied in June 2008
but it will be close to the same number. This means approximately
3.384 million immediate $1 000 payments to 1.734 million
The majority of families claim and are paid FTB-A on a
fortnightly basis, but some families claim when they lodge their
tax return at the end of the financial year. (See table below). As
detailed in the Minister s second reading speech, where a person does claim FTB-A
at the end of the 2008-09 year and are subsequently paid to cover
that date they also will be provided with the $1 000 payment for
each FTB-A child.
Tax office lump sum
Centrelink lump sum
1 876 044
2 092 711
The above table shows there are some persons who claim FTB-A at
the end of the year and will be entitled to an economic security
strategy payments for families if also entitled to be paid in
respect of 14 October 2008. An economic security strategy payment
for families can be made for FTB-A claims lodged up to the end of
the 2010-11 year. The exact number of payments that will be made is
The same economic security strategy payment for families of $1
000 will be made for each dependent child aged under age 25 who, at
14 October 2008, was either eligible for or received Youth
Allowance, ABSTUDY Scheme living allowance or an education
allowance under the Veterans Children Education Scheme or the
Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act Education and Training
The economic security strategy payments are estimated to cost
It is planned that all economic security strategy payments will
be made automatically through Centrelink and the Department of
Veterans Affairs in the fortnight beginning 8 December
Item 7 of Schedule 1 specifies the payment date as
8 December 2008 or such later date that the Secretary considers the
earliest date on which it is reasonably practical for the payment
to be made .
The economic security strategy payments of $1 400 and $2 100
(partner combined) are being primarily paid to older age persons
who are also pension recipients. This targeting of older age
persons is emphasized by the fact that some allowance payment
recipients are to be provided with a payment but also they are
people of Age Pension age who receive Parenting Payment, Special
Benefit, or Austudy. The Minister did say in the second reading
speech that the economic security strategy payments were not just
about strengthening the economy but they are also about financial
assistance for pensioners. The Minister said:
It delivers a $4.8 billion down payment to
pensioners in the lead-up to comprehensive reform of the pension
system to give them long-term security and certainty.
The payments to pensioners are an immediate
down payment on long-term pension reform. They are intended to give
additional support before we make essential long-term reforms in
the context of the 2009-10 budget.
The main reason persons of Age Pension age are on an allowance
payment rather than on an Age Pension is that they do not have the
requisite 10 years residence to qualify for Age Pension. There are
not many persons in these groups.
The economic security strategy payment is also to be provided to
recipients of Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, Invalidity
Service Pension, Wife Pension, Widow B Pension, Partner, Widow and
Bereavement Allowance. This again is mostly targeting older
The exception to this targeting of payment to older age
pensioners is the payment to Disability Support Pension and Carer
Payment recipients. There may also be a small number of younger
Invalidity Service Pensioners who will gain access to an economic
security strategy payment. As at June 2008 there were 592
Invalidity Service pension recipients aged less than age
Some self-funded retirees in receipt of a CSHC on 14 October
2008 are also to get a $1 400 or a $2 100 (partner combined)
payment. These are self-funded retirees over age pension age and
for a single person has adjusted annual taxable income below $50
000 (single) or a partnered person below $80 000 (partnered
combined). These persons, not being on an age or service pension,
are not on low incomes.
The self-funded retirees who do not get a payment are those of
age pension age whose adjusted annual taxable income is too high to
qualify for a CSHC.
Persons receiving a qualifying payment on 14 October 2008
residing overseas will also receive a payment.
The income support recipients who will not receive an economic
security strategy payment are mainly those on payments who are of
The income support payment recipients not to receive an economic
security strategy payment are those receiving:
- newstart allowance,
- parenting payment single,
- parenting payment partnered,
- youth allowance full-time student (independent person),
- youth allowance other (independent person),
- ABSTUDY (independent person),
- austudy payment, and
- special benefit.
Most of these payments are allowance payments and historically
not seen as long term income support as is the case with pension
payments. However, Parenting Payment Single, having its origins in
the single mother s benefit and then the sole parent pension, is
paid at the pension rate and with the pensions means tests. In many
cases it is provided for the long term, especially for those whose
payment preceded the Welfare to Work changes of July 2006. They only receive
Parent Payment Single until their youngest child turns age 16.
Parenting Payment Single recipients will not get a $1 400 economic
security strategy payment. Perhaps this is because Parenting
Payment Single recipients will all get an economic security
strategy payment to families of $1 000 for each qualifying
The families with children who do not get an economic security
strategy payment to families are those whose income is too high to
qualify them for FTB-A.
The $1 400 and $2 100 economic security strategy payments
provided under the Social Security Act 1991 (SSA) and the
Veterans Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) target older age and
also long term pension payment recipients. These are usually those
persons reliant on welfare payments for prolonged periods and for
those on the maximum rate of payment, they commonly do not have
much in the way of financial reserves.
It is important to note that most income
support recipients have low levels of private income. Just over
one-third of income support recipients (35.5 per cent) have no
private income and a further 22.3 per cent have private income of
less than $20 per week.
This means a total of 57.8 per cent of income support recipients
have private income of less than $20 per week. The one off economic
security strategy payments will be most welcome for these
The main group of persons who do not get an economic security
strategy payment are those of working age on an allowance or
benefit type payment. Some of these are long term income support
By comparison, the provision of an economic security strategy
payment to CSHC holders, being self funded retirees, with too much
income or assets to qualify for an age or service pension, is
providing payments to those with higher levels of financial
Item 1 inserts a new Part 2.17 Economic
Security Strategy payment into the Social Security Act
1991 (SSA). New subsection 900(2) sets out
the payments a person needs to be in receipt of to qualify for the
economic security strategy payment and specifies that they needed
to be qualified on 14 October 2008. These payments are:
- Age pension,
- Disability Support Pension,
- Wife Pension,
- Carer Payment,
- Bereavement Allowance,
- Widow B Pension,
- Widow Allowance,
- Partner Allowance, and
- Carer Allowance.
New subsection 900(3) covers Parenting Payment,
Austudy Payment, Special Benefit and ABSTUDY Scheme payment
recipients, requiring them to be over Age Pension age as of 14
October 2008 to qualify.
New subsection 900(4) covers CSHC holders
requiring them to have been qualified for the CSHC on 14 October
New section 901 sets out the amounts of the
economic security strategy payments. New subsection
901(2) refers to Carer Allowance recipients. Some
recipients of the income support payments in the new
section 900 may also be recipients of Carer Allowance,
especially Carer Payment recipients. In such cases, the amounts for
payments set out in new section 901 will not apply
to them rather those in new section 902 see
New section 902 sets out who is entitled to an
economic security payment when the person receives Carer Allowance.
The details can be summarised as:
- receiving Carer Allowance alone and no other payment - $1 000
payment for each qualifying person they care for - see new
subsection 902(3), (except for caring for 2 children - 2
children to count as one person being cared for see new
- receiving Carer Allowance and also receiving an economic
security strategy trigger payment listed in new subsection
900(2) can receive both economic security payments,
- receiving Carer Allowance providing care for 1 child - $1 000
- receiving Carer Allowance providing care for 2 children - $1
- receiving Carer Allowance providing care for 1 child and 1
adult - $2 000 payment, or
- receiving Carer Allowance on a part-rate basis, as they share
the care with another carer part rate of $1 000 according to their
shared care rate of carer allowance.
Item 2 inserts provisions clarifying who is to
be considered to be receiving a qualifying payment for the economic
security strategy payments on 14 October 2008. In some cases a
person can be transferred to another payment even though they haven
t claimed that payment. For example, a person can be transferred to
an Age Pension as they are covered under an international social
security agreement that Australia has signed with another country.
Section 12 in the Social Security (Administration) Act
1999 (SSAA) provide for this. The new provisions in
item 2 basically say that where a person is so
transferred to an economic security strategy qualifying payment, it
has to be done before 14 October 2008.
Likewise, section 15 of the SSAA refers to inappropriate claims.
A person may lodge a claim for the wrong payment and section 15
allows that claim to be treated as a claim for another payment for
which they are entitled, so the person is not disadvantaged. Where
this is done and section 15 of the SSAA applied and the person
provided with an economic security strategy qualifying payment,
then the decision under section 15 has to have been made on or
before 14 October 2008.
Item 3 inserts new provisions in relation to
economic security strategy payments and debts. Essentially, where a
person was qualified to an economic security strategy trigger
payment on 14 October 2008 and it was later revealed that the
person was not qualified to that payment, as a result of the person
knowingly providing a false or misleading statement or information,
then the economic security strategy qualifying payment can be a
debt and recovered.
Item 4 refers to debt recovery basically
providing for the economic security strategy payment to not be
reduced or deducted from, in other debt recovery processes, unless
the recipient has agreed to it.
Schedule 2 inserts new provisions into the
Veterans Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) very much like the
provisions proposed to be inserted into the SSA by Schedule
Item 1 provides for a new Part VIIG
Economic security strategy payment into the VEA.
New subsection 118ZZQ(2) sets out the payments
a person needs to be in receipt of on 14 October 2008 to qualify
for the economic security strategy payment. These payments are:
- Service pension,
- Income Support Supplement, or
- Carer Service Pension.
New subsection 118ZZQ(3) refers to Seniors
Concession Allowance recipients, who are persons who hold a CSHC, requiring
them to be qualified to the allowance on 14 October 2008.
New section 118ZZR sets out the amounts of the
economic security strategy payments, being the same as set out in
Schedule 1 for the SSA.
New section 118ZZU sets out debt provisions,
very much like that proposed to be inserted into the SSA in
Schedule 1, in respect of the economic security
Schedule 3 provides for amendments to the A
New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 (FAA) and also to
the A New Tax System Family Assistance (Administration) Act
1999 (FAAA). These amendments are to:
- provide an economic security strategy payment of $1 000 for
each child qualifying a person to FTB-A on 14 October 2008, or
- provide an economic security strategy payment of $1 000 for
each child who on 14 October 2008 attracts or receives Youth
Allowance, ABSTUDY living allowance, or an education allowance
under the Veterans Children Education Scheme (VCES), or the
Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act Education and Training
Item 2 details that MRCAETS refers to the
scheme provided under section 258 of the Military
Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA). Item
3 details that Veterans Children Education Scheme (VCES)
refers to the scheme provided under section 117 of the VEA.
Item 4 inserts a new Part 6 Economic
security strategy payment to families in the FAA.
New section 89 sets out the different criteria
a child must meet on 14 October 2008 to attract an economic
security strategy payment to families. There are several different
categories that can qualify a child to attract such families a
payment and they are summarised below:
- FTB-A child, for whom FTB-A is paid, in respect of fortnightly
- FTB-A child, for whom FTB-A is entitled to be paid through a
claim lodged at the end of the 2008-09 financial year and the claim
was lodged in either the 2008-09, 2009-10 or 2010-11 years,
- Youth Allowance recipient who is considered to be
- ABSTUDY Scheme recipient receiving a component for a living
allowance who is considered to be dependent and is aged under
- Education allowance paid in respect of a child under either
MRCAETS or VCES and the child is considered to be dependent and is
aged under 25,
New section 90 basically details that the $1
000 economic security strategy payment to families is payable to a
family in respect of each qualifying child. So if a family has 3
qualifying children, they get 3 payments.
New section 91 sets out the amount of the
economic security strategy payment to families to be paid. Normally
it is to be $1 000 per qualifying child (see new section
94 below). Nevertheless, it is common for FTB-A to be
split between 2 persons in shared care situations. The rate of FTB-A is split only
where the person providing the lesser amount of care does so for 35
per cent of the time or more. The economic security strategy
payment to families is to also mirror this arrangement and split
the $1 000 payment in shared care situations where the FTB-A rate
is also split.
Like FTB-A, an education allowance provided under the MRCAETS or
VCES can be split in shared care situations. As with FTB-A split
rate situations, the economic security strategy payment to families
is to be split proportionally.
It is possible for a part of an ABSTUDY Scheme payment
(including an amount for a living allowance) or an education
allowance under MRCAETS or VCES to be paid to a school - commonly
for boarding costs. The remaining part of the payment/allowance is
paid to a parent/guardian. In these cases the whole of the economic
security strategy payment to families is to be provided to the
New section 92 provides the rules for
determining the qualifying criteria to make a payment where a child
qualifies under more than one category. This could be common, for
example, a child could attract both FTB-A and also an education
allowance under the MRCAETS. The rule is that whichever
qualification criterion arises first, in the order that they are
listed in new section 89, is the one that applies
(FTB category, Youth Allowance category, ABSTUDY category,
Education Allowance category). So in the example above, the FTB-A
category (that is subsection 89(2)) is listed
before the Education Allowance category (that is subsection
89(8)) in new section 89, so it is the
one that applies.
New subsection 92(3) provides that only one
economic security strategy payment to families can be paid in
respect of a child for either the Youth Allowance or the ABSTUDY
Scheme payment qualification. A child cannot qualify for both Youth
Allowance and ABSTUDY Scheme payment on the same day (in this case
14 October 2008), so it is difficult to understand the need for
this subsection, but it could be there as an insurance policy to
ensure there is no dual payment to families for a child.
New subsection 92(4) provides that more than
one economic security strategy payment to two different persons can
be paid in respect of a child where the child qualifies two persons
for an education allowance on 14 October 2008. A child could
qualify one person for an education allowance under the MRCAETS and
another person for an education allowance under the VCES at the
same time. Subsection 92(4) mainly refers to
shared care cases where two parents/guardians are entitled to
sharing an education allowance for a child. New subsection
91(6) would then apply to apportion the amount of the $1
000 paid between the two sharing care, on the basis of the shared
education allowance paid.
New subsection 92(5) details that where a child
has qualified a person to an economic security strategy payment to
families under one category, then the child cannot qualify the same
person for another economic security strategy payment to families
under another qualification requirement. This clarifies new
subsection 92(3) (see comments above) making it clear only
one payment is provided to a person. If the child meets another
qualification requirement then it could only qualify another person
for that other payment.
New section 93 provides for
payment of the economic security strategy payment to families to be
payable to an individual. Normally, for payment of Youth Allowance
where the qualifying person is aged under age 18, payment must be
to a parent s bank account.
New subsection 93(2) details
the economic security strategy payment to families can be paid to
the young person qualified for Youth Allowance who was on 14
October 2008 under age 25 and regarded as dependent. The net result
is that the economic security strategy payment to families can be
paid to Youth Allowance recipients where they are aged 18 or more
but still regarded as dependent.
New subsection 93(3) applies
a like rule where the qualifying child for the economic security
strategy payment to families was on ABSTUDY Scheme payment which
had a component of living allowance. So, like the Youth Allowance
arrangements (see above), the ABSTUDY Scheme recipient will need to
be on 14 October 2004:
- regarded as dependent,
- aged under age 25, and
- the ABSTUDY Scheme living allowance was paid to the young
person and not to a parent/guardian.
New subsections 93(4) and (5)
refer to the case where a young person qualifies for the economic
security strategy payment to families as they were entitled to an
education allowance under the VCES and the MRCAETS respectively.
Like with new subsection 93(2) (see above) the
young person can be paid the economic security strategy payment to
families where they are aged under 25 years and the education
allowance was paid to them as a student.
New section 94 details that
the amount of the economic security strategy payment to families is
Item 5 proposes to insert a
new Division 4B Economic security strategy payment to
families in the FAAA.
New section 65G details that
the economic security strategy payment to families is to be a lump
Item 8 inserts new section 71J
referring to debts and the economic security strategy payment to
families. This is very much like Item 3 in
Schedule 1 (see above) and details that the
economic security strategy payment to families can become a debt
where the person who received the payment did so on the basis of
being paid the qualifying payment by way of a the person knowingly
providing false or misleading statement or evidence. If this does
occur then the economic security strategy payment to families can
be a debt and recovered.
Schedule 4 proposes to insert into the SSA, the
FAA and the VEA provisions to empower the respective Minister to
set up an administrative scheme under which economic security
strategy payments could be made to qualified persons in particular
circumstances. The Minister would be able, by way of a legislative
instrument, to prescribe who should be paid. Under the
Legislative Instruments Act 2003 (LIA), legislative
instruments are generally disallowable by the Parliament.
The need for the administrative scheme
provisions in Schedule 4
Provisions, like those in Schedule 4, have been
presented in other one-off payment Bills in the past. Schedule
4 is basically an insurance policy empowering the Minister
to provide an economic security strategy payment to a person or
persons, by way of an administrative scheme, who for some unforseen
reason was not captured by the legislative intention of the Bill
and so did not get a payment under the provisions in
Schedule 1, 2 or 3. Use of an
administrative scheme provides the Minister with the ability to
make a payment, without having to come back to the Parliament with
Item 1 removes the economic security strategy
payments to families as income in the definition of separate net
income in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (ITAA1936).
Item 2 likewise amends the ITAA1936 in reference
to economic security strategy payments provided under the SSA or
Items 6, 7 and 9-12 exempt
economic security strategy payments as income or income tax under
the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (ITAA1997). This is
consistent with the income and income tax treatment under the
ITAA1997 of other one-off lump sum payments that have been made by
governments in the past.
Items 13 and 14 amend the SSA
so that the economic security strategy payments are not income for
the income test under the SSA. This is consistent with the income
test treatment of previous one-off bonus payments.
Items 15 to 19 provide amendments to the SSAA
which essentially deal with Income Management Regime (IMR) payment
arrangements. These arrangements now apply to some income support
recipients as a result of the then government s Northern Territory
intervention of 2007. Under the IMR arrangements, a person s income support
and/or income supplement payments (all or a part of) are directed
to a Centrelink controlled account from which withdrawals approved
by Centrelink can be made for what are considered essential or
appropriate items like food, clothing, rent, house utility
expenses, transport, education costs etc.
In summary, the amendments to the SSAA would mean that the
economic security strategy payments made to someone subject to the
IMR arrangements will be diverted into the Centrelink controlled
IMR account of the person.
There are some exceptions. New subsection
123XPC(2) in item 16 does provide an
exemption to some economic security strategy payments being able to
be diverted into the Centrelink controlled IMR account. The
exception refers to persons provided with an economic security
payment under the proposed amendments to the VEA presented in
Schedule 2 of this Bill (see above) where they are
for persons who reside in one of the designated IMR areas of the
Northern Territory (NT) or they are a case that has been referred
to IMR management by the Queensland Family Responsibilities
In short, what this means is that the economic security strategy
payments provided under the VEA are not to be placed into
Centrelink controlled IMR accounts in some cases. These
cases will be where the person is subject to IMR either because
they live in a designated area in the NT and or they are a
Queensland Family Responsibilities Commission referred case.
However, there are other reasons a veteran payment recipient might
be subject to IMR, such as for child protection reasons, school
enrolment or attendance reasons, or they are a participant in the
Cape York Reform trials or they have volunteered. In these cases
the economic security strategy payments provided under the VEA
are to be subject to the IMR arrangements. The Explanatory
Memorandum details that this selective treatment of lump sum
payment with some to not be subject to IMR arrangements is
consistent with current IMR treatment of payments provided under
The economic security strategy payments of $1 400, $2 100
(partner combined) and $1 000 are large lump sum payments.
Certainly they are by far the largest lump sum amounts paid to
pensioners by any government recently, if not ever. This is the
main reason the cost of $4.8 billion is so large. These large lump
sum payments will be of significant use to many long term income
support recipients as many have few other income sources.
The main purpose of the payments to income support recipients is
to provide immediate financial help in the lead up to comprehensive
reform of the pension system.
The Government also has an interest in creating the economic
stimulus that will be provided by the payments. This stimulus may
serve to counteract some of the effects of the global financial
The number of families that will be assisted by the economic
security strategy payments for families could eventually be close
to 2 million.
Close to 280 000 self funded retirees who are holders of a CSHC
also gain access to the economic security strategy payments of $1
400 or $2 100.
These self funded retirees have more financial resources than the
income support recipients getting the same payments.
. A person get Carer Payment (adult)
if they provide constant care in the home of the person they care
for and the person they care for is:
. The age
pension age for a male is 65. For a female, the age is being raised
by six months every two years so that by 1 January 2014 female and
male pension ages will be the same. The table below show when a
female may qualify.
Date of Birth
|Before 1 July 1949
|1 July 1949 to 31 December 1950
|1 January 1951 to 30 June 1952
|1 July 1952 to 31 December 1953
|1 January 1954 and later
. A person may get Carer Allowance (child) if they look
after a child with a disability or severe medical condition who
requires a lot of additional care or attention in their own home. A
person may get Carer Allowance (adult) if:
- they are looking after an adult with a severe disability or
medical condition who needs a lot of additional care and attention,
- they provide care for an adult in either their home or the home
of the person they care for.
No of children
18 - 24 years
. ibid., p. 49.
24 November 2008
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