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Creating unemployment benefits

With the Senate Community Affairs Committee holding an inquiry into the adequacy of Newstart Allowance and an ongoing debate over the cashless debit card, it’s worth revisiting the origins of unemployment benefits in Australia. Read more...

Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management and Cashless Welfare) Bill 2019

Income management in Cape York and the cashless debit card trials in all of the current cashless debit card sites except Bundaberg and Hervey Bay are set to end on 30 June 2019. The Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management and Cashless Welfare) Bill 2019 (the Bill) extends income management in Cape York and the expiring cashless debit card trial sites until 30 June 2020 (the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay trial already has an end date of 30 June 2020). The Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletcher, announced a 12 month extension of the Cashless Debit Card in the Ceduna region (South Australia), the East Kimberley region (Western Australia) and the Goldfields reg... Read more...

Social Security Commission Bill 2018

The Social Security Commission Bill 2018 is a private member’s bill introduced by Cathy McGowan, the Member for Indi, on 20 August 2018. The Bill’s purpose is to create an independent commission to review the adequacy of social security payments. While it would make recommendations, it would not be responsible for setting payment rates. In her Second Reading Speech, Ms McGowan said: ‘I believe social security recipients should be able to have a standard of living that allows them to live with dignity.’ The Bill is supported by Rebekha Sharkie, the Centre Alliance member for Mayo. It is opposed by the Government. The then Minister for Social Services, Dan Tehan rejecte... Read more...

New Bill to extend the Farm Household Allowance

On 19 June 2018, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud announced that the Government would extend the time-limit for receipt of the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) from three to four years. The FHA is an income support payment, paid at the same rate as Newstart Allowance (or Youth Allowance if the recipient is aged under 22 years), which supports eligible farmers and their partners who are experiencing financial hardship. A Bill to extend the limit, the Farm Household Support Amendment Bill 2018, was introduced to the Parliament on 20 June 2018. Read more...

Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018

This Bill seeks to extend the Cashless Debit Card to the Federal electorate of Hinkler in Queensland, an area that includes Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. As well as specifying the location of the new trial site, the Bill sets out criteria that determine which income support recipients will be required to participate in the trial. It also sets out details of how the trial will be administered in the Hinkler trial site. The Bill also makes some changes that affect the Cashless Debit Card Scheme as a whole. It includes provisions that will ensure merchants are able to decline Cashless Debit Card transactions where the cardholder tries to use the card for gambling, alcohol, or gift ca... Read more...

Power play: will the Energy Supplement be saved?

Recent media reports have suggested the Government may drop or modify legislation to close-off the Energy Supplement payment to new welfare recipients, in order to secure crossbench support for separate company tax measures. A Bill to close the Energy Supplement to all new income support recipients—including pensioners, allowance recipients and veterans’ payment recipients—has been before the House of Representatives since May 2017 but is yet to be debated. Read more...

Bereavement Allowance, Bereavement Payments and the Welfare Reform Bill

During the Senate debate on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017 (the Welfare Reform Bill), significant amendments were made to the way a proposed new lump-sum amount for newly bereaved welfare recipients would be calculated. The Senate eventually agreed to amendments proposed by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party and supported by the Government. Under these amendments, the rate of payment for a recipient of the proposed Jobseeker Payment whose partner has recently died will be broadly equivalent to the rate of the payment for newly-bereaved people that the Government is proposing to abolish: Bereavement Allowance. Read more...

New waiting periods for migrants to access social security and family assistance payments

The 2017–18 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) includes three measures limiting access to welfare for new migrants to Australia: introducing a three-year waiting period before new residents can access Family Tax Benefit, Paid Parental Leave and Carer Allowance extending the existing Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period that applies to some working-age payments such as Newstart and Youth Allowance from two years to three and extending the Assurance of Support requirement for family visas (where a person agrees to be financially responsible for a new migrant) from two-years to three. The measures are intended to commence 1 July 2018 and will save an estimated $1... 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 Pension Loans Scheme: an old program attracts new interest

The Australian Government’s Pension Loans Scheme (PLS) is a reverse mortgage scheme that allows people of pension age to access an income stream by borrowing against their housing equity. Currently it is only available people of pension age (or their partners) who are unable to receive a full pension because of the income or assets test. Amidst recent debates over the cost of aged care and the treatment of the family home in the pension assets test, two think tanks, the Australia Institute and Per Capita, have suggested expanding the scheme. How it works The PLS allows people to top up a part pension to the full rate or, for those not eligible for any pension, receive fortnightly pay... Read more...

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