The committee received two submissions—from the National Welfare Rights
Network (NWRN) and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS)—both of
which support the Bill without amendments. NWRN submits that the Bill simplifies
the payment system and facilitates access to student payments.
The Minister for Social Services (Minister), the Hon Christian Porter
MP, stated during the second reading debate on the Bill that the proposed
measures support payment simplification and would not affect the overall value
of student payments.
Means testing for student payments
Submitters support the four proposed changes to means testing for
NWRN agrees with removing the exemption from the assets test for Youth
Allowance and Austudy recipients whose partner receives income support. NWRN
acknowledges this would affect a small number of recipients,
but that it 'ensures equal treatment' of student payment recipients with
similar levels of assets.
ACOSS submits that the change to include company assets to means testing
student payments is 'sensible and rectifies an anomaly' within the payments
NWRN submits that this measure will only apply to a small number of recipients.
Both submitters welcome reforms to exempt regular gift payments by
family members from asset testing.
NWRN acknowledges that including tax free pensions and benefits as
income for the parental income test may reduce payments for dependent Youth
Allowance recipients whose parents have a high level of income and
receive income support such as a pension. NWRN supports this measure, noting
that it creates equitable treatment of recipients of similar income. It also
simplifies the process for families to declare their incomes as they will now
report the same income for family tax benefit and youth allowance purposes.
The Minister noted that the proposed measures would simplify means
testing and remove anomalies between student payments and other welfare
Health Care Card
Both submissions strongly support the measure to automate issuing of
health care cards to recipients of student payments.
NWRN states this is a welcome increase of support to students and their
families as it would increase access to subsidised prescriptions and a reduced
Medicare safety net.
The Minister noted that the proposed measure would align access to
concession cards for students with other income support recipients and would:
...guarantee that around 240,000 students will receive
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescriptions at the concessional rate and
access to the lower threshold of the extended Medicare safety net when they
receive a student payment. It will also provide greater access to bulk billing
allowing students to focus on their studies without worrying about their
NWRN supports the automatic updating of the Australian Statistical
Geography Standard (ASGS) remoteness structure by the Australian Statistician as
it simplifies the administration of student payments.
ACOSS made no comment on this schedule.
The Minister noted that the automatic updating of the remoteness
structure would 'ensure that the assessment of qualification for youth
allowance and the relocation scholarship is based on the latest available information
on geographical classification'.
The Minister highlighted that the reclassification of areas would be:
...unlikely to have lasting or recurrent effects on students'
payment eligibility given the cycle of five-yearly updates of the geographical classification
document and that on average tertiary courses are completed in three to four
The committee recognises that the proposed changes to means testing
rules would simplify means testing for student payments and remove anomalies
between student payments and other welfare payments.
The committee recognises that the proposal to automatically issue a
healthcare card to students receiving student payments would improve
consistency by aligning access to concession cards for students with other
The committee also recognises that the automatic updating of the ASGS
remoteness structure would ensure that assessments of qualification for student
payments are based on the latest available information on geographical classification.
The committee acknowledges the stakeholder support for the measures
proposed in the Bill and agrees with the Minister that the measures will
support payment simplification and future welfare reform. The committee
acknowledges that whilst there will be a small number of recipients affected by
these measures, overall the measures will create a more equitable payments
The committee recommends that the Bill be passed.
Senator Jonathon Duniam
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