House debates

Thursday, 6 June 2013


Social Security Amendment (Supporting More Australians into Work) Bill 2013; Second Reading

1:27 pm

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Community Services ) Share this | Hansard source

The Social Security Amendment (Supporting More Australians into Work) Bill 2013 supports the participation of unemployed Australians and parents with caring responsibilities by increasing the amount they are able to earn and keep, smoothing the transition to paid work and providing extra assistance to undertake study and training. The Gillard government believes that anyone who is able to work should benefit from the economic security and dignity that having a job brings. This bill will also allow up to 800,000 Australians on parenting payment (partnered), Newstart allowance and widow, sickness or partnered allowance to earn $100 per fortnight, which is $38 more per fortnight than they currently can, before their income support is reduced. This is the first increase to this in more than a decade.

In addition, the income-free area will, for the first time in Australia's history, be indexed against the CPI from 1 July 2015 to ensure the real value of this increase is maintained over time. From 20 March 2014, income support recipients currently earning more than $62 per fortnight can look forward to an average increase in their payments of $19 per fortnight or an average of $494 per year. This increase to the income-free area supports a majority recommendation from the Senate inquiry into the adequacy of the allowance payment system. Australia has a relatively low level of unemployment; however, joblessness amongst families continues to be a significant social and economic challenge facing this country.

This bill continues the government's commitment to provide incentives and support for single parents so that they and their families can share the benefits of paid work. From 1 January 2014, all single principal carers receiving Newstart allowance who take up approved study will be eligible to receive the pensioner education supplement. The supplement is paid at a full rate of $62.40 per fortnight or at the concessional rate of $31.20 per fortnight, based on study load. It is expected that around 115,000 single parents will take up approved study or receive the pensioner education supplement over the next four years, increasing their job readiness and giving them a better chance of returning to the workforce and leaving income support.

Through this bill, single parents will also receive additional support from the extended access to the pensioner concession card. From 1 January 2014, single parents who cease to be eligible for parenting payment due to the age of their youngest child and who do not qualify for any other income support payment due to their earnings will retain their pensioner concession card for 12 weeks. The pensioner concession card allows holders and their dependants to receive benefits, including bulk-billed GP appointments, reduced out-of-hospital medical expenses and medicines listed on the PBS at the concessional rate, in addition to concessions offered by state, territory and local governments.

In combination, the measures contained in this bill amend the social security law to improve incentives for income support recipients to become self-reliant through employment. As the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations said in his second reading speech:

This package … represents the very strong advocacy of government MPs, including the member for Canberra, the member for Page, the member for Chifley and the member for Throsby, amongst many others. I also acknowledge the advocacy of the council of single mothers—

as I do. This bill delivers on the government's commitment to support single parents moving off the parenting payment so that they and their families can share the benefits of paid work once their children are older. The Gillard Labor government believes that everyone should benefit from the dignity, challenge, experience, social acceptance and camaraderie that comes from having a job, especially people who have been trapped in a cycle of entrenched disadvantage for too long. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Administrator recommending appropriation announced.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.


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