Monday, 2 December 2019
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Payment Integrity) Bill 2019; Second Reading
The government are committed to ensuring our welfare system is fair and sustainable so we can continue to support those who need it most. This bill, the Services Legislation Amendment (Payment Integrity) Bill 2019, reintroduces three measures that will help to maintain the longer term sustainability of the system. The first measure in this bill will, from 1 January 2020, strengthen the residency requirements for the age pension and the disability support pension, or DSP. Currently to qualify for the age pension or the DSP a person must be an Australian resident for a total of 10 years, with at least five of those years being continuous. Under this measure, for a person to qualify for the age pension or the DSP they will be required to have 10 years continuous Australian residence and either five years of this during their working life or greater than five cumulative years residence while not in receipt of an activity tested income support payment. Where a person does not meet either of these requirements they will need to have 15 years of continuous Australian residence. This measure reflects community expectations that people should demonstrate an appropriate residence connection to Australia before testing eligibility to receive taxpayer funded payments.
The second measure in this bill will cease payment of the pension supplement for recipients outside of Australia after six weeks for temporary absences or immediately if the recipient has permanently departed Australia. This measure will commence on 1 January 2020 and will apply to both recipients already overseas and recipients departing Australia after commencement. The pension supplement is a payment designed to assist income support recipients with the cost of living in Australia and there is no economic reason to continue to pay recipients while they are overseas for any time longer than a short-term absence. Pensioners will once again be able to receive the pension supplement once they return to Australia.
Finally, this bill will also increase the maximum liquid assets test waiting period from 13 weeks to 26 weeks for new claimants of youth allowance, Austudy, Newstart allowance or sickness allowance. This increase will commence from 1 January 2020. This measure reflects community expectations that people who can support themselves should do so before relying on taxpayer funded income support. Only the maximum length of the liquid assets test waiting period is changing. No changes are being made to the existing reserve amounts, liquid assets test waiting period calculation, range of exemptions or hardship waiver rules.
The measure will only apply to claimants with high levels of liquid assets and greater capacity to support themselves in the first instance. Those with low to modest levels of liquid assets will not be affected by this measure. All three measures which are included in the bill will make sensible changes to improve the long-term sustainability of our welfare payment system while maintaining appropriate support for those in need. I present to the House a correction to the explanatory memorandum.