Monday, 23 March 2020
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for his question. The packages and measures are dealing with different challenges. When it comes to those who are on fixed incomes, obviously—through benefit payments and things of that nature—their incomes are not being directly affected, because they are on those fixed-income payments. The payments that the member refers to, the $750 payments, are coming in April and they are coming in July. Those individuals will continue to receive all the other income at the same levels they have been receiving it, and that will provide a pulse support to them at that time, on those two occasions. As I've said at length, we need to be in a position not just to do this now but to continue to do it for at least the next six months, and if we have to extend these measures further then of course we will.
One of the other important principles we have applied as we have put these various packages of assistance together is that we have sought to use existing payment mechanisms both in the tax system and in the payment system. The Leader of the Opposition may be aware that the redesigning of major payment systems would only add even further delay to the processes of getting additional payments out to benefit recipients. Working through the payments systems that we have enables us to get these payments to Australians in the most effective way possible. I note that in overseas jurisdictions where they are not following these principles and are designing new schemes there is further complication in setting up payment systems, which means those payments are even further away.
Our department of government services will be working night and day and taking on some additional 3,000 staff to ensure that they can meet the timing requirements. If it can be done more quickly than that, in the turn-around of these arrangements, I have no doubt it will be. The public servants, particularly here in the ACT, are doing an outstanding job in turning around these measures. Those Public Service members are out there doing that job, working late into the night to ensure they can turn this around as quickly as possible. They're the ones on the phones taking the many calls from distressed Australians. They're the ones who are redesigning systems. They're the ones at Centrelink offices. They are doing a fantastic job. We will continue to support them to do that job as effectively as possible and with the additional resources they need to turn around this support as fast as we can provide it.