Monday, 21 June 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Consideration in Detail
Australia's economy is recovering quickly from the pandemic, with more Australians in work than ever before and job advertisements at their highest level in 12 years. The Morrison government wants all Australians to share in the opportunities created by our economic recovery. We understand that this means providing extra support for those within our community who face additional challenges and barriers. The Social Services portfolio measures in the Appropriation Bill (No.1) 2021-22 being considered today will deliver an unprecedented boost to services supporting some of the most vulnerable Australians.
More than $10 billion has been committed in the 2021-22 budget for new initiatives. These will work towards our commitment to protect the most vulnerable Australians now and into the future. This is on top of the base funding for the portfolio—resourcing for the Department of Social Services is a staggering $131 billion in 2021-22 alone. This represents a historic expansion of support and recognises that safety and security are more important than ever. The measures include a historic package to address women's safety and security—a very high priority in the budget. They include a national early childhood program for children with disability and improvements to the National Redress Scheme. There's also $9 billion for a series of permanent changes to strengthen the social security safety net and ensure jobseekers have the best opportunity to secure employment.
In the big year-on-year increase to the rate of unemployment benefit since 1986, the base rate of working-age payments such as JobSeeker has been increased by $50 a fortnight as part of these extraordinary changes. This additional and ongoing support will assist income support recipients as they transition back into the workforce. The income-free area for working-age payments has been bolstered to $150 per fortnight to support jobseekers as they secure employment. These permanent changes strike the right balance between support for those Australians in need and incentives to return to work.
The changes also come on top of the unprecedented level of economic support provided to Australians to assist them through the coronavirus pandemic, including the coronavirus supplements and the economic support payments. The Morrison government's economic support payments alone benefited 5.1 million Australians who were in receipt of the age pension, disability support pension, carer payment or veterans payment or who were concession card holders. In total, these payments provided $12 billion in additional assistance to Australian households, above and beyond these recipients' regular payments. On top of these payments, the 2021 budget is further supporting retired Australians with a package of reform to enhance the pension loan scheme, providing pensioners and self-funded retirees with access to lump sum payments.
The budget also provides enhanced support for those on the cashless debit card through an economic and employment support services package for the first four CDC program sites. The cashless debit card delivers on the Morrison government's commitment to ensure that social security recipients have access to the best technology to manage their money and overcome social harm. Under the package, $30 million will be allocated to establish a jobs fund and job-ready initiatives under an economic and employment support services package to create employment opportunities for individuals residing in those sites. The CDC support services for employment, as well as funding for rehab facilities, will also be bolstered. This support complements that provided by the cashless debit card in reducing access to products that can cause social harm. Data collection arrangements and community engagement for the cashless debit card will also be improved. Further, the extension for place based income management to 31 December 2023 provides certainty and support for around 2,500 vulnerable Australians in 12 sites. It offers participants assistance to build their budgeting skills and ensures the needs of individuals and families are met from the safety net provided by income support payments.
While the comeback in Australia's economy is well underway, we know we'll continue to confront challenges. During the pandemic, the government stood side by side with all Australians, and we'll continue to support Australians as they look for work and the economy recovers. These and other measures form a comprehensive social services package to support Australians faced with challenges and barriers, as well as to secure our economic recovery.