House debates

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Income Support Payments

2:36 pm

Photo of Angie BellAngie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services. Will the minister please advise the House of the Morrison government's changes to working-age payments which were announced today and how those changes will build on Australia's world-class welfare safety net as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Moncrieff for her question and acknowledge her hard work in support of almost 20,000 working-age payment recipients in her electorate and all the work she's doing in reviving our tourism sector, especially on the Gold Coast.

I think all of us in the House can appreciate that the pandemic has caused a once-in-a-lifetime disruption to the labour market, and we've been able to use the comprehensive welfare system that we have to provide emergency support to Australians who have found themselves in conditions of unemployment. As the Prime Minister has so eloquently said, the comeback in our economy is already underway, and that means we no longer have to rely exclusively on the supports that have sustained our economy and our people during the last 12 months. Importantly, the coronavirus supplement will come to an end on 31 March, and, in its place, in recognition that there are challenges ahead for some, permanent changes will be made to our social security system. As at 1 April, 1.95 million Australians who are currently accessing working-age payments will see a permanent $50 per fortnight increase in their rate of payment. That includes 1.25 million Australians who receive the JobSeeker payment, 334,500 parenting payment recipients, 178,900 students and—I know the industry minister will be pleased to hear this—134,500 apprentices. It also applies to 36,500 Austudy recipients, and that number also includes youth allowance recipients. All of those will get the payment. As the Prime Minister has said, this is the single biggest year-on-year increase in 35 years—a 9.7 per cent increase. In addition, we're also permanently increasing the amount of money that jobseekers can earn before they lose a cent of payment, with an income-free area of up to $150 per fortnight. This is all designed to give Australians greater support and confidence to get out and maintain employment.

There are 14,284 Australians who live on the Gold Coast who are single, who have full capacity to work and who have no dependants. The new payment is designed to give those Australians the opportunity and the confidence to get out there and find a job as our comeback roars into life. We believe these payments are fair. We believe they're sustainable. It is a great balance between those who need support in looking for work and, of course, the taxpayers who fund this support. It's about getting the balance right, and we believe this measure does exactly that. We're also extending the waiver for the ordinary waiting period until 30 June this year so that any individuals who find themselves unemployed will be able to access those payments quickly and effectively. I'm looking forward to the House fully embracing these landmark reforms.