Senate debates

Wednesday, 28 September 2022


Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Lifting the Income Limit for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card) Bill 2022; In Committee

7:00 pm

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Trade and Tourism) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move government amendments (1) to (7) on sheet UD142 together:

(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 1, column 2), omit "The day this Act receives the Royal Assent", substitute "The seventh day after this Act receives the Royal Assent".

(2) Schedule 1, item 4, page 3 (lines 14 and 15), omit "2022 and 2023 (see subsections 1192(5BA) and (5BB))", substitute "2023 (see subsection 1192(5BB))".

(3) Schedule 1, item 5, page 3 (lines 18 and 19), omit subsection 1192(5BA).

(4) Schedule 1, item 9, page 4 (lines 10 and 11), omit "on 20 September 2023 and each later 20 September", substitute "annually on 20 September".

(5) Schedule 1, item 10, page 4 (lines 13 to 16), to be opposed.

(6) Schedule 1, item 11, page 4 (line 20), omit "20 September 2022", substitute "the day this item commences".

(7) Schedule 1, item 11, page 4 (lines 23 and 24), omit "20 September 2022", substitute "the day this item commences".

I refer to the amendments that the minister has proposed to the original legislation that stemmed from the delay to the original starting date as a result of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. This government amendment changes the commencement date for legislation to enact the government's election commitments to increase the income limits for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card to $90,000 for singles and $144,000 for couples, and that's a combined amount of money.

Due to the suspension of parliament following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the bill to implement this commitment could not be passed in time for the increase to be implemented on 20 September 2022 as intended. To minimise any further delays, this amendment will allow the increase to the income limits to take effect seven days following royal assent to the bill. This is the minimum time required by Services Australia to finalise the required systems and business processes once the final date is known. The Commonwealth seniors card income limits are indexed each year on 20 September, according to movements in the consumer price index. The existing bill would have replaced indexation on 20 September 2022 with these significant one-off increases.

As the bill did not pass, indexation of the limits proceeded on 20 September, as required by existing law. This amendment, therefore, also removes material that would have prevented annual indexation for 2022. Following indexation on 20 September 2022, the income limits for the Commonwealth seniors card are currently $61,284 for singles and $98,054 for couples, and that's a combined amount. The bill, as amended, will still raise the income limits, only to the intended levels of $90,000 for singles and $144,000 combined for couples. The bill includes amendments to both the Social Security Act 1991 and the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 to ensure the same income limits apply for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card under each act.

Like other Australians, many self-funded retirees are facing increased cost-of-living pressures in the current economic environment. This bill helps to ease those pressures by allowing more self-funded retirees to access Australian government health concessions, including concessional co-payments for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines, the concessional threshold for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme safety net and the extended Medicare safety net, and bulk-billed visits to a general practitioner at the doctor's discretion. The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card also provides access to other concessions that may be provided by state and territory governments and private organisations. This bill is expected to allow more than 50,000 self-funded retirees to become newly eligible for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. The Albanese government will continue to work tirelessly to support older Australians with cost-of-living pressures.


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