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senate vote 2018-12-03#11

Edited by mackay

on 2018-12-21 14:23:59

Title

  • Bills — Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Promoting Sustainable Welfare) Bill 2018; Second Reading
  • Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Promoting Sustainable Welfare) Bill 2018 - Second Reading - Agree with bill's main idea

Description

  • <p class="speaker">Rex Patrick</p>
  • <p>As my colleague Senator Griff outlined last week, Centre Alliance is not, and was never going to, support the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Promoting Sustainable Welfare) Bill 2018. Non-humanitarian permanent migrants already have a higher work participation rate and lower reliance on social services than the general population. They contribute to Australia's social fabric and economic prosperity, lifting the three Ps: population, participation and productivity. They should not be penalised if an unforeseen incident arises after their arrival. Starting a life in a new country is hard enough and, if things don't run smoothly, you may need a helping hand. If you can't find a job as quickly as you expected, or the company you're working for closes down, you could find yourself facing dire financial circumstances. That, of course, is risky for a new permanent resident&#8212;especially one with dependants&#8212;if there is no safety net on the horizon.</p>
  • <p>This bill will introduce a two-year wait for parental leave, carer payment and dad and partner payments. It also doubles the wait for a number of working age benefits to four years&#8212;that is, four years before new residents can claim Newstart or youth allowance, sickness or bereavement allowances, Austudy or parenting payments. These wait times have been increased due to a deal that's been done between the Labor opposition and the Liberal government. It's all because of the $1.3 billion forecast in savings. It's low-hanging fruit as far as the two alternative governments are concerned, and it's something they want to bank for election promises. But there's no reason we should make it harder for permanent migrants to make a new life here. This is a waiting game where nobody wins.</p>
  • The majority voted in favour of a [motion](https://www.openaustralia.org.au/senate/?id=2018-12-03.177.2) to agree with the main idea of the [bill](https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id:legislation/billhome/r6048). In parliamentary jargon, they voted to read the bill [for a second time](https://www.peo.gov.au/learning/fact-sheets/making-a-law.html), which means they can now discuss it in more detail.
  • ### What is the bill's main idea?
  • The bill was originally called the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Encouraging Self-sufficiency for Newly Arrived Migrants) Bill 2018. According to the [bills digest](https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/bd/bd1718a/18bd104), the bill was introduced to extend the existing [newly arrived resident’s waiting period](https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/enablers/newly-arrived-residents-waiting-period) (NARWP) for the following allowances from two to three years:
  • * carer allowance;
  • * bereavement allowance;
  • * widow allowance;
  • * parenting payment; and
  • * farm household allowance.
  • It also introduces a NARWP for:
  • * family tax benefit;
  • * parental leave pay; and
  • * dad and partner pay.
  • In other words, this bill will mean that newly arrived residents have to wait longer before they'll be eligible for these allowances.
  • <p>Instead of taking this decision based on any sound policy grounds, the government is treating new migrants as an easy source of revenue and savings, with no consideration of the impacts such a move might have on individuals and their families. As a matter of fact, on the proposed changes to the eligibility for family tax benefit part A, we think this is the first time Australia has discriminated in the way it taxes permanent residents. As pointed out during the inquiry, this could set a dangerous precedence that could be extended or applied to other sections of Australian society. Once we take this step, there's no guarantee other Australians won't be targeted down the track. For example, a future government could decide to deny family tax benefits to people under a certain age. It may also decide to extend newly arrived residents' waiting periods from four years to five, or even to 10, or exclude recent migrants from government provided health or education altogether.</p>
  • <p>For many migrants, their only safety net within this waiting period is the special benefit payment, which is paid at the Newstart or youth allowance rate. The payment is for people who cannot claim any other benefit, and successful claimants can then also access a limited range of other benefits. Many claims for the special benefit payments are rejected, and many will continue to be rejected under this bill despite its changes, leaving migrants to suffer financial hardship due to circumstances that may well be well beyond their control. They will fall through the cracks, either because they don't qualify for or don't even know about the special benefit payment.</p>
  • <p>Most, if not all, newly arrived residents aspire to become citizens. We should not be throwing obstacles in their path. We should be doing what we can to make sure they establish a successful life here in Australia and get a helping hand as needed, to ensure they do indeed prosper and contribute to Australian societies. Thank you.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">David Leyonhjelm</p>
  • <p>I rise to indicate the support of the Liberal Democrats for the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Promoting Sustainable Welfare) Bill 2018. It's a bill that delays the eligibility for welfare of migrants. Of course we support this because it is Liberal Democrats' policy. Inch by inch in recent times the government has been quietly introducing the Liberal Democrats' migration policy. That is because the Liberal Democrats' migration policy is eminently sensible. The Liberal Democrats believe that migrants should have to meet health, criminal and character tests as is the case now, but on top of that they should have to pay an entry fee to reflect the fact that they have not contributed to paying for the infrastructure that they will soon enjoy, which has been paid for by other Australians via their taxes. The government has moved towards this by increasing existing visa charges. By charging migrants for entry, we will increase the productivity of migrants as those who have no hope of recouping the entry fee by getting a well-paid job will be dissuaded from coming.</p>
  • <p>Another element of the Liberal Democrats' migration policy is to remove the eligibility for welfare of migrants other than refugees. This will further increase the productivity of migrants as it will further dissuade those who have no hope of getting a well-paid job from coming. Those migrants who are confirmed to be refugees don't come here by choice, so they should not be subject to an entry fee or restrictions on access to welfare. I am in favour of Australia's refugee program provided we accept refugees who have nowhere else to go and are keen to integrate. For this reason I oppose Senator Anning's amendment, which attempts to restrict the existing access to welfare for genuine refugees.</p>
  • <p>Migrants have made a huge contribution to Australia in the past. In the future their contribution could be even greater and their entry welcomed by incumbent Australians, but that is far more likely if we continue down the path of the Liberal Democrats' migration policy to further improve the productivity of migrants.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>