Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Baby Bonus and Maternity Immunisation Allowance reforms make system fairer and simpler

Changes to the Baby Bonus and the Maternity Immunisation Allowance (MIA) commencing from 1 January 2009 will create a fairer and simpler system.

The Baby Bonus will now be paid in 13 fortnightly instalments of around $385 replacing the lump sum payment.

Fortnightly payments will allow the Government to support parents of newborn children over an extended period and help ensure funds are available as the bills come in.

The Baby Bonus was increased to a total of $5,000 on 1 July 2008, and will now be indexed on the first day of July each year.

A family income test will apply to the Baby Bonus to target government assistance to families who need it most.

The payments will be limited to families with incomes of $75,000 or less in the six months following the birth or adoption of a child which occurs on or after 1 January 2009. This is equivalent to a family income of $150,000 a year.

The post-birth income test takes into account the fact that family income is often reduced at this time because one parent may not be working as much as usual, and ensures the timing of the birth within a financial year does not arbitrarily affect a family’s eligibility.

The vast majority of families will still qualify for the Baby Bonus. Around 94 per cent of families will still qualify for the Baby Bonus.

Assessments will not be revisited if financial circumstances change in the six month assessment period.

No debts will be raised for unforeseen changes in income. Debts will only be raised where compliance checks reveal that a person has knowingly provided false or misleading information.

Eligibility for the Baby Bonus will be extended to people who adopt children aged between two to 16 years of age, which will help with the set-up costs of adopting a child.

The time limit for claiming the Baby Bonus will increase from 26 to 52 weeks from the child’s birth or, in the case of adoption, from the child coming into the person’s care.

The Baby Bonus reforms will result in net savings of $354.5 million over four years.

The Maternity Immunisation Allowance will be split, and two separate payments will be made. Payment will be made when a child is appropriately immunised between the ages of 18 months and two years, and again between the ages of four and five years.

The changes to the Maternity Immunisation Allowance will encourage parents to have their children fully immunised before beginning school and brings the payment more closely into line with the National Immunisation Program.

Among the important immunisations currently recommended for four-year-olds are diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, mumps, German measles and polio.

The MIA payment will also now be extended to cover children adopted from outside Australia who enter Australia before turning 16, and who meet Australian immunisation requirements within a reasonable timeframe.

This provides incentive for a greater number of families to ensure children adopted from overseas are appropriately immunised within a reasonable timeframe.