Media Release by The Hon Christian Porter MP

New migrant welfare access to reinforce residence-based welfare

Measures designed to promote enhanced long-term financial independence and self-sufficiency for newly arrived migrants are among changes announced in today’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, said the measures would further strengthen Australia’s social security system.

The changes for newly arrived migrants will extend the current two-year waiting period for a range of welfare payments, such as Newstart, to three years, and introduce a consistent new three-year waiting period to apply to a further number of benefits such as Family Tax Benefit and Paid Parental Leave.

The measures will not apply to humanitarian entrants or vulnerable families who will continue to be exempt from waiting periods for welfare payments.

The new arrangements will apply to new migrants, primarily those arriving on permanent skilled and family visas from 1 July 2018, subject to the passage of legislation.

“Australia has a strong welfare system to provide support for people in need, including during periods of transition such as unemployment and to meet the costs of raising children,” the Minister said.

“Australia currently settles about 186,000 new migrants a year, almost 69 per cent of whom are skilled migrants.

“Australia’s migration system has long had a strong focus on skilled-migration to attract people with the skills and talent to help build Australia’s economy, increase productivity and create jobs.

“That means the majority of new permanent skilled migrants come to Australia to work and contribute to the Australian economy and community before gaining access to welfare payments.

“There is no doubt new migrants are attracted to the Australian way of life and our highly successful multicultural society and the opportunities our vibrant, growing economy offers them.

“These measures announced today will reinforce the foundational principle that Australians’ expectation of newly arrived migrants is that they contribute socially and economically for a reasonable period before having access to our nation’s generous welfare system.

“Australia already has a residence-based welfare system. For the majority of welfare payments, potential applicants are currently required to be in Australia for a certain period of time before being eligible.

“I suspect many Australians would be surprised to learn that for a number of welfare payments, new migrants can currently, immediately access some payments, such as Family Tax Benefit and Paid Parental Leave.”

The Minister said specific exemptions to the new waiting periods would apply to people or families in vulnerable situations, such as those affected by domestic violence or marital breakdown.

Special Benefit, generally paid at the same rate as Newstart Allowance, will continue to be available to those in financial crisis and who do not qualify for other income support payments.

The new measures do not affect new migrants’ access to other government-provided services such as health care through Medicare and education.

“New migrants will also still have access to child care subsidies which help families take part in work, study or training,” the Minister said.

“These changes reflect the Government’s commitment to ensuring that Australia has a strong, sustainable and needs-based social security system.”

These measures will save $1.3 billion over the period to 2020-21.

When fully implemented in 2020-21, approximately 50,000 families would potentially be serving a waiting period for family payments and approximately 30,000 people would be serving waiting periods for other payments.

Other key measures in MYEFO in Social Services include:

  • Additional funding to the Commonwealth Redress Scheme for Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, with $52.1 million allocated to Redress Support Services over three years from 2018-19. As announced last week, these services will provide support and assistance during the application process for people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse.
  • $22.8 million over four years from 2017-18 to implement the agreement to bring Western Australia into the national NDIS.
  • Extending existing higher income threshold pauses for Family Tax Benefit (FTB) and Paid Parental Leave and pausing indexation of the FTB supplements until 1 July 2021.
  • Streamlining and integrating welfare payments and debt recovery activities to allow the repayment of social security debts from lump sum and other non-fortnightly payments of Family Tax Benefit.
  • Continuing commitment to families through the continuation of the Children and Parent Support Services, which are being extended until 30 June 2020.
  • $14.9 million to establish an Australia-wide worker screening process for the NDIS, including a centralised database of NDIS workers with clearance and those who have been denied a clearance. This will increase efficiency by allowing workers to be able to move interstate and across employers without needing to be re-screened. The database will be hosted by the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.
  • Reversals. The Government will not proceed with unlegislated components of the 2015-16 Budget measure Strengthening the Integrity of Welfare Payments and the 2016-17 MYEFO measure Better Management of the Social Welfare System at a total cost of $581 million over four years from 2017-18.