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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 2876

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (10:01): I rise to speak on the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Income Support and Other Measures) Bill 2012. This bill seeks to implement a range of income support measures as set out by the government's Building Australia's Future Workforce package. The government is seeking to change the age requirements for social security payments and to propose an increase in the maximum age for youth allowance non-student recipients from 21 to 22 years of age. This would seek to cover any person who is at least 22 years old and who is not a full-time student or a new apprentice or someone who is undertaking less than 12 months study following a period on the Newstart allowance. Schedule 1 of the bill proposes that the same minimum age qualification of 22 years of age be reflected for Newstart allowance recipients.

Schedule 1 of this bill will also seek to amend and increase (1) the age of qualification for youth disability supplement; (2) minimum qualification age for sickness allowance; and (3) the minimum qualifi­cation age for the long-term income support rate. All three are currently set at 21 years of age and will increase to 22 years of age, with transitional arrangements provided for. This is set to apply from 1 July.

In the opposition's view, this package is rather piecemeal, with not much courage and not much innovation. This bill proposes changes to the eligibility rules for 'grand­fathered' parenting payment recipients—parents who have been continuously receiv­ing parenting payments since before 1 July 2006. Currently, grandfathered recipients are eligible for the parenting payment until their youngest child turns 16 years of age, provided that that child was in their care before 1 July 2011. From 1 July 2011 onwards, any new child born to or cared for by a grandfathered recipient will not extend that recipient's grandfathered status.

As such, this bill seeks to change the age of eligibility so that, from 1 January 2013, grandfathered recipients will no longer be eligible for parenting payment when the youngest eligible child in their care before 1 July 2011 turns 16 years if the child was born before 1 January 2000; 13 years if the child was born between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2000; or 12 years if the child was born on or after 1 January 2001—except now, instead of supporting their own legislation, the government appear to be backsliding. They are slashing the age of eligibility for parenting payments from 12 to eight years of age, claiming a $700 million saving—another fiddle on the road to surplus, I guess.

The opposition do not view this bill as serious social security reform. The bill does contain a number of other minor measures. But with those few observations, and despite them, I indicate that the opposition will not be opposing the bill.