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Rates of disability and parenting pensions safe but requirements may still be stricter.



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Senator Andrew Bartlett  Senator for Queensland  Australian Democrats spokesperson for Welfare and Community Housing

Press Release Dated: 15 Mar 2000  Press Release Number: 00134ab  Portfolio: Welfare and Community Housing  Related: Disability Services   

Rates of disability and parenting pensions safe but requirements may still be stricter    The Australian Democrats welcomed an answer from the Minister for Family and Community Services, that indicate rates of pensions and benefits will not be reduced as a result of the Welfare Reform Review.  

In response to a question today from Senator Andrew Bartlett, the Democrats’ welfare spokesperson, asking the Minister to rule out reductions in the rates of disability and parenting pensions, Senator Newman said in part,“..the Prime Minister and I are not about slashing payments.……..We are not about slashing benefits and pensions.”  

“Unfortunately the Minister was not prepared to also rule out the introduction of activity tests to those on parenting payments and disability pensioners,” said Senator Bartlett.  

“This is disappointing as she has previously kept those options off the agenda.  

“Welfare reform must recognise mutual obligation is a two way street. The Government has obligations as well.  

“The public discussion of welfare reform will throw up all sorts of proposals. To prevent panic amongst welfare recipients, the Minister should rule out the more extreme. The Minister can prevent needless community concern by assuring pensioners that the rules are not going to change drastically.  

“If disability and parenting payments become harder to access, then more people are going to be subject to the activity tests that come with unemployment benefits including work for the dole schemes and applying for five jobs a week,” said Senator Bartlett.  

“The activity test hurdles for the unemployed are already too high and the Democrats will not accept that level of obligations on parents and people with disabilities. For some parents and people with disabilities, work for the dole schemes and applying for five jobs a week will not be appropriate.  

“Forcing a person with disabilities who lives in a rural area to apply for 5 jobs a week will inevitably mean forcing them to apply for jobs they have no hope of getting. This is an unnecessary expense for them and unnecessary administration for employers. It may also decrease people’s self esteem through a constant stream of rejections,” said Senator Bartlett.  

As part of the welfare reform process, one of the options is to roll unemployment benefits and disability, and parenting pensions into one payment.  

“The Democrats would support simplifying the system and unemployment benefits being brought up to the same level of disability pensions. If the payments are to be rolled into one, unemployment benefits must come up to the level of pensions, not pensions cut to the lower rate of unemployment benefits,” concluded Senator Bartlett