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Friday, 17 December 1993
Page: 4986


Senator WOODLEY (3.05 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

1.Clause 5, page 5, proposed subsection 660XBA(2), lines 33 to 36, omit the subsection.

2.Clause 5, page 6, proposed subsection 660XBA(3), lines 1 to 9, omit the subsection.

3.Clause 5, page 6, proposed section 660XBA, after subsection (1), insert:

"(1A) The qualifications in paragraphs (1)(c) and (1)(d) do not apply if the person has previously received mature age allowance or mature age partner allowance.".

These amendments seek to enhance the operation of the mature age allowance. We welcome the introduction of this allowance in recognition of the disadvantaged position of older unemployed people, but we believe these amendments are necessary to maximise its usefulness.

  The government estimates that when the allowance is introduced in March next year, around 26,000 newstart recipients will become eligible for the new payment. Importantly, recipients of the allowance will also qualify for the fringe benefits—the earnings credit scheme and the taxation rebate—which are currently available to age pensioners.

  The position of older unemployed people is of great concern to the Australian Democrats and I note that the green paper, released yesterday, provides some concrete options for these people. As I said in my speech on the second reading, under the proposed scheme a mature age allowance recipient will be able to undertake work for periods of up to 13 weeks and then return automatically to the allowance. That is all well and good. If, however, they should work for longer than 13 weeks, they will be required to serve yet another 12 months on income support before requalifying for the mature age allowance. We believe the 13-week limit is too restrictive and may have the effect of dissuading allowance recipients from taking work offered to them.

  Clearly, people will be reluctant to undertake a few months work if it then means they will have to go back to the jobsearch allowance and fulfil the activity test which that allowance requires for a further 12 months. We feel it is essential to allow mature age allowance recipients to undertake longer periods of work and requalify for the allowance automatically if their work should conclude before they reach the age pension age.

  Having already spent 12 months on income support, it is simply unfair to expect these older people to have to do so again. As such, the amendments will provide that where people have previously qualified for the mature age allowance, they may undertake work for any period and then return immediately to the allowance on the completion of that work. I understand the opposition intends to support these amendments and I welcome its support.