Minister Rishworth press conference in Adelaide


AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: I am very pleased to be here today with a number of people behind me, including Phil Martin, President of Carers South Australia. I also have Sharon from Carers South Australia and Chandra, a parent-carer with me today to announce a very positive change that the Federal Government is announcing. The Commonwealth Government has announced that we will make changes to the Carers Payment that will provide more flexibility for carers that are receiving the Carers Payment, to work, to study and to volunteer. We know that carers do an amazing job and one of the ways we support carers do that, if they're not able to work a full-time job, is through the Carers Payment. But the Carers Payment participation limit has been quite inflexible. The limit has been 25 hours a week and what this change will do is to ensure, as a result of the lobbying by Carers Australia, that change will be made to 100 hours per month. This will allow carers that care for people with episodic care needs more flexibility to work when they have the capacity to do so. Importantly, what this change will also do will exclude transport, studying and volunteering from the participation rule. What that means is that carers will be able to study when their care requirements permit, or indeed volunteer without any artificial limits being placed on it. We know through a survey by Carers Australia, that two thirds of carers do want to study in preparation for when their caring responsibilities might be reduced. This change will allow a lot more flexibility and allow carers to plan for the future. Equally we know that volunteering can be very good for someone's mental health, to allow them to get out of the house. So excluding volunteering from the participation limit allows carers to really balance volunteering they might want to do with their caring responsibilities. Two other changes are part of the announcement today. Rather than being cut off immediately from Carers Payment if you exceed the participation rules, carers will just go onto a suspension and over a six-month period can come back on at any time, rather than having to reapply through Services Australia, allowing carers flexibility to balance any study, work or other volunteering things they want to do in their lives. The final change is there will be more flexibility around when people are able to work through changes to what is called the cessation days. And this will be an important change that allows more flexibility for carers. So I might on that note, ask Phil Martin, President of Carers SA, to just make some comments and then I'll hand to Chandra as someone with lived experience.

PHIL MARTIN, PRESIDENT OF CARERS SA: Thank you Minister and good morning. On behalf of Carers SA and the broader carer network we congratulate the Minister on this significant change in flexibility. Many carers have told us that they struggled with the lack of flexibility. This will enable lots of people to get greater work opportunities and to balance their work and caring role. And the second significant piece is the ability to go onto a suspension rather than to have to reapply. This really frees people up to have a better life and caring balance and we congratulate the Minister on both of these initiatives.

CHANDRA PILE, CARER: Anything that benefits carers is going to be a win because it's a very demanding role. This is wonderful news for many people and will impact many people that I know.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us a little bit about your story, who you're caring for, how long you've been doing that?

CHANDRA PILE: I’m a parent carer for my son with special needs. He’s currently 15 and he's had special needs since before he was born. We knew he was going to have a condition when he was born and then as things went along, different things popped up. So we've been doing lots of therapy for more than 10 years. That has meant I couldn't return to my job as a classroom teacher because it's just impossible. And it takes a lot a lot of time arranging therapy and talking to schools and talking to therapists.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the hours that you're putting in, what does that look like each week?

CHANDRA PILE: When he was younger it was like 40 hours a week or more. It's less now, it's more like 10-15. So I’ll actually able to do a few more things now which is wonderful.

JOURNALIST: And how crucial has the Carers Payment been for you?

CHANDRA PILE: I get the Allowance, that’s very helpful.

JOURNALIST: How has that helped you?

CHANDRA PILE: Yeah, that helps me, I actually use it for little treats for myself and little treats for the kids.

JOURNALIST: Could you explain as well the convenience of the suspension, the changes there?

PHIL MARTIN: Many carers have expressed frustration that once they exceed the current 25 hours per month, they have to totally reapply for the payment. This initiative will enable them to much more smoothly re-access the Carer Payment which is vital for the easing of the cost-of-living pressures and vital for their work and life satisfaction.

JOURNALIST: Can you maybe as well just quickly sum up I guess why would that happen? Like what's the nature of caring that it's maybe not always the same?

PHIL MARTIN: Many people are caring for people who may have for example, a mental health issue. So the caring role will fluctuate across the month and at times of high intensity they’re not able to work, or at times when the mental health might be more in balance, they can access more but at the moment after 25 hours they have to stop, so flexibility is really important.

JOURNALIST: Does that also mean more consistent income for them?

PHIL MARTIN: Absolutely, it means that they can plan for months. Some of the workers who might be for example on shift work can predict how many hours they can work and then have some time off. And then for other carers who might be looking at supporting people who may be involved in the health sector or in aged care, they can plan those appointments ahead, knowing that their income is not going to be affected during the month.

JOURNALIST: If we’re talking about the scale, the number of carers, can you put a number on how many people out there are in this position?

PHIL MARTIN: Carers South Australia are a Carer Gateway provider and we’ve currently, in the last couple of years, we’ve provided care to more than 45,000 people. I believe this Carer Payment benefits up to 30,000 people.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: In terms of the number of people getting Carer Payment, it's about 306,000 people across Australia. Obviously not all of our carers are in a position to work or study. But for those that do, then there is this really big opportunity. Close to 70 per cent of carers did say they were interested in taking up study and wanted to see the barriers to studying reduced because of course they were thinking long-term about when their caring responsibilities may be reduced. And as Chandra said, they do reduce over time and so having a plan about what you might do next is really important. So this change, that excludes study from the participation rules, would really have the potential to support many people.

JOURNALIST: Minister Rishworth, you said that carers are often saying they want to work more hours. So why did you not increase the limit above 100 hours?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We've got to be clear that the Carers Payment is an income support payment. It is designed to support people that are not working as a result of their caring responsibilities. In addition, there are opportunities for people to supplement their Carers Payment with an income. What we wanted to do is make it more flexible, to allow for those episodic caring responsibilities to fit better into work responsibilities, but in addition, we clearly heard that whether it's study, whether it is volunteering, that those shouldn't be part of the participation roles because they are activities that people want to engage in. In preparation, potentially, for life after their caring responsibilities do go down.

JOURNALIST: Minister, Peter Dutton just vowed to call a Royal Commission into domestic violence if he wins the next election. Is a royal commission something you would support?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I’m not aware of what Peter Dutton’s specific proposal is, but I will be very, very clear that I have been speaking with victim-survivors, I've been speaking with advocates. The Domestic and Family Violence Commissioner has been speaking also with many people impacted by domestic and family violence. And their message is very clear. Back in the National Plan because that has been informed by victim-survivors, that has been informed by all states and territories and is our national roadmap. Indeed the comments made by Rosie Batty publicly - that it is not time for a royal commission. It is time to back in our National Plan and all work together to end the scourge of domestic and family violence.

JOURNALIST: As far as the three bodies found in northern Mexico, has the Australian Government had any confirmation as to them belonging to Jake and Callum Robinson?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Obviously the news that we have two missing Australians in Mexico is deeply upsetting and deeply disturbing. My thoughts are with their family. At this stage, DFAT is providing consular assistance to the families and also working with authorities in Mexico, and I have no doubt that the Minister and authorities will have more to say when anything is confirmed.

JOURNALIST: Has there been anything confirmed?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Not that I am aware. That’s the only comment I can make. I understand that DFAT is working very closely, providing consular assistance to the families and working with Mexican authorities.

JOURNALIST: Just returning to domestic violence. There has been a lot of criticism that the $925 million announced this week doesn't go far enough to support frontline services. Can we expect that there'll be more funding to eradicate violence against women in the Budget?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, let's be clear. The funding for family domestic and sexual violence is a joint responsibility between the states and the Commonwealth. Of course, the announcement that we made around making the Leaving Violence Payment permanent is just one of the billions of dollars of investment that we've put into family domestic and sexual violence. We will keep working with states and territories on both the policy and the programs. One of the clear messages that I've been working on with the states and territories is to ensure that the frontline workers, the 500 frontline workers that the Commonwealth has funded states and territories to deliver, are delivered on time.

JOURNALIST: Is the Immigration Minister in hiding?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I would say when it comes to the circumstance, the very tragic circumstance of the woman in Perth that was assaulted, I put out my sympathies to her. And recognise that this difficult work, as a result of the High Court decision, is being carried out by the Community Protection Board and I expect them to continue to do their work.

JOURNALIST: Has the authority created to protect the community, that being the Community Protection Board, failed in its duty here?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The Community Protection Board has been set up with experts that examine each and every case and look at the evidence before them.
Of course, they then provide important recommendations about the way forward. That's important work. It needs to continue to happen to ensure that the community is safe. I just need to remind everyone that the situation we are faced with is a result of the High Court decision to release these detainees and we're putting everything in place to ensure that the community is safe.

JOURNALIST: Was it right for the PM to blame the Community Protection Board for approving the removal of an ankle bracelet when it was actually Andrew Giles own delegates?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Let's be clear that Community Protection Board is independent of politicians. They examine the evidence and they of course, make informed recommendations. The Community Protection Board is set up with experts in the field and I expect them to continue to do that important work.

JOURNALIST: But should it be the Minister or the Community Protection Board who decides whether or not to remove a former detainee’s ankle bracelet?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This Community Protection Board has been set up to review each individual case, to look at the evidence, and those that did on that Community Protection Board have the expertise to examine this, so they make recommendations and they provide advice going forward and it's important that we let them continue to do that work.

JOURNALIST: Is it fair, I suppose that you're answering these questions and not Andrew Giles or Clare O’Neil?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I am very pleased to be here today to talk about Carers Payment and of course, as a Government Minister, I'm happy to answer your questions as well.

JOURNALIST: Is the Minister, I guess, passing the responsibility of this on?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Minister O'Neil and Minister Giles have been working very hard, particularly in response to this High Court decision. I remind people that we vigorously oppose this High Court decision. But we have to abide by the law and so, as a result, we've got Minister Giles and Minister O'Neil working very hard to ensure that we do everything to keep the community safe.