2GB

Topics: Social Security Payments, waiting periods for newly arrived migrants

E&OE:

RAY HADLEY: Now there has been an announcement made about waiting periods changing for newly arrived residents in Australia.

The Minister for Families and Social Services, the Federal Minister is Paul Fletcher and the Minister is on the line right now and he’ll be going on about it. G’day Minister.

PAUL FLETCHER: Good to be with you Ray.

RAY HADLEY: I’ve just received this overnight and it seems to be something that I think most of my listeners would agree with: changes will generally apply to people granted a permanent or skilled family visa on or after 1 January 2019. Now, can you outline what you’re doing in government?

PAUL FLETCHER: Well what we’re doing here is changing the rules for who is eligible for social security payments such as the Newstart Allowance. And the rule will now be that if you arrived in Australia on a permanent skilled visa or a family visa, you’ll need to wait for four years before you would be eligible to get a working age payment such as the Newstart Allowance.

Now the thinking here is that we spend $176 billion a year on social security and welfare and we need to be fair to those people who depend on that and to the taxpayers who pay for it. So what we’re trying to do is target welfare to where it’s most needed and people who arrive on these skilled visas, often they’ve got jobs lined up, they’re people who’ve got good prospects of work, so we think this makes sense and it’s going to save taxpayers $1.3 billion by making this change.  And so that’ll come into place from 1 January.

RAY HADLEY: Now, I’ve got the line here – for new migrants granted permanent residency from 1 January 2019, the newly arrived residents waiting period will increase for certain payments and concession cards.

So it’s not just about people arriving here with visas to work, it’s for other people as well obviously.

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, so it’s people who arrive in Australia, the question is – how long do you have to be here before you’re eligible to rely on Australia’s social security system.

Now what we hope and expect is that people who are coming here to Australia to make a better life, they’re here because they’ve got skills, they want to work and in the main that’s exactly what happens.

At the same time, what we need to do is make sure that we’re targeting our social welfare system so it’s available for those in need vulnerable Australians who need support, but making sure that we can continue to have a sustainable system.

You know, under the previous Labor Government, the cost of social security and welfare was going up each year at around six per cent, roughly double the rate at which revenue was growing.

Now you can’t keep putting more money out the door than is coming in in that way, that’s just unsustainable. So we’ve now got the welfare system sustainable, it’s growing each year, the amount we spend is growing each year, but it’s growing each year less than the amount of revenue the Government receives is growing, so it’s sustainable. That’s very important.

RAY HADLEY: Okay. The waiting period will be four years for working age payments such as Newstart, Concession Cards, Low Income Health Care card; two years for Carer Payments, Parental Leave Pay and Dad and Partner Pay; and one year for Carer Allowance and Family Tax Benefit Part A.

I think my listeners will be interested, during the last Labor Government, we had 50,000 people arrive here illegally, many of them find themselves in the community; will they be subjected if you’re in government beyond 2019 to the same sort of restrictions as are enunciated here?

PAUL FLETCHER: What we’ve done is we’ve targeted this to those, as you say, on a permanent, skilled or a family visa.

If you come in under the humanitarian program, that’s a relatively small number of people and they’re people who generally are not here because of their skilled working capacity, but because of the terrible situation in the countries that they’re coming from. So we’ve not applied it to those people.

We’ve targeted it to people who are coming here who’ve got good capacity to work and have a proven record – you know, our record of people coming to Australia and working is very good.

RAY HADLEY: Sure.

PAUL FLETCHER: So it doesn’t make sense to do that for people who are coming because they’ve been chosen, not on the basis of a capacity to work, but because they’re the 12,000 or so people a year that we are helping because they’ve come from UN High Commissioner for Refugees…

RAY HADLEY: Well I guess what I’m asking, just if we can fast forward or go backwards.

We had 50,000 people arrive here as economic refugees – some were legitimate refugees, but mainly economic refugees. If the situation were to be replicated - and it won’t be with your government in power, I wouldn’t think, but if it were to be replicated, could these people access these payments immediately they landed in Australia, if they were granted residency in any way, shape or form?

PAUL FLETCHER: Well the key point Ray is we’re making no changes to the current arrangements in terms of people arriving on those visas as part of what’s announced today.

And the best thing we can do and what we will continue to do is maintain strong border protection so that people know if they try and get on a boat and come to Australia, we’ll turn back boats where it’s safe to do so and people will not get settlement on the mainland.

So that is our policy, we’ve been very consistent on that and as you rightly say 50,000 people arrived under the last government, 1200 people that we know of drowned at sea; it’s very, very important that we address it.

RAY HADLEY: Okay. Appreciate your time. Thanks for explaining it for us.

PAUL FLETCHER: Thanks Ray.

RAY HADLEY: Paul Fletcher, Minister for Families and Social Services.

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