Centrelink’s changed polyamory rule offers extra benefits

Services Australia is under scrutiny for its use of password-bypassing software to investigate potentially fraudulent payments to singles, but there is one relationship rule that was quietly changed several years ago and which benefits those involved.

Polyamory – having more than one consenting ‘life partner’– is, for many people, a concept that sounds like it would be more trouble than it’s worth. But, unlike polygamy – being married to more than one partner – it is legal in Australia and practised by those with certain religious or cultural beliefs.

As it turns out, polyamory can also provide those involved with certain financial advantages, thanks to a little-known law change.

The change was legislated nearly five years ago, but came to prominence in recent weeks via a Parliament of Australia blog post. (Who knew parliamentary blog posts were a thing, and that they discussed such topics as polyamory?!)

Written by Parliamentary Library social policy researcher Michael Klapdor, the article is titled Centrelink no longer recognises polyamorous or multiple relationships, and reveals the fact that certain people who are part of such relationships are now considered by law to be single.

The law change dates back to 2018 and was introduced after claims that the rules provided financial advantage for polyamorous Australians. However, in certain circumstances, the new definition actually allows a person in a polyamorous relationship to claim more through Centrelink than they could before the change.

Mr Klapdor’s blog post provides an example that illustrates how the change has made that possible. He cites a theoretical polyamorous relationship between ‘Hank’ and his two partners ‘Kathryn’ and ‘Renée’, providing details of their income and children.

Under the current multiple relationship policy, while Hank and Kathryn are considered a couple, Renée would be defined as a single for social security purposes, making her eligible for a Single Parenting Payment, Family Tax Benefit Part A and Family Tax Benefit Part B.

In the example given, this would potentially allow Renée to claim about $27,400 per year.

That is not likely to have been the intended consequence of those who called for change back in 2016 and 2017. Among those making that call were Senators Cory Bernardi and Pauline Hanson and former chief of staff to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin.

Mr Abbott was reportedly told that the policy changes he advocated, which were adopted in 2018, would result in a greater payment through the single-income benefits. Mr Abbott was no longer the PM when the policy change was legislated.

The change was made official on 28 August 2018 when a section of the Social Security Guide was deleted, and another section altered to state multiple relationships were not recognised by the social security system.

Whether the change was related to the installation of Scott Morrison as prime minister on the day of the change, or the replacement of Dan Tehan by Paul Fletcher four days earlier, remains a matter of conjecture.

Thanks to Mr Klapdor’s revelation, anyone entering a polyamorous relationship now knows of a potential financial benefit. Whether they believe that will make such a relationship worthwhile remains another matter altogether.

Were you aware of the complexities involved in polyamorous relationships? What do you think of the current policy as it stands? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Also read: Can marriage save you from dementia?

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. So if you’re single you get paid the ‘single rate’ in any benefit.
    If you are a member of a couple you get paid a lower rate than a single but there are two of you so you are paid a combined rate of the two payments.
    If you are polyamorous, NOW, you get THREE individual payments??!! Depending on how many wiv3s you have.
    How is this fair? AND, How many families does this affect?
    These types of families probably have upwards of a dozen kids also … increasing the burden on the system also.

  2. So pensioners get screwed over for having a little savings or work to many hours, but you can have a harem and get your wives who are classed as single to get multiple payments from the tax payer coffers and live like kings. Is this what our social security system is meant for, i think not. Time for the law makers to right this and make these cultural family units be like everyone else and only claim what is fair to all.

    • ImOKJack and Handyman18, I totally agree. Now that this added “benefit” has been revealed, there will be plenty of so-called tripled “partners” , lots of plans to “triple” partnerships even if that is not the present situation with folks…….because here is an excellent pathway (more like an offer to rort) to getting what I would call “free money”. This is not right, it is not ethical. Above all it is not fair to us pensioners who have already paid their taxes and continue to do so by way of the government’s “means tested fee” that are taken from our own hard earned savings and other sly fees. In this critical time of trying to “build our economy”, the government should be looking at so many other pressing issues affecting our elderly, our disabled and disadvantaged Australians, and diverting benefits – monetary or otherwise, towards their needs….. not towards some third individual in a “polyamorous” cultural engineered get together threesome – and yes, I do use that term with some degree of cynicism. We really need to push back in a strong voice against this very wrong and unfair ruling.

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