Government toying with major reform to Centrelink payments

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The federal government is reportedly considering streamlining welfare payments into a single payment for unemployed Australians receiving multiple supplements and subsidies.

According to The Australian, the government is investigating its options for a permanent rise in the JobSeeker base rate, with significant reform expected to accompany any increase to JobSeeker payments once the $150 coronavirus supplement expires at the end of March.

A suggestion made during a cabinet expenditure review committee meeting last week could lead to a permanent rise in the JobSeeker base payment, which is currently $565 a fortnight for a single non-renter with no dependants.

A senior government source told The Australian that a streamlined payment would replace low value supplements available to unemployed Australians and combine them into one single increased payment.

Read more: Services Australia using COVID-19 to transform Centrelink

This option would mean scrapping more than 20 supplements and replacing them with four new well-targeted payments, as suggested in the 2014 McClure review.

Every JobSeeker recipient receives a fortnightly energy supplement.

Many JobSeeker recipients are eligible for a list of low-value supplements including the pharmaceutical allowance, telephone allowance, literacy supplement and utilities allowances.

Around half of all JobSeeker recipients also qualify for rent assistance and family tax benefits

These high-value supplements would likely stay under any reform plan.

A permanent lift to the JobSeeker base rate would favour those receiving the maximum benefits.

The government has been hounded by calls from welfare lobby groups and the Reserve Bank for a permanent increase to the JobSeeker base rate once the COVID-19 supplement ends.

Read more: JobSeeker cuts to hit older Australians hardest

Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy said consideration was “more about the decision government needed to make about adequacy of the payment and how it intersects with incentives to work”.

Whatever the decision, most of those on welfare payments should be better off, said the government.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will today release new Australia Taxation Office (ATO) data showing more than 2.13 million Australians were off JobKeeper payments by the end of 2020.

He also claimed the government had created 785,000 jobs in the past seven months and that more than 90 per cent of the 1.3 million jobs lost during the pandemic have been restored.

Read more: Older Aussies falling through the cracks in ‘silent crisis’

“With our economic recovery well under way, we have more than half a million businesses employing more than two million Australians graduating off JobKeeper,” said Mr Frydenberg.

While the end of March will see the end of the $150 per fortnight coronavirus supplements for JobSeeker recipients, the end of February is the cut-off date for the second of two $250 payments made to the following welfare recipients:

  • Age Pension
  • Carer Allowance
  • Carer Payment
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
  • Disability Support Pension
  • Double Orphan Pension
  • Family Tax Benefit
  • Pensioner Concession Card
  • National Seniors Australia has also advised self-funded retirees to check their eligibility for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, and therefore their ability to claim the handout too.

While you may not have been eligible for the payment in 2020, Challenger’s chairman of retirement income Jeremy Cooper suggests now may be the time to review your finances to see if you qualify.

“Prudent retirees, whether they be 66 or 88, need to regularly revisit their financial position to determine whether they are receiving the maximum Age Pension income they are eligible for,” Mr Cooper told YourLifeChoices in the February 2021 Retirement Affordability Index.

“The March federal government support payment is a good example. There would be some retirees who would not have been able to access the Age Pension in December 2020, when the first $250 payment was made, but may now be eligible under the assets test.”

What do you think of streamlining Centrelink payments into four major payment categories? Will streamlining welfare payments make your life easier?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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35 Comments

Total Comments: 35
  1. 7
    0

    Amything that makes Centrelink interactions with ‘people’ easier, is a welcome change. As long as they are not ‘ripping us off’ Whe am I so synical.

  2. 6
    0

    Only concern is that they will ‘hide’ a meagre increase in JobSeeker by streamlining existing subsidies. Transparency is key.

  3. 4
    0

    Easier sounds good but … whenever I see the term ‘simplify’ applied to anything to do with Centrelink I think Robodebt, confusion, conflicting information from anyone from that dept., anything but simplify. I think the dictionary needs a separate category of ‘simplify’ for anything relating to Government departments! Yes, my middle name is ‘sceptical’.

    • 5
      0

      Really? Does anyone really believe this waffle? To say they ae ‘considering streamlining’ – since when does the government – any government, no matter which party – ever make it easier & less complicated? Their first and foremost thought will be ‘how can we get away with giving them less?’ THAT will be their main criteria.

    • 2
      0

      Amen to that! The debacle with the recent defrauding of many Australians should be enough for even Blind Freddy to see through these “going to fix it all” claims. It’s not the system, it’s the PEOPLE who claim to ‘honestly and transparently’ run it!

  4. 7
    0

    Whatever this LNP govt does will, in the end, save them welfare money, so be prepared – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. The fine print in these so called reforms always reveals the bad news, but is never reflected in the headline propaganda released by the govt. Cynical? so am I!

  5. 4
    0

    Totally agree with Bushbaby, I also smell a rat here. Those of us who are on unemployment benefits, need TRANSPENANCY, and I can see this ending up being a “snow-job” to appease the masses in calling for an increase in the $40/day payment, I want to know exactly what I’m getting and how it’s calculated. Quote: “those on welfare payments *SHOULD* be better off??…” I’ll wait and see if I’m right here, because anything to do with “Centrelink” is designed to frustrate the “S” out of those on it!

  6. 7
    5

    The Age Pension is NOT welfare. We paid for it.

    • 4
      6

      No you didn’t! It’s welfare.

    • 2
      5

      Yes the pension is welfare……just like corporate welfare,something we hear very little about.

    • 4
      2

      in 1948 a national tax levy was imposed to provide an Age Pension Fund. In later years when the Menzies government was short of money they slyly moved the fund into consolidated revenue. All my tax life I paid that levy, I’ve paid for my pension. Not my problem that politicians spent the money on their entitlements.

    • 0
      0

      That national levy was a scam from the start. It was nothing but a more palatable way of raising taxes.

    • 0
      0

      Hobbit it is a pity that they used all the money paid to them by us and now look on sole pensioners as users and keep them at the bottom of the list $250 wont even pay a specialist bill.

    • 0
      0

      Machete, we did pay for it and back in the 1940’s the then Prime Minister said that money would always be paid into a scheme to benefit all working people in retirement. Just because our government uses it for other uses is not my or your fault.

    • 0
      0

      Pension is not welfare and never has been , it a payment we all have contributed to from our taxes over all our working lives. well before the introduction of super schemes ,now all that money has just been eroded away by Governments .And the worst part of the whole scenario is politicians keep there snouts in the troughs while those that struggle need to go with out . Capitalism it absolutely stinks

  7. 4
    0

    “What do you think of streamlining Centrelink payments into four major payment categories? Will streamlining welfare payments make your life easier?”

    Any simplification of Centrelink payments is a welcome step forward and is to be supported although I can’t see that our position will change. As regards JobSeeker payments, the doubling of payments because of the pandemic was always going to create a problem once the payment was taken away. There have been many groups claiming that JobSeeker is too low and now is the time to make an adjustment to the current figure to assist when the supplement is withdrawn.

    • 1
      0

      The real issue of course is one that has never actually been given to the Australian people: an HONEST system that defrauds nobody. If the people operating the system are honest, the system will follow suit. Don’t believe I’ll ever see that happen.

  8. 3
    0

    It all sounds like jobseeker payment is being simplified….great,now lets see just how much the increase is or will it be delayed until the economic figures may allow it to increase.

  9. 4
    2

    Yep; scotty from marketing will make it look good then you will get bitten in the arse !!

  10. 5
    1

    Just like simplifying the industrial relations and award system the devil is in the detail, and if proposed by the Libs it wont happen unless it reduces wages, of pensions . It sounds like supplements paid to just about every recipient will be incorporated in the base rate and presented as an increase. Might be for a tiny proportion but for the rest it is just flim flam, just what you would expect from Smirky from marketing , and he is probably smirking already as he knows he will get away with it!

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