The Federal Government hopes to save $119 million over four years by restricting pension access to elderly migrants – a new bill that ethnic and welfare groups say is unfair.
The new bill, which was brought before the House of Representatives, would require migrants to have 15 years continued residence in Australia or 10 years if migrants have spent five years of their life working in Australia, or have not claimed other forms of welfare for five years.
Currently, any migrant who becomes an Australian resident can access a pension after a total of 10 years, five of which must be continuous.
The changes to the current set up would essentially punish migrants who have previously received activity tested forms of welfare such as Newstart.
Matt Butt from the National Social Security Rights network has warned that action of this kind was “unprecedented” in the history of Australia’s social security system.
“We think the proposal that’s in the budget is harsh and unfair,” Butt said. “The particular reason it’s unfair is because some of the people affected by it will be in severe hardship through no fault of their own, and/or have their access to the pension delayed through no fault of their own.”
The changes are expected to affect two per cent of all pension recipients. Migrants made ineligible under the new laws could still receive a payment called the “special benefit” that is a poverty level payment aimed at short-term relief.
“The community expects that migrants to Australia should be self-sufficient or rely on family members for support and should not expect to be supported by Australian taxpayers, particularly if they arrive close to retirement age or have been a long-term recipient of an activity tested payment, such as Newstart allowance,” said a spokeswoman for Social Services Minister, Christian Porter.
What do you think? Should we be making it tougher for migrants that now call Australia home to claim an Age Pension? Should the stipulation that targets those on a Newstart allowance be scrapped?