It will come as bad news for a small minority of migrants hoping to make the most of Australia’s generous welfare programs.
But it will come as good news to Australia’s taxpaying citizens and residents, alongside the migrants who come here to work hard and build new lives.
Proposed laws to make migrants wait up to four years before being able to access any form of welfare benefit have officially passed the first stage in federal parliament.
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Why did Labor have a change of heart?
As AAP reports, the progress is all thanks to Labor’s change of heart. Originally, the opposition party were against such a lengthy waiting period. However, they recently agreed with the coalition on a range of amendments — worried that if action were not taken soon, it would be out of their hands and into those of One Nation.
Labor Frontbencher Chris Bowen told reporters in Canberra earlier this week:
‘We took the view it was better to negotiate with the government ourselves, try and get an arrangement which we could live with.’
He added that the negotiations made ultimately ‘saved hundreds of thousands’ of families from being impacted.
The amendments affect migrants who are granted a permanent skilled or family visa after 1 January next year. These individuals must wait four years before being eligible for working age payments like Newstart and concession cards.
As for carer payments, parental leave, Dad and partner pay — the wait has been extended to two years.
A carer allowance and part A of the family tax benefits can be issued after one year.
Of course, those affected are not happy with the changes. But it isn’t all bad, nor is it entirely unfair.
Welfare restrictions lead to savings
A commendable condition with these changes is that these wait times don’t apply to single parent migrant families or those with one income earner.
This means welfare restrictions are being placed on those who actually stand a fair chance of coping on their own.
Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher says as much, believing the measures will help return the budget to surplus. In his speech to the lower house on Wednesday, Mr Fletcher stated:
‘It’s reasonable to expect people choosing to come to Australia on a skilled or family visa should be self-reliant during their initial settlement period.
‘These migrants are well placed to support themselves and their families through work or support from family members already in Australia and should not expect full and immediate entitlement to our generous welfare payment.’
And there certainly seems to be a lot of MP support behind these amendments. The drafted laws easily passed through the House of Representatives. Only five MPs voted against it — Greens member Adam Bandt, and independents Kerryn Phelps, Rebekha Sharkie, Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan.
Even so, Mr Bandt’s only concern was that he wasn’t given enough time to thoroughly read the 11 pages of amendments.
‘Let’s have proper scrutiny, and let’s make sure we are looking after people who need our assistance,’ he said.
That doesn’t sound like a no, though.
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