In late 2017, the Government announced it would wind back social protections for new migrants by extending waiting periods for social security and family payments. It then proposed further extensions to waiting periods in the May 2018 Budget. The Society has firmly opposed these moves (see our media release and submission on the proposal) and, in the joint letter below, we join other organisations urging the Labor party to reject the cuts.  We believe our social security system should be needs-based and non-discriminatory  not based on arbitrary social demarcations based on immigration status. The proposal currently before Federal Parliament is discriminatory and divisive, and risks creating an underclass of migrants cut off from the basic rights and supports afforded to other residents.


Joint letter to Australian Labor Party urging them to oppose migrant social security cuts

We write to you to urge the Australian Labor Party not to pass schedules one to four of the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Promoting Sustainable Welfare) Bill 2018. These schedules would impose and extend social security waiting periods for up to four years for recent migrants, from 1 January 2019, just four weeks away.

The Government’s proposed cuts have absolutely no basis in policy terms. They are divisive, and breach government’s obligation to provide basic social protections. We urge you to split the bill so that these schedules do not go through the Parliament.

Our social security system should be based on financial need. Waiting periods will leave many migrants without any form of income. We know that new migrants can face additional barriers to getting a job in an environment where there is only one job available for every 8 people looking for one.

This bill extends waiting periods for Newstart, Youth Allowance and Special Benefit, from two to four years, with very limited exceptions. To be eligible to receive assistance during the waiting period, a person needs to demonstrate ‘’a substantial change in circumstances’. Financial hardship alone does not satisfy this test.

Migrants will lose access to Family Tax Benefit Part A for up to one year, as well as Paid Parental Leave for two years, which will hurt low-income families, including those in low-paid work. This sends a signal that the children of migrant families are not as deserving as other children of protection against poverty and deprivation.

Migrants make a huge contribution to our society. Our social security system should provide them and their children with the same support to which other residents are entitled. Now that we know the ALP would have the numbers in the Senate to block the worst parts of this bill, we call on you to vote with the Greens, Centre Alliance and Senator Tim Storer to stop the extension of social security waiting periods for recent migrants. We already have three million people living in poverty in Australia. We know that people from non-English speaking backgrounds experience discrimination in getting paid work, and have higher poverty rates than others in Australia. These cuts risk worsening poverty amongst this
cohort.

If legislated, this Bill will divide our communities even further, along migrant and racial grounds. These cuts are nasty and harsh, and should be rejected outright.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Cassandra Goldie
Chief Executive Officer, ACOSS

Mohammed Al-Khafaji
Acting Chief Executive Officer, FECCA

  • ACT Council of Social Service
  • Anglicare Australia
  • Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
  • Carers Australia
  • Harmony Alliance: Migrant and Refugee Women for Change
  • Jobs Australia
  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance
  • National Social Security Rights Network
  • NT Council of Social Service
  • Qld Council of Social Service
  • Settlement Council of Australia
  • SA Council of Social Service
  • St Vincent de Paul Society National Council
  • Tasmanian Council of Social Service
  • UnitingCare Australia
  • WA Council of Social Service
  • Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA)
  • YWCA Australia