UPDATE:  In the 2018 Federal Budget (which was handed down after this submission was lodged), the Federal Government announced that the payment waiting period for new residents would be extended even further, forcing new residents to wait at least four years before they can access basic support payments. We strongly oppose this latest announcement, which only deepens the concerns expressed in our submission.

As an organisation committed to social justice and overcoming social division and exclusion, we strongly oppose this Bill which will reduce access to social security for migrants granted permanent residency by:

  • increasing the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period that applies to various concessions and working-age payments, such as Newstart and Youth Allowance, from two years to three years;
  • introducing a three-year waiting period to a range of payments that are currently immediately available, including Family Tax Benefit, Carer Allowance, and Parental Leave Pay; and,
  • extending the Assurance of Support requirement for family visas (where a person agrees to be financially responsible for a new migrant) from two years to three years. 

The Bill will slash $1.3 billion from social security payments. Around 50,000 families will lose income; 30,000 individuals will have to wait longer for income support payments; and an estimated 110,000 children will be adversely affected.

We contest the Government’s rationale for this Bill; question its assertion that it is necessary to repair the budget; and challenge the claim that cutting people off from social security fosters “self-sufficiency”. Our social security system should be needs-based and non-discriminatory - not based on arbitrary social demarcations based on immigration status. Such a move is discriminatory and divisive, and risks creating an underclass of migrants cut off from the basic rights and supports afforded to other residents.

Appropriate and timely support during the initial years following migration is critical to settlement outcomes. Denying access to social security will merely deepen vulnerability and disadvantage, particularly among the the most marginalised migrant cohorts including women experiencing domestic violence, precarious workers vulnerable to exploitation, pregnant women in insecure work, and children living in low-income families. Without access to a safety net, such groups risk being trapped in a cycle of poverty, precarity and vulnerability. In the context of an increasingly toxic political debate around migration, we believe such proposals represent a disturbing shift in our system of social protection and support, and one that must be actively resisted.

We believe, in short, that this Bill is unjust, unnecessary and divisive, and we urge the Committee to recommend that it be rejected.