New migrants will now be forced to wait four years before being allowed to access the Newstart welfare payment, after the Coalition government managed to pass the legislation through parliament by striking a deal with the Labor party.
The opposition only acquiesced to the deal after securing significant concessions from the Liberals, saying that it was better to secure a deal that they could “live with”, rather than allow an opportunity for the government to reach an agreement with One Nation instead.
Originally, the legislation would have prohibited immigrants from accessing all welfare payments for four years. However, under the deal with Labor, new migrants will now only be forced to wait one or two years to qualify for carers’ payments, the Family Tax Benefit A, and parental leave pay.
Despite these concessions, the four-year waiting period for Newstart payments will still remain in place.
The Shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, explained that while the Labor party “never” would have supported the legislation in its’ original form, the newly version was more tenable.
“What we did is saved hundreds of thousands of families from being impacted and reduce the impact dramatically by reducing those four-year waiting times to one or two years in most instances. That’s a good outcome, a better outcome,” Bowen said.
“We took the view it was better to negotiate with the government ourselves, try and get an arrangement which we could live with and support in all good conscience, and that’s what we did.”
According to the Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann, described the new legislation as “consensus” deal, which will still deliver $1.3b in budget savings over the next four years.
The comprised agreement was also praised by the Mary Patetsos, chairwoman of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA), one of the country’s largest migrant community advocacy groups.
“These amendments will help protect the most vulnerable new arrivals and their families from the new four-year waiting period for benefits.”
“FECCA notes that exemptions to waiting periods for people who become lone parents will remain. People on refugee and humanitarian visas, as well as those who become citizens, are exempt from the changes,” she said.
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