House of Representatives

Social Security and Veterans' Entitlements Legislation Amendment (One-Off Payments to Increase Assistance for Older Australians and Carers and Other Measures) Bill 2006

Second Reading Speech

Mr BROUGH (Longman-Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs)

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The measures in this bill are a further demonstration of the government's appreciation and acknowledgment of the contribution older Australians and carers have made, and continue to make, to our society.

As with past bonus payments, these new payments will be paid in the majority of cases before the end of this financial year and are possible because of the government's careful economic management. This has delivered the capacity to give extra support to these members of the Australian community and acknowledge their valuable work.

The first bonus payment provided by this bill will go to older Australians. The 2006 one-off payment will be equal to the annual rate of utilities allowance, which is an existing entitlement to help older income support customers to pay regular household bills such as gas and electricity, and currently set at $102.80. This one-off payment will be made to people of age pension age, or veterans of qualifying age, who are receiving on 9 May 2006 a social security or veterans entitlements income support payment. Recipients at that date of mature age allowance, partner allowance or widow allowance will also attract the one-off payment.

The one-off payment of $102.80 will be shared between two members of a couple living together, if they both qualify for it. Otherwise, the whole payment will go to every qualified person in his or her own right. No household with at least one qualified person will receive less than $102.80.

Older Australians not actually receiving the stipulated payment on budget night will still get the bonus if they had claimed it by that date and subsequently have their payment backdated to cover that date.

Self-funded retirees will not miss out on the bonus payment-they will receive $102.80 per person if they are, on that same date, qualified or eligible for seniors concession allowance.

Carers are the second group targeted by this bill for bonus payments.

Carers receiving carer income support on 9 May 2006 in the form of a social security carer payment or carer service pension under the Veterans' Entitlements Act will be paid a $1,000 one-off payment. Carers who receive the non-means tested social security income supplement known as carer allowance in addition to either wife pension or a partner service pension under the Veterans' Entitlements Act will also be paid a $1,000 one-off payment. Any carer receiving carer allowance will be paid a separate $600 one-off payment for each eligible care receiver. Carers who have claimed the targeted payments on or shortly before 9 May 2006 and are subsequently granted with effect from 9 May 2006 or earlier will receive the payments.

Carers whose children qualify for a carer allowance health care card only will not be eligible for the bonus payment of $600. Carers who claim carer allowance after 9 May 2006 and whose payment is backdated due to the application of the carer allowance backdating provisions will not be eligible for the bonus payment, even though the backdated period will have included payment for 9 May 2006.

Neither of the special one-off payments provided by this bill will be subject to income tax, nor will either count as income for social security, veterans entitlements or family assistance purposes.

I commend the bill to the House.