Australia has an income support system that is designed as a safety net for people unable to support themselves. Most income support payments are subject to income and assets tests to ensure that payments are targeted on those in most need and that the system remains sustainable and affordable for Australian taxpayers.
To ensure that the purchasing power of payments, and hence the living standards of those reliant on them, do not fall, income support payments other than pensions are adjusted either once or twice a year in line with movements in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Pension payments are adjusted in line with Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE), ensuring that the single pension rate does not fall below 25% of MTAWE.
With the passage of the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947, all Acts providing social service benefits were amalgamated into the Social Security Act 1947. This Act was repealed in July 1991 and replaced with the Social Security Act 1991. In March 1999, the legislative framework governing social service benefits was altered so that payments were made under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999.
Further changes were made from 1 July 2000 as part of the package of measures coming within the 'New Tax System'. At the same time, family-related payments were consolidated and simplified. These payments (Family Tax Benefit, Child Care Benefit, Maternity Allowance and Maternity Immunisation Allowance) are now paid under the A New Tax System (Family Assistance) (Administration) Act 1999. In addition, the A New Tax System (Bonuses for Older Australians) Act 1999 provided for the payment of a one-off, non-taxable, bonus payment of $300 to any person who on 22 May 2001 was of Age Pension age and receiving a social security pension or benefit.
In the May 2001 budget, the Commonwealth Government announced the $1.7b Australians Working Together (AWT) package, with measures to be phased in over four years from July 2001. The package is the first step in a planned longer term reform of the social support system, and provides assistance to people of workforce age including job seekers, parents, people with a disability, the unemployed, mature age people, and Indigenous Australians. Initiatives include a Working Credit to encourage people on income support to take up full-time, part-time or irregular casual work, Training Credits, a Literacy and Numeracy Training Supplement, more places in employment services, and initiatives to assist Indigenous Australians. The AWT package also introduced two new programmes: the Personal Support Programme will help those people on payments who face severe or multiple non-vocational obstacles to employment; and the Transition to Work Programme will provide assistance to people who have been away from the workplace for a long time.
The main income support payments provided by the Commonwealth for the financial years from 1997-98 to 2000-01 are listed in table 7.16. Details of the payments in effect in the 2000-01 financial year, together with associated statistics, are presented later in this section.
Most of the Commonwealth income support payments presented in this chapter are available through Centrelink, a statutory agency established to deliver a range of Commonwealth services to the Australian community. It operates under the Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency Act 1997. As well as delivering a wide range of government services, Centrelink provides advice about payment entitlements and referrals to Centrelink specialist staff for additional assistance, and may refer customers to other departments, agencies or community organisations, where appropriate. Centrelink has 310 Customer Service Centres and 27 Call Centres around Australia.
7.16 INCOME SUPPORT PAYMENTS(a)
|Payments for the retired|| || || || |
|- Age Pension|
|- Aged Persons Savings Bonus |
|- One-off Payment to Seniors |
|- Self-Funded Retirees' Supplementary Bonus|
|- Widow Class 'B' Pension|
|- Wife Pension (Age)|
|- Wife Pension (DSP)|
|Payments for people with disability or who are sick |
|- Carer Allowance(b) |
|- Carer Payment|
|- Child Disability Allowance(b) |
|- Disability Support Pension |
|- Disability Wage Supplement(c) |
|- Mobility Allowance |
|- Rehabilitation Allowance(d)|
|- Sickness Allowance |
|Payments for the unemployed |
|- Austudy Payment(e) |
|- Fares Allowance(e) |
|- Job Search Allowance(f)|
|- Mature Age Allowance |
|- Newstart Allowance(f)(g)|
|- Partner Allowance |
|. . Student Financial Supplement(h) |
|- Widow Allowance|
|- Youth Allowance(g) |
|- Youth Training Allowance(g)(i)|
|Payments for families with children |
|- Child Care Benefit(j)|
|- Child Support Trust Account(k) |
|- Child Care Cash Rebate(j)(l)|
|- Double Orphan Pension |
|- Family Allowance(m) |
|- Family Tax Benefit(m) |
|- Family Tax Payment(m) |
|- Maternity Allowance(n) |
|- Parenting Allowance(o) |
|- Parenting Payment(o)(p) |
|. . Pensioner Education Supplement(e)|
|- Sole Parent Pension(o) |
|- Bereavement Allowance |
|- Disaster Relief Payment(q) |
|- Special Benefit |
|- States Grants Housing Act 1971(r) |
|- Unexplained remittances |
|Total Special Appropriations |
|NOTES: 1. Outlays on Pensions, Allowances and Family Tax Benefits include expenditure on Rent Assistance. Details of Rent Assistance are included in Housing. 2. Negative values are recoveries from previous years.|
(a) Expenditures prior to 1998-99 were recorded on a cash payments basis and are not directly comparable with expenditures recorded from 1998-99 onwards that are on an accrual basis.
(b) Carer Allowance replaces Child Disability Allowance and Domiciliary Nursing Care Benefit (transferred from Department of Health and Aged Care on 1 July 1999).
(c) Disability Wage Supplement was abolished on 1 January 1998. All recipients were transferred to Disability Support Pension.
(d) There have been no new grants of Rehabilitation Allowance since 12 November 1991.
(e) Replaces, in part, the former AUSTUDY (Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs).
(f) Job Search Allowance amalgamated with Newstart Allowance from September 1996.
(g) From 1 July 1998, Youth Allowance replaced payments made to certain recipients of the following: Newstart Allowance; Youth Training Allowance; Sickness Allowance and AUSTUDY.
(h) Previously administered by the (then) Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs until 30 June 1998.
(i) Payments made under the Student and Youth Assistance Act 1973.
(j) Child Care Benefit replaces Child Care Cash Rebate.
(k) Payments made under the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 (transferred from the Department of the Treasury in October 1998). These payments are to cover shortfalls in the Child Support Trust Account.
(l) Payments made under the Childcare Rebate Act 1993 (transferred from the Department of Health and Family Services in October 1998).
(m) Family Tax Benefit replaced Family Allowance and Family Tax Payment on 1 July 2000.
(n) Includes Maternity Allowance and Maternity Immunisation Allowance.
(o) Parenting Allowance and Sole Parent Pension replaced by Parenting Payment on 20 March 1998.
(p) Comprising Parenting Payment (Partnered) and Parenting Payment (Sole Parent).
(q) No national disaster declarations were made during 1999-2000 or 2000-01.
(r) Payments made under the States Grants Housing Act 1971.
(s) Components do not add to total, as Youth Training Allowance is also included under Newstart Allowance in this table.
Source: Department of Family and Community Services.