New migrants will be forced to wait four years before accessing most government welfare payments under a significant cost-cutting measure included in Tuesday’s federal budget.
The government will save $671 million over five years by applying the four-year Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period to anyone granted permanent residency in Australia from 1 January next year.
The duration of the waiting period to receive welfare payments previously depended on a migrant’s situation and visa type, but the new measure brings most government subsidies and visa classes in line with the current four-year wait to access JobSeeker, Austudy, and youth allowance payments.
It will see the government net $45 million in savings in 2022-23, before ramping up to savings of $196 million and $436 million in 2023-24 and 2024-25 respectively.
Prior to the changes, which were revealed on Tuesday night as part of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s third federal budget, permanent migrants were able to immediately access the Family Tax Benefit B and some visa classes were exempt from wait periods.
A number of payments also previously had shorter two-year wait times for migrants, including the carer payment, dad and partner pay, parental leave pay, and Family Tax Benefit A.
It is unclear whether the changes will impact humanitarian visa holders.
“We’re still yet to see what the details are, who they apply to and what payments they apply to, but it doesn’t set a good precedent for good public policy,” Gabriela D’Souza, a senior economist with the Committee for Economic Development, told SBS News.
“To me it seems like a blatant money grab from people who can’t work.”
In a report published earlier this year, CEDA recommended the Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period be reduced from four years to six months in order to give skilled migrants a better chance of finding employment.
“The more you treat migrants as not Australian, the worse it is for their outcomes. I don’t think we should be drawing these distinctions between migrants and Australians,” Ms D’Souza said on Tuesday night.
Chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Services, Cassandra Goldie, has also said she is “deeply troubled” by the cuts.
As part of Tuesday’s budget, the government revealed its migration program for the next financial year – keeping the cap at 160,000 despite a predicted second year of negative net overseas migration.
They also reiterated their plans to focus on onshore visa applications, with no changes to the number of places available in the family, skilled, or humanitarian streams.
Mr Frydenberg also revealed the government’s assumption that permanent and temporary migration would begin to gradually restart halfway through 2022.