Welfare recipients that have unpaid court fees and outstanding criminal warrants will be in the crosshairs of the government after it laid down hardline measures in the federal budget.
Those with outstanding Centrelink debts of over $10,000 would also be chased down aggressively as the coalition tries to gain back money from those who are no longer on welfare and actually have the means to pay.
“We will ensure our targeted safety net helps people when they need it, but that people receive only what they are entitled to, nothing more and nothing less,” said Social Services Minister Dan Tehan. “When welfare recipients have received money they are not entitled to, we will ensure those debts are repaid.”
The Turnbull government has been hearing demands from an alliance composed of business, industry and community groups who are asking for an increase to the Newstart allowance in the budget.
The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group claimed the Newstart allowance was not enough to let unemployed people look for work. However, government ministers stressed that strong jobs growth in the last 12 months is more than enough to counter their argument.
The budget was also mum on demands to do away with “zombie” measures, which are policy bills stranded in the Senate, including that to increase the pension age to 70, taking away the energy supplement and forcing migrants wait up to 15 years before accessing the age pension.
The government has cited several measures it hope would “encourage lawful behaviour” from people who are receiving income support.
Welfare recipients with outstanding court fines will have the money deducted from their payments until their debt is cleared.
People that have outstanding warrants for indictable criminal offences would have their payments halted for up to a month and subsequently cancelled afterwards, if they do not surrender.
Prisoners that are receiving a disability support pension would only be able to have their payments suspended for 13 weeks before the benefits are eventually cut off.
The controversial “robo-debt” program geared to claw back welfare overpayments would also be extended for another year, as the government seeks to recover more than $1.2 billion in Centrelink debts.
Meanwhile, student payments for higher education loans would soon be restricted to approved courses, in a development that is expected to save $101.1 million over five years.
Regional families would be provided relief, with parents allowed to earn an extra $10,000 before their child’s youth allowance is impacted.
The government would also be allocating $50 million into reducing Centrelink’s terrible call wait times.