Immigration

Welfare cuts for new migrants will create 'unnecessary hardship': FECCA

0:00

One of Australia's leading migrant advocacy groups has slammed a move by the federal government which would see new arrivals wait an extra year before they can access certain welfare payments.

The federal government announced on Monday it looked to save 1.3 billion dollars in the next four years with new budget measures targeting migrants.

From next July, migrants will have to wait three years instead of two to access a range of welfare payments including the Family Tax Benefit, Paid Parental Leave and Carer's Allowance. 

The move was part of Treasurer Scott Morrison's Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which predicted that Australia would be back in the black by 2020.

Treasurer Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference as he hands down the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2017/18 at Parliament House
Treasurer Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference as he hands down the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2017/18 at Parliament House (AAP)
AAP

But the announcement has been slammed by Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA) chairperson Mary Patetsos, who called it a "worrying step". 

"The relatively small amount of budgetary savings are going to impact quite severely on some of our most disadvantaged people, vulnerable families, and young children," she told SBS News.

"Restricting parental leave allowance for those families will create unnecessary hardship.

"FECCA's other reaction is to appeal to the government to reconsider this as an unnecessary impact on a vulnerable group. That doesn’t take away the fact that we understand there’s a need for fiscal constraint, but how that’s targeted and to whom, and to where that impact falls, is something that the government may reconsider."

Those bringing relatives over to Australia on a family visa will also need to guarantee their financial independence for three years.

There will be some “exemptions” for “vulnerable groups”, according to MYEFO paperwork, as well as for some New Zealand citizens with children in their care.

0:00
Labor MP Chris Bowen responds to the mid-year budget update
Labor MP Chris Bowen responds to the mid-year budget update

Ms Patetsos said it was unclear who the "vulnerable" people would be. 

"If vulnerability is defined very tightly, I think it obviously will (affect migrants). I’m very concerned about the impact on women and young children," she said.

"We don’t know what the word vulnerability means, but how do you fall over the line?  How does one family become more vulnerable than another?"

Ms Patetsos said new migrants require additional support to successfully integrate into Australia.

"Successful settlement requires resourcing, time, it requires them to have access to a range of capabilities which this may limit, and that time needs to be acknowledged as important," she said.

"The more successful that early settlement period is, the more successful they’re able to integrate into Australian society. Anything that we do that makes that more difficult has consequences for those who are vulnerable, no matter how we define them, and for those who were wanting to settle in Australia successfully."

Ms Patetsos said FECCA would look to work alongside the government to find a more suitable solution.

The Treasurer is sticking to his promise of a budget surplus in four years and expects it will be almost $3 billion larger at $10.2 billion than previously forecast.

And for this financial year, Mr Morrison is forecasting a smaller deficit of $23.6 billion compared to the previous estimate of $29.4 billion.

The budget position had improved by $9.3 billion over the four-year budget forecast period since May, largely driven by stronger-than-expected company tax collections and enforcement activity by the Australian Taxation Office.

Government debt will also be $23 billion lower than previously forecast over the same timeframe.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch