The federal government is defending sweeping reforms that could see disability pensioners’s payments cut off, arguing that it would be irresponsible not to do anything about a “dysfunctional” system.
A government-released draft report into the welfare system calls for thousands of disability support pensioners to be moved onto a lower, new working-age payment.
Only those with permanent disabilities would have access to the pension.
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews on Monday defended the proposal saying it would stop people on unemployment benefits getting themselves onto the more generous disability pension.
There is a $300 gap in the fortnightly rate between the two.
“This gap creates an enormous incentive for people on unemployment benefits to test their eligibility for the DSP,” Mr Andrews he told a conference in Sydney on Monday.
The new payment would better reflect people’s work capabilities, including those with temporary ailments, he said.
“So if their impairment reduces or ends, they are in a good position to return to employment,” Mr Andrews said.
Another proposal would see income management expanded for disadvantaged families, quarantining their welfare for rent, food and bills.
Mr Andrews thinks that would prevent child neglect and protect people from financial abuse by family members.
“It would be irresponsible of this government, indeed this parliament, to leave the current welfare system with its dysfunctionality and complexity unchallenged,” Mr Andrews said.
The opposition insists Australia’s welfare system is not out of control and blasted the coalition’s “demonisation” of disability support pensioners.
It was not as easy to get on the payment as the coalition was making it out, Labor said.
“They deserve our support not the way in which the Abbott government has demonised people,” opposition disability spokeswoman Jenny Macklin told ABC radio on Monday.
Disability Advocacy Network Australia chief executive Mary Mallett has been swamped with calls from people concerned about the report’s suggestions.
“They don’t know who to turn to,” she told ABC TV on Monday.
“They don’t know what the report is talking about.”
Ms Mallet said there should be an extension of the government’s six-week consultation period for the community.