What the Omnibus Bill means for you
A concerted and determined three year campaign from single mums, the welfare lobby, the Greens, unions and Labor has saved the heart of Family Tax Benefits.
Today the Senate is expected to pass the government's Omnibus Bill that contains reforms and increases in child care payments in return for some cuts to Family Tax Benefits. But the heart, the major elements of what used to be called Child Endowment (and paid to all mothers) has been saved.
Parents with teenagers will be particularly pleased by the outcome of this major government back-down, because the both FTBs are now confirmed until age 19. And families of teens won't generally benefit from the child care reforms that target working parents of younger children.
The National Council of Single Mothers and their Children is still opposed to the Omnibus Bill's cuts to Family Tax Benefit end-of-year supplements and other tweaks but, importantly, the government has backed down on the hardest cuts.
The Family Tax Benefit Part B cut for families with teenagers is now off the table in a major win for single mums. The FTB end of year supplement will go, costing families about $350.
And Family Tax Benefits (both of them) will continue to be paid until your child turns 19. This is a major relief for parents of teenagers – 1.2 million families will breathe a sigh of relief.
New parents will win with Paid Parental Leave to be extended by a fortnight to 20 weeks. "Double dipping" PPL and employer paid parental leave has been replaced with a top-up of employer entitlements with Centrelink money.
The worst of the cuts to the poorest families are now gone but the sweetener in this bill – the childcare package remains intact.
Labor remains opposed to the cuts as do the Greens but much of the cross-bench in the Senate seem to be supportive. That includes Pauline Hanson's One Nation party, Victorian independent Derryn Hinch and the newly independent senator Cory Bernardi. The passage of the bill now largely relies on the Nick Xenophon Team.
That's assuming Labor don't change their mind and vote it through. This is a possibility because this bill is a collection of savings measures that Labor has previously agreed to.
Actually Labor had costed in benefit cuts of six billion, but with these government backdowns the savings in this bill have been pared back to $5.5 billion over the next four years.
Along with the cuts, this bill brings some relief to the child care crisis with a new means tested, almost uncapped, single payment to parents of up to 85 per cent of daily fees, replacing the complicated and limited Child Care Benefit and the Child Care Rebate.
Labor's $7,500 cap on child care rebate, that often leaves families in this part of the year trying to find the money for the full child care daily rate, is gone.
The government said a working family earning $60,000 a year will pay around $15 per day for child care.
Last night, the NCSMC's chief executive Terese Edwards was still on the phone, urging the Nick Xenephon team's three senators to reject the Ominbus Bill despite the major backdowns from the government.
The Greens are opposed the Omnibus Bill which contains "hidden nasties" according to greens senator Rachel Siewert. Nasties like making young people wait four weeks before receiving Youth Allowance and limiting the old age pension for people travelling overseas.
But this is a good news story. Terese from the NCSMC says single mothers everywhere and their allies have made this government back down on some savage cuts to benefits for Australia's poorest families.
Family Tax Benefits are a foundation payment of the welfare system, keeping Australian families in food and shelter for generations. So important are Family Tax Benefits that former prime minister John Howard still insists they are not welfare at all, but a tax entitlement of all Australian families.
The principle that in Australia we assist the parents of our children lives on, thanks to this three year fight.
STOP PRESS*** 12/02/2017 Breaking: Singlemum.com.au has been told by Tim Watts MP (the Victorian Labor MP for Gellibrand) that the Omnibus Bill is now not expected to pass parliament before the budget (in May). Labor and the Greens remain opposed to the bill and will push for a Senate inquiry into the FTB changes and the linked child care reforms. That could push the cuts to FTB end of year supplements back to 2018***
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Jason is a business and finance journalist with 20 years experience, and is also a member of the SingleMum.com.au Expert Opinion Panel. He has a regular weekly column in the Sunday Mail (Brisbane) and writes regularly for the Business Daily section of the Herald Sun in Melbourne and many other newspapers and magazines. Read Jason Bryce's full profile here
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