Latest News

Migrant welfare wait laws pass hurdle

chris bowen

Proposed laws to force migrants to wait up to four years before accessing a raft of welfare benefits have passed the first stage in the federal parliament.

The progress comes after Labor - having originally opposed the lengthy waiting period - agreed with the government on a range of amendments, out of concern negotiations would otherwise be left to the likes of One Nation.

"We took the view it was better to negotiate with the government ourselves, try and get an arrangement which we could live with," Labor shadow treasurer Chris Bowen told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

The negotiations "saved hundreds of thousands" of families from being impacted, he added.

Migrants granted a permanent skilled or family visa after January 1 next year will have to wait four years for working age payments such as Newstart and concessions cards.

The wait for carer payments, parental leave pay, as well as dad and partner pay will be extended to two years.

The changes will result in a one year wait for a carer allowance and family tax benefit part A.

Wait times will not apply to single parent migrant families or those with one income earner.

Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher says the measures will help return the budget to surplus.

"It's reasonable to expect people choosing to come to Australia on a skilled or family visa should be self-reliant during their initial settlement period," Mr Fletcher told the lower house on Wednesday.

"These migrants are well placed to support themselves and their families through work or support from family members already in Australia and should not expect full and immediate entitlement to our generous welfare payment."

The draft laws breezed through the House of Representatives, with only Greens MP Adam Bandt, and independents Kerryn Phelps, Rebekha Sharkie, Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan voting against it.

Mr Bandt said he wasn't given enough time to comb through the 11 pages of amendments which had been agreed to between the coalition and Labor.

"Lets have proper scrutiny, and let's make sure we are looking after people who need our assistance," he said.

© AAP 2018 Photo credit: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas