I’m across the ditch at the moment, so this week's current affairs will be served as an Ozzie special.
The Australian government has announced they will be re-hauling the welfare system, after a report revealed it is currently costing taxpayers approximately AU$150billion each year. The government plans to reduce the number of benefits in the welfare system (known as Centrelink), from 20 down to 5, whilst also tightening the eligibility for disability support. The report was written by Patrick McClure, former head of Mission Australia – a non-denominational Christian community service organisation. Social Services Minister, Scott Morrison says the initiative will simplify the system, which McClure describes as complex and inefficient, while also reducing the number of people on benefits.
One of the more contentious changes lies in expansion of the Child and Youth Payment. At the moment, children from the age of 16 can receive the youth allowance. The report states that an increasing number of young people are staying at home while they study, and thus parents should continue to receive the payment until their dependant children reach the age of 22.
The government claims that the new welfare system will not make anyone worse-off, something that the opposition party is questioning.
While I’ve been in 'Straya, weather has been extreme. In Perth, where I’m holidaying, temperatures reaching 38°C combined with strong winds have been causing massive bushfires. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes this week, and a main freeway was closed, causing enormous traffic delays. Flames have climbed power poles, cutting electricity to homes in the surrounding areas.
Late last week the East Coast endured a different type of disaster. Cyclone Marcia was a category 5 tropical cyclone that hit central Queensland. Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes and looked after in makeshift shelters. 69,500 houses lost power, with only half of them having their power restored on Wednesday morning. The cyclone has left hundreds of homes written off, and insurers estimate that it will cost AU$50 million to recover.