Centrelink is no longer recognising polyamorous or multiple relationships when working out welfare payments.
The changes occurred back in 2018 but there was no public announcement of the change by the government, according to a new blog post by the Parliamentary Library.
The change means some Aussies who are in polyamorous relationships are now considered ‘single’ by the government and can therefore access higher welfare rates.
“Some individuals who were previously considered partnered are now considered single and can receive a higher, single rate of payment and not have their unrecognised partners’ income and assets considered for means testing,” Parliamentary Library social policy researcher Michael Klapdor wrote.
Aussies in polyamorous relationships will now be considered to be in a relationship with the person they are legally married to or have a registered relationship with.
If they aren’t married or in a registered relationship, the relationship that started the earliest will be the one that is recognised. Other partners will be considered ‘single’ by Centrelink.
While polygamy is illegal in Australia, Centrelink previously recognised that individuals could be in de facto relationships with multiple people at the same time. Prior to the 2018 changes, Centrelink treated each individual as ‘partnered’ and paid them the applicable partnered rate.
“The policy recognised that multiple relationships could exist, but did not necessarily endorse such relationships,” Klapdor wrote.
Outrage over previous rule
The previous policy made headlines back in 2016 when politicians called out Centrelink for reportedly paying spousal benefits to the wives of polygamous Muslim men.
Former conservative senator Cory Bernadi called the policy political correctness gone mad, while One Nation leader Pauline Hanson accused the government of condoning polygamous relationships.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott called for action on the issue, but reportedly was told it would cost more to pay a single-parent benefit.
There is no publicly available data on the number of people in polyamorous relationships who are receiving Centrelink payments.