Introduction and key legislation

The legislative basis of the social security system is the Social Security Act 1991  (Cth) and the  Social Security (Administration) Act 1999  (Cth), A New Tax System (Family Assistance Act) 1999  (Cth) and A New Tax System (Family Assistance Act) (Administration) Act 1999  (Cth).


Rates of pensions and allowances change regularly. Always check current rates with Centrelink. On 1 July 2011, Centrelink and Medicare Australia were abolished as statutory authorities and integrated into the Australian Government Department of Human Services. For ease of reference, this chapter will continue to refer to Centrelink.

Unless otherwise stated, the section numbers in this chapter refer to the Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) (“SS Act”). Social security law is also found in the:

Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) (“SSA Act”);

Social Security (International Agreements) Act 1999 (Cth);

A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 (Cth) (“Family Assistance Act”); and

A New Tax System (Family Assistance) (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth).

Legal practitioners may also wish to familiarise themselves with The Social Security Guide (available at; Centrelink officers use this guide to assess eligibility for payments.