Social Services Minister Anne Ruston announced a long-overdue cut to the deeming rates on Sunday, which suggested an acknowledgment of the plight of many age pensioners. However, she has followed that up with a comment that the Age Pension is already “generous” and suggests pensioners should be grateful for taxpayers’ largesse.
“It is a generous amount of money that the Australian taxpayers make available to our older Australians,” she told 3AW.
Asked to elaborate, Senator Ruston said: “In terms of the amount of money that taxpayers fund our social welfare system, we put a lot of money into it.”
Her statements fly in the face of earlier concern that “the cost of living has never been higher” which was why deeming rates was one of the first things she looked at after the federal election.
The Opposition and older Australians were quick to respond.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has demanded the Morrison Government apologise for her comments.
“I think age pensioners out there who are struggling, frankly, to make ends meet wouldn’t regard it as generous,” he told 6PR radio.
“They’d regard it as something that they’ve worked for. They’ve paid taxes throughout their life, made a contribution to the country and they should be respected.”
He also said the deeming rate reduction was “too little, too late”.
Opposition Social Services spokeswoman Linda Burney said on Twitter of Senator’s Ruston’s comment: “This shows a real disconnect with the daily lives of pensioners trying to balance their budgets. Older Australians have worked hard, built our country and have a right to dignity and security.”
“Generous? Surely she is talking about the politicians’ pension!” one person posted on Twitter. “So out of touch with reality and she isn’t even old enough to understand what a pension is.”
Another described her comments as “an utter disgrace”.
Many suggested she commit to a trial of an Age Pension to understand the difficulties of making ends meet.
“Another overpaid out-of-touch politician telling people on the pension how things should be!! You wouldn’t survive!” wrote another.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg attempted to douse the flames by focusing on the deeming rate cuts.
“I understand pensioners have challenging times. A number of pensioners do it really, really tough,” he said.
The deeming rates will decrease from 1.75 per cent to one per cent for investments up to $52,000 (single pensioners) and $86,000 (couples), and from 3.25 per cent to three per cent for amounts over $52,000 (singles) and amounts over $86,000 (couples). The changes will take effect from September but will be backdated to 1 July.
Were you offended by Senator Ruston’s comments? Do you believe the minister needs to develop a greater depth of knowledge about the Age Pension?
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