Opposing views on the adequacy of the Age Pension

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YourLifeChoices asked the Federal Government, the Opposition and a key welfare organisation for their responses on whether the Age Pension was sufficient to meet the needs of retirees living on the edge.

The question

The current Age Pension, with supplements, for singles is $894.40 per fortnight. The YourLifeChoices Retirement Affordability Index™ has found that fortnightly expenditure for the cash-strapped single – that is, a person who rents – is $863.64. The situation for cash-strapped couples who rent is worse – a fortnightly pension each of $674.20 (with supplements) and a fortnightly expenditure each of $687.04. The drivers for the latest cost-of-living increase are fuel and power. Even with the modest rent assistance supplied, these retirees are living on the edge. What is the solution? 

The answers

Spokesperson for the Department of Social Services

The Australian Government appreciates the important economic and social contribution that senior Australians make to our community and is keen to ensure that all pensioners’ living standards are safeguarded by the Age Pension system.

Pensions increase regularly. Base pensions are indexed twice a year – in March and September – to the higher of the two increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI). 

PBLCI was introduced to ensure pension indexation better reflects changes to pensioners’ costs of living. It takes into account the goods and services pensioners buy – not what the rest of the community buys. The PBLCI basket of goods and services is weighted to recognise that pensioners spend more of their income on essentials, including food, health, clothing, telephone calls and postage.

After indexing to price increases, base pension rates are then benchmarked to 41.76 per cent of Male Total Average Weekly Earnings for pensioner couples combined. The single rate of pension is two-thirds of the combined couple rate.

These arrangements ensure pension rates are more responsive to pensioners’ actual living cost increases and keep pace with community living standards as measured by wages.

Since 20 September 2017, maximum pension rates are:

  • $894.40 a fortnight or $23,254.40 a year for singles;
  • $1348.40 a fortnight or $35,058.40 a year for pensioner couples combined.

The YourLifeChoices Retirement Affordability Index™ has found that fortnightly expenditure for a single pensioner who rents is $863.64 and fortnightly expenditure for pensioner couples who rent is $687.04. The question compares these amounts to the fortnightly pension rates listed above.

However, pensioners who rent in the private rental market can also receive Rent Assistance. Single pensioners who live alone may be eligible for Rent Assistance of up to $133 a fortnight, while couples may be eligible for Rent Assistance of $125.40 a fortnight.   

The question also mentions increases in costs of fuel and power. Where the costs of goods and services purchased by pensioners increase, these increases are reflected in the CPI and PBLCI, which are used to index pensions.

The Government provided a one-off Energy Assistance Payment to recipients of the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension and Parenting Payment Single, as well as to veterans and their partners who are paid the Service Pension, the Income Support Supplement or relevant compensation payment. The payment provided one-off assistance to those who have been impacted by recent increases in energy prices and who have limited ability to earn extra income to cover the additional costs while other energy reforms take effect. The rate of payment was $75 for singles and $62.50 for each eligible member of a couple and was received by the majority of recipients by 30 June, 2017. The payment is non-taxable and does not count as income.

For people who are struggling financially, Centrelink has social workers who can assist in several ways, including helping with claims for payments and providing information about, or referring customers to community support services, including the Commonwealth Financial Counselling Program. 

The program provides confidential financial counselling services free of charge to people in low-income groups who are experiencing financial difficulty.

An appointment to see a social worker can be arranged by phoning Centrelink on 13 2850 for the cost of a local call. Calls made from mobile phones may incur additional costs. 

Jenny Macklin, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services

We can’t allow the Government to make any further cuts to the Age Pension.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison proposed axing the Energy Supplement in the 2016 Budget, but haven’t been able to get this through the Senate. 

Axing the supplement would cost new single pensioners $14.10 a fortnight or $365 a year. Couple pensioners would be $21.20 a fortnight or around $550 a year worse off.

We also need to ensure we maintain the link between wages growth and pension indexation.

In the 2014 Budget, the Abbott Government tried to cut pension indexation by $23 billion over a decade. It would have seen the pension cut by $80 a week after 10 years.

On the issue of deeming rates, it has been nearly three years since the rates were adjusted.

Interest rates have fallen from 2.25 per cent in February 2015 to 1.50 per cent today, yet Mr Turnbull has done nothing.

Deeming rates are supposed to reflect returns across a range of investment choices available in the market, but the Turnbull Government has failed to act by lowering deeming rates. It is well past time that he acted, and brought them into line with real rates of return.

Labor understands that in today’s low interest rate environment, pensioners find it very difficult to get a reasonable rate of return on their savings.

The Turnbull Government should do the right thing by lowering the deeming rates to provide some relief to Australian pensioners. 

Joel Pringle, Advocacy Campaigner, The Benevolent Society

Recent research by The Benevolent Society shows that people on the Age Pension who are renting are increasingly forced to choose between mashing food instead of seeing a dentist, or turning off the hot water system and dealing with the health consequences later. This is how people manage when the basic costs-of-living exceed their income.

Utilities are one factor in cost increases, but the running down of Commonwealth Rent assistance and social housing stocks are the greatest factors causing hardship in private rent.

Other factors that result in people doing it tough on the pension include illness and being or becoming single. In response, we hear governments blaming people for their circumstances – an attempt to shift responsibility from the fact that government decisions create the economies and society that we live in.

Addressing poverty and hardship are a priority.

Instead of tax cuts, the Government could bolster Rent Assistance or subsidise dental health care. Governments have politicised the Age Pension over many years, and the solution is to hold them accountable for it.   

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88 Comments

Total Comments: 88
  1. 0
    0

    Couple to separate officially, one partner giving a daughter’s address for CentreLink purposes – 2 single pensions equals $46000 per annum instead of $35000. Have seen it done time and again. If you have no assets and no other income you will get away with that, no
    worries. Should you get caught they won’t put you in jail as that would cost even more. Most people probably do not know that common rort because they live in better off locations.

    • 0
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      CB your idea of ‘separating’ would help those who are really struggling and I’d never criticise anyone who does it. But why should those who need extra help have to commit a crime in order to eat, and pay bills? When we do this sort of thing we allow successive governments to pretend there is no problem and that’s wrong. The aged have contributed to the riches this country has and it is shameful that Australia doesn’t care enough for the vulnerable to ensure they are well fed and warm.

    • 0
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      Bloody thieves

    • 0
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      Isn’t this what Julie Bishop is doing? She claims a lot more money too.

    • 0
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      Does that make it right

      Bishop has no morals and neither are those that rort the system to get more benefits

  2. 0
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    At least if you are part of a couple you can pool your resources. It is very hard for a single who lives alone to afford all the outgoings. It cost the same to have a light on or to heat a room, however many people are in that room. It costs the same to register, insure, and put fuel into a car, however many people travel in it. Am I making sense here?

    • 0
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      You make some sense patti but most of the people in my neighborhood run 2 cars as they always had 2 cars when they were working and are not willing to change their way of life. In my case
      we have one car only but our lives are not always like being joined at the hip. We spend our days differently and certainly need more money than our parents did – Dad gardening and Mum knitting and doing conserves. Also they had one plug in a room and a radio was on and later a TV and every evening like Dave and Mabel. Today’s couples could not be further from that.

    • 0
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      Patti – you are so right. I am a few months off Old Age Pension eligibility, and being single, scares me like hell. I have many friends – both couples and singles – already on the full OAP, and without exception, the couples manage far better.
      My elderly neighbor in her mid 80’s – her husband died 2 years ago, and she has experienced first hand how much the financial drain is, when going from couple to single pension. As she said – all the bills really stayed the same – electricity, rates, health insurance, home insurance, car insurance and rego (needed due to rural area and no public transport). She said even food bill has only decreased marginally. As she says, you can’t buy half a lettuce for half the price – she still needs to buy the lettuce, just ends up throwing most of it (unless she eats all meals in a row with lettuce!)
      On the other hand, I have 2 close friends (one male, one female) who have been friends ONLY for over 50 years. Both still with mortgages when they hit OAP time, they pooled their resources and built a dual living single house – each have their own private living area, but with joint kitchen (each have own fridge), laundry, etc. And no mortgage! The absolute HELL they go through with Centrelink is a disgrace! They can now afford to live, it is security when one is away, the guy needed day surgery recently – friend drove. But Centrelink are desperate to stop paying 2 x single OAP… More people will be doing this – I suppose next they will be trying to push 2 males or 2 females onto a couple pension! Can’t win!

    • 0
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      I agree patti it is cheaper living as two instead of one.

    • 0
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      Quite true patti, I am alone and pay private rent, live in a rural town with no big supermarkets to save on shopping, to do this I have to travel 1 hr 1way cost of petrol etc, and when the Government say pensioners get a raise twice yearly whoopee a whole $6.00 and everything else goes up as well twice fold

    • 0
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      You often hear singles complain about the disadvantages compared with couples, yet you don’t see suggestions on how singles can get together to share as with couples.

    • 0
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      I disagree. As a couple, we need a much larger home than I would need as a single, with accompanying higher rates, insurance and energy costs. I have special dietary needs so we don’t combine food purchases. We need two vehicles because we have very different hobbies, interests and activities. Singles can share costs just as easily as couples if they wish to.

      I know many singles who share and get much more income between them than a couple who declare their union honestly, and I see that as grossly unfair.

    • 0
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      Only Greedy Rainey wants more and more – and if she can syeal that from the wealthy , shes happy
      Need 2 cars,
      need twice the house, need this , need that
      Its not NEED Greedy – its WANT
      And you WANT it for free

    • 0
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      It is a ridiculous system which promotes couples to separate (or pretend to be not couples), with many singles also sharing accommodation (without being labelled couples, but sharing costs) corrupting the system.
      It is also ridiculous when one person in a couple becomes eligible (based on Age), then they only pay half of a couple’s rate, not the single’s rate.

      It would be far better to scrap any couples rates, and simply pay everyone a single rate – no need to check if you have a partner, and since when (refer Barnaby)!

    • 0
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      Raphael, I DO NOT draw any kind of pension or benefit, so I am ENTITLED to the house and cars I deem necessary for mine and my partner’s comfort. I earn the money to pay for these things, and I pay tax to support others – many much richer than I – who get pensions. I even pay tax to support GREEDY DISHONEST PEOPLE who claim pensions they don’t need after gifting all their money. So don’t accuse me of greed.

      I was stating FACT – that many couples are no better off than singles, for a multitude of reasons. It is NOT a fair assumption that singles suffer the same costs as couples. Neither is it sensible to encourage marriage breakups or dishonest claims of not being in a relationship because the pension penalizes honest people who are in relationships. George is correct on that point.

      And anytime now, I will accept your apology, Raphael, for your untruthful and insulting accusation. I get nothing for fee and I want nothing for free. Get it through your thick skull, and stop being so nasty. As for the wealthy, IF I could take anything from them, it would only be repayment for the massive theft and exploitation I’ve suffered. But I cannot and would not try to take anything from the greedy scum who take pride in ripping off this nation and then dole out vile insults with no attention to facts.

    • 0
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      BTW. I’m sure I saw a claim by you, Raphael, that you only make comment and do not engage in personal attacks. Well, it doesn’t get much more personal, vile, or dishonest than the attack you make on me here. So don’t ever again pretend virtue.

    • 0
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      Sounds to me OGR that you let pride get in the way of getting what you are entitled to receive.

    • 0
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      Not pride, BigBear – PERSONAL INTEGRITY. Something you clearly lack. And respect for the hard-working taxpayers who fund pensions and clearly want them to benefit the needy and the deserving, and NOT THE CHEATS.

    • 0
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      Well your warped sense of integrity is cheating out of what is rightfully yours to have.

    • 0
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      No, my INTEGRITY is enabling me to hold my head up in the community and know that my honesty is benefiting others. It’s ensuring I don’t have to be ashamed of depriving others of what is rightfully theirs by cheating and selfishness.

    • 0
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      Charity begins at home not at someone else’s discression if you should be given it.

    • 0
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      ”Charity” is giving to those in NEED, not those in unmitigated GREED.

  3. 0
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    Yes we are managing now OK – but very basically. It does concern me how I or my husband would manage if and when one of us dies. You still have to use the same utilities and they are the main source of expenditure. On one pension it will be much harder to balance.

    • 0
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      Trust me, it is. All the utilities still cost the same. Same costs to run the car, even food costs aren’t much cheaper. Lawns still have to be mowed and if your like me and not able to do them yourself. Repairs that a man can do around the house as a woman you have to learn quickly or pay other people. The list goes on. At least is you rent you call the landlord or letting agent. Not if you own your own home.

    • 0
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      I would sell up and buy a smaller home with no lawns or gardens, and since due to health issues, I have to pay a mower man now, I would be far better off. Everything you say is circumstantial. It’s not a question of single or married, but rather personal situation.

    • 0
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      Mowing is my favourite job and the day I can’t drive around on my ride on is the day I realise that the time has come to leave this mortal world.

  4. 0
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    I am on a DSP, I’m 61 and was assessed several years ago as being able to work less than 8 hrs per week. That means for me it is almost impossible to earn extra money from any source or, as we all know, then Centrelink is on our case. I own my own home, so house and contents insurance, water, power, gas, council rates, lawn care, the list goes on. I have a 9 year old car, so rego, petrol, tyres. It hasn’t been serviced in over 12 months because I can’t afford it. Health Insurance. Medications, even with the Health Card. I take 8 different prescription medicines every day. Then there’s groceries. I sat down this week and started doing a spreadsheet of all my outgoings. For the next 3 pensions I’ve calculated that even without the lawns, medicines, food or petrol there is nothing left, and that includes a $500 top up from an allocated pension fund. My point here, it’s not only renters doing it tough. I gave up a job to look after my Mother for 8 years – she had very bad mobility and dementia issues. That would have saved the Government thousands, but cost me thousands. When I did put her in a home they killed her with neglect in less than 6 months. None of us like handouts I’m sure, and if I could work I’d love to but a) I couldn’t do it consistently because of my health but also b) where is the incentive. There isn’t any. If a person is willing to work after retirement age make it tax free. Don’t hound them to report earnings every 2nd week and then cut the pension back because they’ve gotten off their bot and done something.

    • 0
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      It is tough on the DSP as I am on it too, There will be a little increase in March.I am sorry about the way your mum was treated. Every state has a Seniors Card which entitles you to free public transport and discounts. I looked after my mum too and I know how know how hard it I Best of luck you.

    • 0
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      Jansview…you are lucky you got the DSP…there are many sick people on NSA…I think the DSP is more than the Aged Pension too.

    • 0
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      Same Jackie – I was the one who fought Howard for the introduction of the Utilities Allowance for DSP – I posted the ‘Reality Cheque’ from the Department Of Second Class Pensioners, and shamed the little bastard into offering it just before his final, fatal election.

    • 0
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      Jansview, I am also 61 and on a DSP. It was granted just under 20 years ago.

      I live in a Rural city, and don’t have an expensive rental cost. My DSP is just enough to pay for all my expenses, with not much left over to put aside for any contingencies, eg new battery or tyres for my car.

      Jackie, the DSP, Carer & Age Pension all pay the same. If you rent, then add the $133 per fortnight in rent assistance, too.

      The increases don’t take into account the price we have to pay for private health, which is going to go up again just after we get our first rise for the year. Mine’s going up by around 90 cents (extras cover only), nor the price of our utilities which usually rise in July. Mine rose by $40 per bill, which puts paid to any increase in the pension we get.

      The 41.76% of the AWME should be at least 65%, and the single payment rate should be at least 75% of the couple rate. Then we, as singles may be able to afford the prices we have to pay, which doesn’t change what the energy companies charge you, as you pay the same price for a 2 bedroom unit here for a single, as you would pay for a couple.

  5. 0
    0

    I was doing ok on a single DSP pension, then I got married at age 64 for the first time, So then my pension was reduced to the married rate. Now I’m 65 and had to apply 3 times to go on OAP because of Centrelink stuff ups. But now my migrating wife who is not yet a permanent resident of Australia is legally allowed to work but my pension is then reduced even further. Some fortnights all I get is $220 Our wonderful government expect a foreigner to support me because they wont. All I can say is never marry a younger working spouse if you are retired, The pension is all I have by the way no other income at all. So not every Australian gets the OAP at all, not the full one at least.

  6. 0
    0

    I went to a local dentist in 2008 to have a broken tooth repaired. The receptionist said that I need to have my teeth cleaned by the dentist’s assistant for $260 before the dentist could see me plus it would cost more for the work done by the dentist. I walked out thinking whether the dentist would be happy to be charged $260 for having his/her car washed and cleaned before a car mechanic could service his/her car.
    OAPs can not afford dental care, not at these rip off charges. Many OAPs are living with rotted teeth. Many OAP’s are struggling to afford their utility bills let alone the expense of dental care. Insurance premiums are loaded with levies for fire services and ambulance services, etc.
    Jenny Macklin, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services is a real trooper for the OAPs. Never give up Jenny !

    • 0
      0

      HS, Most towns have a government dentist, I went the other day, it cost $45 a visit, May be your local hospital has one there. You may have to wait a while to get in, but that’s ok.

    • 0
      0

      Rinse with mouthwash/de-plaque stuff, run the dry electric brush over that – then brush with toothpaste. Teeth feel like slick rocks… smooth as marbles….

      I was shocked when the government dentist told me they weren’t clean because the silly teeth kept committing root nerve suicide…. buggar – what do I have to do?

    • 0
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      Thanks stay single.

    • 0
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      Thanks TREBOR but your advice is useless for anyone with rotted teeth or no teeth left to speak of.

      I’ll tell my grandson to become a motor mechanic and charge $260 for a mandatory wash and clean of customer’s cars before he starts any work on them. At least this way he will be able to afford the excessive dental care charges. Dentists need cars in good working order as much people need good smooth marble teeth.

  7. 0
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    It is hard if you are on either a disability or aged pension, Bothe payments will go up a little in March. Patti I agree with you. I am single and my daughter lives with me .We pools our resources together to pay the bills. Neither of us have car Centrelink has ways and means of finding out if you are rorting the system even just to make ends meet,

    • 0
      0

      A very little in March… cant wait to hear if we get an extra $0.50 or maybe enough to buy a loaf of bread on special.

      As a carer I spent nearly a tank of fuel Saturday night chasing up a doctor and a pharmacy for the ex who needed urgent medication, and her scripts were locked in the local pharmacy. All the way to the big city and back.

      Should be on the politician no pay for service and fuel system.

    • 0
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      Under the current Liberal government the pension indexation resulted in a $156 per year increase. Under the previous Labor government it was double that, approx $312 a year.
      Axing the supplement would cost new single pensioners $14.10 a fortnight or $365 a year. Couple pensioners would be $21.20 a fortnight or around $550 a year worse off.
      Cost of living, food health, clothing and housing is going up but OAPs are going backwards.

      Pensioners in the below mentioned countries receive
      100% of a working wage when they retire. Pensioners in the UK are suffering the worst deal of any OECD country, whereas Croatians receive 129% of their working wage.

      Pensioners in the Netherlands, Turkey and Croatia receive more than 100% of a working wage when they retire. Indeed, Dutch and Turkish pensioners get 101% and 102%, respectively, but Croatians receive a generous 129%.

      That is according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which analysed data from its 35 member countries and a number of other nations. The data, compiled as part of the OECD’s Pensions at a Glance 2017 report, also reveals India (99%), Portugal (95%), and Italy (93%) have very competitive pension rates.

      The lowest pension in the developed world are mentioned below:-

      – At the other end of the scale, pensioners in the United Kingdom suffer from the worst deal of any OECD country, receiving just 29% of a working wage when they retire. To put this into perspective, the OECD average is 63% and the average for EU member states is 71%.
      Elsewhere, the pension rate in the United States is 49%, while in China, which is home to more than 1.4 billion people, the rate is 83%, OECD data shows.

    • 0
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      UK worst at 29%. But if I read the article correctly, Australia is worse than that at less than 21% for a member of a couple (41.76% for a couple combined) and about 28% for a single. Are my calculations correct?

    • 0
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      I think it’s more like 31.4%

    • 0
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      Still pathetic, HS. But thanks for that. I’d like to see how the calculations are done. Regardless, it makes Australia appear very disrespectful of it’s ageing by comparison with other nations.

    • 0
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      According to the OECD graph New Zealand OAPs are better off then Australian OAPs.

    • 0
      0

      Thanks, HS for the details. Instead of YLC focusing on Renters, other targeted groups, the pension simply needs to be lifted across the board, as homeowners also have large costs which renters don’t have.

  8. 0
    0

    I am not a pensioner but do not believe the treatment they are getting is fitting to the people that helped build Australia. The present Federal Government seem to be down on pensioners for reasons best known to their selves.

  9. 0
    0

    My friend has just turned 74, he has no real savings as he lost a lot of money due to bad financial advice when he retired and then the GFC hit and that was it for his savings. He is on the Aged Pension but also works two days a week doing bookwork. His pension is cut each fortnight, he has to report in like a dole bludger. The Government keeps telling pensioners they need to work on, but they just never give them any incentive to do so. My brother is also retired but because his wife is 65 1/2 she still has another 6 months before she can go on a pension so she’s working part time in a shop. My brother’s pension is cut though because she’s ‘still working’ – for a pittance. He occasionally gets a bit of taxi work but has to monitor that closely because again his pension is cut but he can only work until he’s reached his Work Credit limit. The pollies make sure they don’t suffer any hardship though and keep adding to their perks.

    • 0
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      You sister-in-law should find out if she’s eligible for the Age Pension, even though she is still working part time. Then if she’s granted the pension, she may be able to cut down her hours.

      From July 2017, the age pension eligibility age rose from 65 to 65.5. Get her to test her eligibility from Centrelink. She should be eligible NOW, and not have to wait 6 months.

  10. 0
    0

    Poster ‘PugLet”, 4god’s Sake,- AUS cares, heaps, IT is the Despicable “Full Of THem-SELVE S” & BrainDEAD TraveL ETC daily RORTG mongrelBRED politicians WHO doN’T care a ‘TinKerS’. – YRs ago i was makg some Str & Venue based VIDeos wi T ABBOTT. a “FED”: remmbr him ? ? I thought he was O.K, not like, “ALL the Others”. But as “P.M”, appar he Muffed It, BIG time & so”Fell on his Sword”. NOW, he &, 1 0 0 s of 1,0 0 0 s Await, TURN BULL, to do thr Same. Job of “P. M”, – is a Real “Poison CHALICE”. Pays POOR.. Deputy pays Heaps better &, u can Tell a country Lies, abt WATER,-the Abv Brain-DEAD, Mongrel BRED “‘REAL CRACKER'” pollies think,- THEY, ‘OWN’. But we Have knews, for the “CONGA LINE OF SPIVS” they All are.. NO one Owns, – WATER. -This SITE Needs to V quickly ATTRACT, record Breaking POSTERS, givg their “ALL”, abt Mongrel AUS politicians, WHO, have “STOLEN” FROM, KID’S FUTURES. With
    Millions of POSTS, we can 4ward the “RecordeD” posts, all over the WORLD, to other SCUM Bag GOV-TS. Which Equals, EVERY country, on the PLANET.. IT would be Likened to,a REAL Informa Revolution. To destroy PPL ahead of Their LUNATIC political POLIcies -LIKE,-“RUDD – GILLARD- RUDD” dangerous CLOWNS. Who made AUS a Laughing Stock, across the WORLD. If well-meaning PPL will 4go Insulting T.V & fill ths Very U N-Usual Site UP with experiences & get Teen-Agers To Read some, they will B better informed when lookg2 have a FAM, bec, we Don’t Know, What “AUS GOV-T Wrecking BALL” Or plural, if APPLIC, is yet, to BeFall Us, b4, we RULE, the MongreLs. We know they are, BLOOD SUCKERS. Y not EDUCATE, Teen-Agers, with a FREELY avail, “EDGE”, for the getting – Taking.

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