No pay rise for age pensioners

Aussie pensioners won’t be getting a fortnightly increase to their Age Pension from 20 September.

Early reports that the pension would not increase surfaced last week and, on Tuesday, it was confirmed by government officials who said that because inflation went backwards in the June quarter, there would be no pension rise at the next indexation.

Department of Social Services deputy secretary Nathan Williamson confirmed to a Senate inquiry that the drop in the consumer price index meant there would be no pension increase.

“Based on the calculation for indexation, if it’s negative, we don’t reduce the pension but we also don’t increase it,” he said on Tuesday.

While pensioners won’t see an increase in payments, single parents will, with the single parenting payment set to rise by $3 a fortnight on 20 September.

When YourLifeChoices reported on the rumours last week, many pensioners were upset about the potential for no increase to pension payments.

“Why am I not surprised? There is money for businesses, asylum seekers, dole bludgers, for Lebanon, and politicians, but not for those who need it the most!” wrote YourLifeChoices member Blinky.

“They can’t afford to give pensioners an increase as it is imperative that the wealthy get their income tax cut,” wrote Tanker.

However, others were accepting of the fact that the two $750 payments made to pensioners as part of the government’s coronavirus stimulus package would have provided more income over the next six months than a $4–$5 a week boost pensioners are used to seeing at indexation.

“I must admit, I get a bit upset at people who complain about not getting a rise, despite receiving the two $750 payments each person (i.e. $3000 for a couple) already as an extra this year,” wrote ronnieb.

YourLifeChoices member, almost a grey hair, saw the lighter side of the news.

“An extra cup of coffee is bad for you anyway, if they reduce the pension by the price of a cup of coffee as well , that’s two cups you go without.”

DSS secretary Mr Williamson would not say how long pensioners would have to wait until their payments did go up.

“I’m not in a position to say that because we have to wait to see the broader economic outcomes,” he said.

Older Australians will have to wait until about mid-February to know whether a rise will go ahead in March 2021.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has also said she is unsure how much the unemployment benefit will be after the coronavirus pandemic.

With JobSeeker payments boosted to a maximum $1100 per fortnight through to September, and then $800 until the end of the year, many, such as former prime minister John Howard and Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe, have urged the government to retain the increased payments once the pandemic ends.

The unemployment benefit, which equated to $40 a day prior to the pandemic, hasn’t risen in real terms in more than 25 years, and the minister responsible for welfare payments won’t say whether it will go back to those levels post-pandemic.

“We will be making further statements in coming months so we can provide ongoing certainty,” said Ms Ruston.

“But right now, I don’t know whether we’re going to have a situation where we have clarity around what post-coronavirus Australia is going to look like by the end of the year or not.”

Around 1.6 million Australians, including many older Australians who have lost jobs or had their hours cut, are expected to receive unemployment payments in the September quarter.

That number is expected to drop to about 1.5 million in the December period.

The liquid assets waiting period, which requires recipients to meet a certain threshold in assets, will also be reintroduced in late September.

That means some people will have to wait up to 13 weeks before receiving a payment.

The government wants to double the waiting period to 26 weeks for people who have more than $18,000.

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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