Not a poor old pensioner in sight

Malcolm Turnbull last week promised a “fair and compassionate” welfare overhaul, but Bill Shorten thinks it’s just another chance to “kick the poor old pensioner”.

Australia’s welfare system, especially for those who can and should be looking for work, has been under the spotlight of late. Just last week it was revealed that, despite promises of a crackdown, those who flouted the rules were not being penalised. And while Treasurer Scott Morrison believes the Government is being successful in “chipping away at the welfare system,” Opposition leader Bill Shorten maintains that trying to “kick the poor old pensioner” is simply a tactic to distract attention from the Government’s trials of the last few weeks.

Speaking to reporters in Wollongong last week, Mr Shorten said, “Malcolm Turnbull has a lot to say about the jobs of bank CEOs or dotcom start-up tech companies, but what about everyday jobs for the people who can’t find them?

“The Government is trying to distract from their own problems and so what do they do? They decide to kick the poor old pensioner, they decide to demonise everyone who receives a pension and put them all in the sin bin.”

The Opposition leader also believes that by getting its priorities right and dumping the proposed company tax cuts, the Government could save taxpayer funds.

“We’re not going to just allow the Government to pick on the pensioner when they’re handing away truckloads of money to the big end of town,” he said.

Scott Morrison voiced his frustration at the Labor Party’s seeming keenness to keep the welfare system rather than incentivise people to escape. Perhaps in reference to Government figures revealed in The Australian that in 2014-15 the top 10 per cent of those on parenting benefits received at least $45,032, Mr Morrison said, “It is a crying shame that some Australians would have to take a pay cut to get a job in this country because of the way our welfare system works.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated that incentivising people was the best way to provide support.  “We’re dealing with people’s lives here, we’ve got to ensure that we’re providing the right level of support, we’re doing so in a fair and compassionate way but equally that Australia’s welfare system is providing incentives for people to work because the best form of social welfare is a job,” he told 3AW radio.

“The system should always work so as to incentivise people to go into employment.”


Opinion: Missing the point

Yet again both sides of politics seem to be missing the point when it comes to welfare support – it’s not just about those on the parenting payment and the young who can’t find work – what about those who are destined to struggle on an Age Pension?

While the Government bangs on about innovation and creating jobs, what about the jobs that have been lost? Technology and innovation in which Mr Turnbull is so very keen to invest, is the very thing that is killing the jobs on which many people rely.

The car industry has been decimated in Australia and the manufacturing industry is all but gone. Looking to the future is great, but for many retrenched workers over 50, the future isn’t too bright. When you have worked in the same industry for 30 years or more, retraining or adapting your skills isn’t a walk in the park That’s assuming that there are employment opportunities for them once they do. And it’s not just the opportunity to work that is lost – gone is any hope of being able to save for retirement, as well as the likelihood of ever being able to pay off a mortgage, or escape the rent trap.

For those who lose their jobs in later life, welfare is often the only path. Very few will reach retirement age with a super balance that can sustain an income for the rest of their lives. So what then? Well, the Age Pension beckons.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Age Pension is simply not enough to live on, especially if you don’t own your own home. Try paying rent or even a small mortgage on a full Age Pension of $22,804 – I can assure you, it wouldn’t be easy.

And when Bill Shorten chooses to use sound bites such as “kick the poor old pensioner”, he should at least ensure that it’s actually the “poor old pensioner” he’s talking about. In fact, when we talk about the welfare system being in disarray, the scope of the discussion needs to be broadened to include more than just working parents or young people who are struggling to find work. It needs to be a full review of the impact that not being able to work has on you at any age.

What do you think? Is the discussion on welfare too narrow? Do you think enough opportunities are there for those who want to work? Is enough being done to support older workers?

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