Clive to say no to pension changes

Parliament is due to return today, but amid lockdowns and alleged terrorist threats, it appears that Clive Palmer’s PUP party may be the biggest obstacle to social security budget bills being passed.

Several bills which contain some of the more contentious items announced in the Federal Budget 2014/15 are due to be debated. These include making people under 30 wait six months before they can claim the dole, indexing pensions at a lower rate and raising the Age Pension eligibility rate to 70. There are also bills which propose changes to Family Tax Benefit Part B payments.

With opposition from Labor and the Greens well documented, the Government would need the support of PUP and independent senators. However, Clive Palmer has categorically stated that his party will not be supporting anything in the bills. “We’re just against everything,” he said. “We will be voting negative to the lot.”

According to a spokeswoman for the Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews, Mr Palmer and fellow PUP senator Jacqui Lambie had already had discussions with the minister, who is also due to meet with Labor and the Greens when Parliament returns. However, when asked if he had held discussions with the Government, Mr Palmer said it was “up to the Government” to arrange a meeting.


Opinion: Let’s not leave it to Clive

Is it really going to be left to Clive Palmer and the waifs and strays of the Senate to ensure the legislation for the proposed changes to pension provisions does not pass?

Clive Palmer is the master of manipulating the headlines to enhance his own importance. We saw this when he stated quite publicly that his PUP party would stop the repeal of the carbon tax, on which he remained quite steadfast until the Government offered him something in return for his vote. So I can’t help but think if we’re relying on Clive and his PUP party to ensure future pensions are adequate, then we need a different plan – and soon.

In addition to raising the Age Pension age to 70, there are three other proposed changes to the Age Pension which would hurt many older Australians financially. These are:

1. From 1 July 2017, increases to pensions, including the Age Pension and Disability Support Pension, will only be linked to inflation and will not be benchmarked to Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE). Over the previous four years to March 2014, benchmarking to MTAWE has resulted in pension payments over that period totaling $2000 (source: more than they would have been if linked only to inflation.

2. Freezing of eligibility thresholds for the Pension and pension related payments for three years from 2017. This means that despite assets increasing in value, Age Pension disqualification limits will not, resulting in more people having their pension reduced, or losing it altogether.  

3. For the purposes of the pension income test, the Government will change how it deems the return from a person’s financial assets. From 20 September 2017, the deeming thresholds will be reset from $46,600 to $30,000 for singles and from $77,400 to $50,000 for couples. This essentially means that income above the new, lower thresholds will attract the higher deeming rate, which is currently 3.5 per cent. And when coupled with the freeze in indexation of asset and income limits, the effect of this move is greatly magnified.

Opposition to the above measures must be clear and absolute. Australians do not need Mr Palmer and his party orchestrating a last-minute back flip based on his latest whim. YOURLifeChoices is working closely with a third party to implement a campaign which will leave Kevin Andrews, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey in no doubt as to how devastating the impact of such changes would be to Australia’s 2.4 million pensioners who rely on an Age Pension. Keep your eyes on your inbox in the next week for details.

Do you think ‘people power’ in the form of a sustained campaign, is the best way to ensure the Government understands that changes to the Age Pension could be devastating for Australia’s pensioners? Or should we leave iot up to cross-bench politicians to ensure that the Government acts in the best interests of the most vulnerable in our society?

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