Pension cuts on the way

The government has introduced legislation to cut income support payments for Newstart, Sickness Allowance and pensions to the tune of almost $300 million over the next four years.

The Payment Integrity Bill will cut income support payments to pensioners and some people accessing Newstart, Austudy, Youth Allowance, and Sickness Allowance. The three measures in the Bill would extend the residency requirements to access the Age and Disability Support pensions; cut the GST Supplement paid to pensioners who leave Australia for six weeks or more and would double the Liquid Assets Waiting Period from 13 to 26 weeks.

The measures are expected to slash $291.5 million from income support over the forward estimates period.

“People receiving income support are already trapped in a spiral of poverty, and this bill will further entrench disadvantage, making it harder for those doing it tough to get ahead,” said ACOSS chief Dr Cassandra Goldie, who has called on the government to stop further income support payment cuts to people who are already doing it tough.

“More cuts to income support payments is also the last thing the country needs. These are payments that go into the hands of people who will spend every cent in the real economy. This bill would take a further $291 million out of the economy, just when everyone from the RBA to ACOSS is calling for more to be done on fiscal policy.

“The bill will double the Liquid Assets Waiting Period for people accessing allowances, which would see some wait for six months to get Newstart, Sickness Allowance and Youth Allowance if they have a certain level of cash assets. We know that having some savings in the bank greatly benefits people on allowances because these payments do not cover the cost of essentials. This bill will only make it tougher for more people who are looking for paid work or fall ill.”

According to ACOSS, the measure will deny people aged 65 and over, and people with a disability in serious financial hardship, access to a pension. It will be mostly older people who are affected, who have very limited opportunity to get sufficient paid work.

“It would also increase waiting periods for migrants claiming an Age or Disability Support Pension, forcing people aged 65 and over to wait up to 15 years to access a pension.”

Dr Goldie is concerned the cuts will increase poverty among older people in Australia.

“The bill cuts the GST Supplement for pensioners who spend six weeks or more outside of Australia, disadvantaging older people who travel overseas to visit family,” she said.

“We call on the Australian Government to stop cutting income support and instead increase Newstart, Youth Allowance and related payments by at least $75pw to help people get through tough times.”

Were you aware of such cuts? Do you think Newstart should be increased? Should the government look at increasing the Age Pension base rate?

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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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