Treasurer warns of Pension changes

Despite Opposition protests that it would break an election promise, in an attempt to improve Australia’s bottom line, Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has flagged possible changes to the Age Pension in the upcoming budget.

Changes would include an increase in the Age Pension eligibility age – Mr Hockey has pointed to the United Kingdom, where the Age Pension qualifying age is set to increase to 70 over the coming decades.

Currently in Australia the Age Pension is indexed to the average weekly earnings of an Australian male, but Mr Hockey is suggesting that this be changed to indexing based on inflation (i.e. CRI), which  could leave pensioners worse-off.

The Treasurer has stated that Australians are relying too heavily on government payments, “Obviously we’ve got to have a sustainable welfare system and there is a serious question as to whether our current welfare system, which was designed in the 20th Century, is sustainable in the 21st Century when we have significant demographic challenges.”

Shadow Treasurer Tony Burke has warned that, if it goes ahead with these changes, the Government will be breaking an election promise not to change the Age Pension. “The promise was – no changes. Full stop. No qualification. No changes to pensions.”

And leader of the Greens Christine Milne says that asking those in physically demanding jobs to work through to 70 is unreasonable. “Apart from asking people, especially those who’ve worked in physically demanding jobs all their lives to keep working until they’re 70 – if they can’t they’ll have to go onto New Start which won’t in any shape or form be able to support them.”

Commentators have expressed concerns that these changes will simply mean people being moved from the Age Pension onto other, less suitable, welfare payments.

Read more at the ABC News website

Read more at the Herald Sun website

Opinion: Punished for growing older

It seems likely that the “significant demographic challenges” Mr Hockey believes Australia is facing include Australia’s ageing population, made up mostly of hard-working, tax-paying Australians. Shame on you, you hard-working, tax-paying people for causing such problems.

And we all know you want nothing more than to retire at the tender age of 65 in order to grab your Age Pension payments from the poor government. Who wouldn’t want to rely on the Age Pension? Greedy, selfish. Could you not simply remain young and pay ever-increasing taxes? How dare you affect the country’s bottom-line so. What were you thinking?

What. A. Joke. No, Mr Hockey, nobody wants to rely on the Age Pension. It’s already so low as to make living on it a financial juggling act worthy of the circus. And changing the way it is indexed will only exacerbate this situation.

It’s all well and good to raise the age of eligibility to 70, but how does the Government intend to ensure that employers will employ people until they are 70? Older workers often cite their age as a barrier to finding work – ageism in the workforce is a real and persistent problem in Australia – how will forcing more people into this job market help matters? Those who can’t find work will simply end up on Newstart Allowance, moving them from one form of welfare to another with lower entitlements.

But even if we ignore the obvious realities of the Australian workforce, speaking as one human to another, how is it right or just to tell those who have paid taxes all their lives that no, you can’t stop working. We’ve changed the rules. The line has been moved. And when you do finally catch up to this elusive and ever-increasing Age Pension age, you’ll get less than those before you for your trouble?

Mr Hockey, when you are framing your May budget, think back to your election promises, and don’t punish Australians for getting older.

What do you think? Should you grit your teeth and ‘take one for the team’ in order to help balance Australia’s budget? Or do older Australians deserve better than these broken promises? And, in the light of the proposed changes to the Age Pension, how do you feel about the Government’s six-months paid parental leave plan?