President’s statement on behalf of Fair Go For Pensioners (Vic) for action to raise the Age Pension above poverty

As the Victorian President and on behalf of Fair Go For Pensioners of Victoria, I have sent a letter to the Prime Minister, asking for an examination of the evidence and for consultation on how to address the situation. We hope that the Prime Minister responds positively and backs our campaign for improvement.

A joint investigation by Fair Go For Pensioners and the Living Income for Everyone (LIFE) campaign supports this. We have found systematic theft by governments, deliberately misusing their own guidelines to effectively cut back in the real value of the Age Pension, and it has now put many more below the official poverty line. The recent small increase is not even enough to cover the loss from the current rate of inflation and It does nothing to change the situation.

This has been compounded by a rapidly rising cost of living, especially the costs of housing, transport, and food. In Addition to causing poverty the rising cost of living is at the heart of a growing crisis of social isolation, and this means poorer health.

These are tough times. After a lifetime of work, of making their contributions to the growth of Australia, our retired workers are disrespected, treated as a burden, denied the means to live their last years in dignity and relative comfort, and forced into poverty.

At the very least, we want a review of the formula used to calculate the Age Pension payments. The way it is being applied is wrong. The stated purpose is supposed to be to align the Age Pension to community living standards. This is not being met, and it is about time something was done about it.

An injustice like this one is unacceptable in a society that values justice. Older Australians have earned the right to a decent life after retirement. They are not a charity case, and the expectation to be live in relative comfort and dignity after a lifetime contribution, must be seen as a basic human right.

Fair Go For Pensioners came into existence in 2007 to honour this and campaign to bring about improvement. Our decision to launch a new campaign for a major increase in the age pension and far better treatment of our older Australians is in line with this.

The treatment of retired Australians on the pension is, of course, related to the treatment of other Australians who find themselves at the margin. This especially applies to those on other social security payments, whether they be Newstart, the disability payment, or the single parent pension. And it applies to those who find themselves underemployed in an economy that won’t provide them with a proper and secure job.

The connection is that all are subject to forms of mistreatment and scapegoating that works to create a cheap labour force to suppress wages growth. This is a policy that relies on division within our society. This has brought about social and economic harm.

Age Pensioners, for example, have been accused of being a burden on younger generations. This is a lie that must be exposed. A lifetime of paying taxes means that retirees have already paid their way and have earned their right to be rewarded. Now the retirement age is being progressively increased to seventy.

On top of an already inadequate Age Pension, older Australians, and especially women, are the main part of the army of volunteers, providing services necessary for Australia to function. Their work is a major contribution to the wellbeing of the community and economy. Imagine the cost on government and the taxation system, without this volunteer force. It’s time this contribution was valued as it should be.

Fair Go For Pensioners rejects the pushing of those who are dependent on social security into becoming a cheap labour force. This violates the right to equality. The lifting of the retirement age together with insufficient income to live on does this is part of this, an injustice on par with the Robo Debt scandal.

We do not intend to stop at sending a letter to the Prime Minister. We are launching a campaign that will concentrate on building the pressure for a better deal. Emphasis will be put on building community awareness and putting the issue on the political centre stage. We aim to build united action of as many organisations and individuals as possible, to make so much noise that everyone knows what is going on and to build community support for the change that is needed.

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