By Joe Montero President of Fair Goi For Pensioners (Victoria)
So, the pension has been increased by $37.50 for singles per fortnight and $56.40 a fortnight for couples? The media campaign around the announcement has certainly made it sound like a windfall. If we are to believe the hype, age pensioners are doing quite well.
This increase was part of a package that saw increases for those on Jobseeker and ABSTUDY as well, although they got somewhat less, only $24.70 a fortnight. Single parents get $33.90. This discrimination against other groups getting payments from Centrelink prompted the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) to call for them to be brought up to the higher age pension level as a minimum. They should be. No question about this.
But having said this, the claim that there has been a substantial increase in the age pension is false. When properly examined, it is not hard to see that this is no real rise. It doesn’t even cover the recent rise in the cost of housing, soaring energy bills, increased prices of food, medicines, and more.
It’s even worse than this. There is supposed to be a mechanism that makes six monthly adjustments to keep up with the cost of living. Successive government have undermined this by not allowing full adjustments. This has caused an ongoing downward slide in the real value of the age pension. An investigation by Fair Go For Pensioners has revealed that the shortfall is up to a huge $10,000 per year for each individual. The current government is following the same policy.
The fact that other payments are treated even more abysmally does not justify this. Every Australian deserves and has a right to a standard of living that meets community standards, and there should be no argument about this. It is this that should be at the centre of the conversation. Sadly, it isn’t, and this says something about the quality of the political leadership of this country. Australia deserves and needs much better than this.
The announced pretend new increase is yet another partial adjustment. A full adjustment would have seen an increase of around 8 percent instead of a mere 3.6 percent, or around $85 per fortnight for singles, and a rise by a similar proportion for couples.
The failure to allow a full adjustment means that the age pension continues to fall further and further behind community standards, and this is causing rising poverty, homelessness, harmful health effects, and the social isolation of many older Australians. a failing age pension is a broken pension that in addition to harming those who depend on it, is a drag on the economy, restricting the contribution of many volunteers, who can no longer offer their services. This is unpaid labour that lessens the cost of a range of services the community depends on. It also contributes to the fall in consumer demand and therefore the contraction of the economy.
The fanfare around the present increase is, we must suspect, is more about an effort to gain political benefit than about delivering justice to those who have worked a lifetime to contribute to building Australia and ensuring they receive what they should be entitled to.
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