Monday, 17 September 2018
Questions without Notice
Pensions and Benefits
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Fifield: Will the minister update the Senate how the Morrison government is supporting senior Australians through our social security system?
The government does offer strong support for senior Australians through our social services and our welfare system. Since this government was elected, pensions have increased by $99.20 per fortnight for singles and by $149.40 per fortnight for couples combined. As Minister Cormann mentioned, pension payments, including the age pension and the disability support pension, will be rising for singles and couples. We're also supporting elderly Australians by providing greater certainty around our age pension system. It was announced on 5 September by the Prime Minister that the proposed increase to the qualification age for the age pension to 70 will no longer proceed. For Australians who want to retire at 67, the pension is there for them. The government can do this because of our strong economic management and because of the comprehensive work we've done in improving the sustainability and resilience of our welfare system.
In the most recent budget, we announced a comprehensive package of measures to help Australians live longer, healthier and more active lives. These decisions build on other measures to support Australians, including retaining the energy supplement. Prudent budgetary management since 2013 allows us to offer certainty to seniors without compromising the viability of the age pension payment. The age pension is currently available to eligible Australians from the age of 65½, with the eligibility age raising to 67 by 2023 under legislation which was passed by the previous Labor government. I should also indicate that the energy supplement to eligible individuals will also be included.
Senator Watt interjecting—
In this year's budget, the government announced a package of measures to help Australians to live longer, healthier and more active lives. This includes extending and expanding the pensioner work bonus to include self-employed pensioners and an increase in the bonus from $250 to $300 per fortnight, with the maximum accrual increasing from $6,500 to $7,800. Opening the pension loan scheme is another element—that's to all older Australians with securable real estate owned in Australia, including full-rate pensioners of age pension age and self-funded retirees—so a pensioner couple on maximum rate can boost their retirement income by up to $17,786.60 without impacting their eligibility for the pension or other benefits.
Thanks, Senator Gichuhi. A sustainable welfare system is a fair welfare system. Often, having a good economic policy and a good social policy will be presented by some in this place as alternatives: you either have to choose a good economic policy or a good social policy. The fact is that they're two sides of the one coin—that you need a good economic policy to sustain and support a good social policy; that, when you're talking about good economic policy and good social policy, it's a little bit like breathing in and breathing out: breathing in is good economic policy; breathing outside good social policy. What this government has demonstrated since 2013—since it was elected—is that the way to ensure a good social policy for all Australians is to make sure that you have a good economic policy, and that's what this government's doing.