THE announcement that the government planned to take its last ‘zombie’ measure – to increase the age pension eligibility age to 70 – off the table has been welcomed by the Australian Council of Social Service.
Chief executive of the anti-poverty advocacy group, Dr Cassandra Goldie, said the government had finally heard the community on this issue.
“There are currently 60,000 single people over the age of 60 who are struggling on the disgracefully low unemployment benefit - Newstart Allowance.
“With little hope of getting paid work, these people would have been condemned to another three years of trying to survive on Newstart.”
The pension age increase was flagged in Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott’s 2014 horror budget which saw a range of ‘zombie’ measures targeted at welfare.
Yesterday Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously a strong supporter of raising the pension age said on the Nine Network, the policy was “gone”. The pension age would remain at 67, he said.
Age Pension recipient Ricci Bartels said it was a good move.
“After being on Newstart for five to six years, I was put on the age pension earlier this year,” says Ms Bartels.
“I’m feeling better. The extra money and not having to face Centrelink and apply for millions of jobs has made an enormous difference to my life.
“The increase in money provides you with an opportunity to rent a house or share rent whereas before I couldn’t do that.
“This reversal will be good for the many many mature age unemployed people who, no matter how much they try, are unable to get jobs they apply for.”
Dr Goldie says, “The reality of Australia’s labour market is there is only one paid position for every eight unemployed or under-employed applicants.
“Age discrimination means it is harder to find paid work as you get older.
“People who are unemployed and not yet pension age must survive on Newstart, which is up to $175 per week less than the age pension.
“Everyone agrees that you cannot live on Newstart. People are having to sacrifice daily essentials like eating three meals a day, catching public transport, turning on lights, fridges and heaters, and visiting health professionals.
“We’re pleased the government has reversed its decision to lift the pension age.
“We call on the government to raise the rate of Newstart so that people who are looking for paid work can keep the lights on and put food on the table.”