The shock news that there will be no age pension rise this month has seniors groups lobbying the Government for urgent action.
Department of Social Services officials confirmed to a parliamentary committee that age pensioners would not receive the anticipated payment boost as consumer prices fell by 1.9 per cent in the June quarter, taking annual inflation to minus 0.3 per cent. Pensions traditionally rise each March and September in line with inflation.
The last time the pension did not increase was in 1931, when it was reduced from $104 to $78 a year.
Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia has called for an additional $750 stimulus payment to pensioners in consideration of the increased costs incurred due to the pandemic.
In a letter to Families and Community Services Minister Anne Ruston, chief executive Ian Yates warned that age and disability pensioners required additional fiscal support.
"While the CPI has gone down because of the impact of items like childcare this does not help age pensioners," he wrote.
Mr Yates said pensioners had been impacted by a reduction in the number of specials and discounts during the pandemic.
"Pensioners live very close to the poverty line, and in private rental, below it. And while the two previous $750 payments have been very welcome, pensioners have ended up with less income in this period than people on the increased level of Jobseeker."
Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association has called for a permanent pension hardship supplement for the poorest pensioners. "The living standard of single pensioners with the pension as their sole source of income hovers just above the poverty line," said policy manager Paul Versteege. "The majority of single full-rate pensioners are widows and widowers, who have faced a drop in their pension of 40 per cent after the death of their partner."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the situation would be looked at. "This is one of those issues that comes in a pandemic, you don't expect those indexes to go negative."