Lift Payments For Single Pensioners and Unemployed in Budget

2 March 2009

The single rate for all pensions, including the pension for sole parents, should be increased by $28 per week in the May Budget. Payments for single unemployed people should be raised by $30 per week at the same time, says ACOSS’ submission to the Taxation Review Panel.
Clare Martin, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service:

“ACOSS is calling on the Government to increase the single pension by $28 per week to two thirds of the couple rate to assist pensioners at risk of poverty. Payment increases should also be extended to all people doing it toughest in our community including sole parents, disability and carer pensioners, unemployed people and private tenants.”

“Sole parents are among the worst off in our community. Recent research published by ACOSS shows that 57% of sole parents on the Parenting Payment regularly can’t pay utility bills. It is critical they be included in this next round of increases.”

Other recommendations include:
To help pay for these payment increases:

  • A modest tightening of the pension income test, reducing by 50 cents per dollar of income instead of the current 40 cents. The present income test extends part pension and pensioners concessions to retirees who arguably do not need it. For example, a couple can earn up to almost $70,000 per year and still receive a part pension. The proposed change would peg this back to around $55,000.
  • Removing special tax breaks for seniors such as the Senior Australians Tax Offset which costs $1 billion a year is mainly paid to relatively well off retirees. Given the investment losses sustained by many retirees in the present economic downturn, ACOSS proposes this be phased in once the economy has had time to recover.
  • A $15pw increase in Rent Assistance to assist pensioners and other social security recipients who face a very high risk of financial hardship – private tenants.
  • A $30pw increase in Newstart Allowance as a first step towards closing the $56pw gap between pensions and payments for unemployed people. ACOSS research shows 54% of unemployed people on Newstart can’t raise $500 in an emergency.

Media Contact: Clare Cameron – 0419 626 155