Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Pension increases

Program: 5AA Breakfast Show

E & OE – Proof only

HOST: Minister good morning.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning to you both.

HOST: And today’s the day.

JENNY MACKLIN: Today is the day for 3.4 million pensioners across Australia. And just over 300,000 pensioners in South Australia, they get their regular pension rise on the 20th of March, today, and of course that means that their pension goes up to, make sure that it keeps up with the cost of living.

HOST: Can you really say that it is keeping up with the cost of living. It ain’t keeping up with the electricity prices.

JENNY MACKLIN: One of the things that we were determined to do when we introduced the big pension reforms a few years ago, back in 2009, we introduced a new way of calculating the pension rise to make sure that we measured the increase in the cost of living for pensioners particularly, and we also make sure it keeps up with the cost of wages. So this time in fact the pension rise is going up because wages have gone up, and we do want to make sure that for those pensioners, we know they’ve got the least room to move in their budget, that we are able to give them this extra help.

HOST: One of the issues that you know is strong in our community, the Newstart allowance. People seemed to be penalised for being unemployed. They don’t get the same as a pensioner does.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course the most important thing we want to do for people who are unemployed is to help them get work. And one of the things that is so important in Australia is that we keep delivering on low unemployment rates. I think if you were in the United States or Europe, you look at Australia and wonder how on earth it is the case that we’ve kept unemployment so low.

HOST: But we’re still waiting for the boom in South Australia, so why is it that Newstart lags so far behind these other rises that are happening today?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well because we want to do everything we can to help people get work and that means putting more money into skill development. Yesterday you might have seen the Prime Minister announce extra money for people who need that extra training to get an extra qualification so that they can get the jobs that are available. That’s really where we want to put extra money when it comes to helping people getting into work.

HOST: Minister, the carbon tax, you know it scares people, you know it scares pensioners. What are you doing for them?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course that’s why we are increasing the pension and that’ll happen in May and June this year. We do want to make sure that pensioners are getting extra money in their purses and wallets before the carbon price starts on the 1st July, so pensioners won’t have to apply for this pension increase. There’ll be an advance that goes straight into their bank accounts in May or June, so it’s going to be staggered across those few weeks because there are so many people who are going to get increases. And if I can just also say to any families who might be listening, there’ll also be increases in family payments that’ll be paid directly into people’s bank accounts in May and June.

HOST: We had a galaxy poll, we talked about it already in the program today, where South Australians are most concerned about electricity costs. That’s the one they’re scared about, that’s the one that is hitting them hardest.


HOST: And when, it gets just, you know, handballed around, what is the Federal Government doing about electricity prices? What can you say to them?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well first and foremost we do recognise that we have to increase the pension, so that’s what we, one of the first things we did was to increase the Utilities Allowance by around $400 to ensure that people got extra money as part of their pension. Then we delivered the big pension rise. If you look at the increases in the pension since 2009, it’s gone up by $154 a fortnight, that’s for singles on the maximum rate. So I think you can see we’re certainly true to our word, delivering extra financial support for pensioners. And in May and June, recognising the carbon price is starting on the 1st July, we’re going to pay an extra amount to pensioners so they’ve got that money in their bank account before the carbon price starts.

HOST: Minister thanks for your time this morning.