Interview Transcript – Pension increase and new work bonus for pensioners
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Subject: Pension increase and new work bonus for pensioners
PAUL MURRAY: 3.4 million pensioners right across Australia have got an increase in their payments today to help them meet the increases of household costs. Jenny Macklin is the Federal Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and she joins us. G’day Jenny.
JENNY MACKLIN: G’day.
PAUL MURRAY: How did this pay rise come about?
JENNY MACKLIN: We introduced a new system of indexation and what that means is we wanted to make sure that the pension keeps up with pensioners’ cost of living. So every six months on 20 September and also 20 March each year, the pension is now adjusted according to what pensioners face with their cost of living. So it’s been a positive change for pensioners.
PAUL MURRAY: So what are the rises that will come into effect today?
JENNY MACKLIN: So for single pensioners on the maximum rate they’ll get an extra $19.50 a fortnight, and for pensioner couples combined on the maximum rate they’ll get an extra $29.60 a fortnight.
PAUL MURRAY: Should help a lot of households keep their head above water because as we know prices are rising rapidly.
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s exactly right and as you said at the start 3.4 million pensioners – and just so your listeners know that covers age and disability pensioners, also those on the carer payment and veterans’ income support recipients – so all of those people will receive a boost to their pension from today.
PAUL MURRAY: Now there was also involved in this too a pension work bonus?
JENNY MACKLIN: We introduced a change to the work bonus. We know that there is a group of pensioners who do some part-time work and they certainly want to keep more of that money that they earn. And so from 1 July this year the change we’ve made says that you can keep up to an extra $250 a fortnight without it being taken into account as income under the income test for the pension. And that certainly means a little bit extra for pensioners in their fortnightly bank account.
If people don’t, and I think one of the messages I just wanted to pass on is, if you don’t use that as a result of not having any employment income in any fortnight, you can build that up over the year into a bank of up to $6,500 and that really helps those people who might, for example want to be a Santa around Christmas time, might want to work for around six weeks in that period or do exam marking which other older Australians do. And that enables people to not have their pension affected up to the $6,500 limit.
PAUL MURRAY: We had Hank Jongen, the National Manager of Centrelink on the program for about half an hour a few weeks ago explaining that new system. He was suggesting it was going to be very popular?
JENNY MACKLIN: I think it will be because it does mean that people can work just for particular periods of time. So people mightn’t want to have a regular job every week or every fortnight but they might want to do a few weeks here or there throughout the year. We only have around three per cent of pensioners, age pensioners that is, working at the moment but I do think increasingly people would like to add to their pension and this will give them a bit of extra help.
PAUL MURRAY: And Hank did stress that people just need to keep Centrelink aware of how they’re going to manage that?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yeah that’s exactly right. They’ve always had to do that of course but this way one of the things that I think is a real benefit is that they can bank their entitlement up over the year and then use it in any particular six week to three month period depending how much time their working.
PAUL MURRAY: Yeah like I think it really gives people in that situation great flexibility and at that stage of their life that’s what they’re looking for.
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s exactly right.
PAUL MURRAY: Great to talk to you Jenny, thanks a lot.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you.