Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Delivering for Senior Australians

Joint Media Release with:

  • Wayne Swan MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer
    Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations
    Robert McClelland MP, Attorney General
    Mark Butler MP, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing

In recognition of the important contribution senior Australians make to the community and the economy, the Gillard Government is delivering a range of new initiatives to encourage participation and involvement in community life.

The measures announced today build on the Government’s historic pension reforms delivered in September 2009 that have provided substantial increases to the pension and long-lasting improvements to the indexation system.

Since the Government’s pension reforms came into effect, maximum rate pensioners have received increases of around $128 a fortnight for singles and $116 a fortnight for couples combined.

New Work Bonus

To better support age pensioners who want to work, the Gillard Government is delivering a new and improved Work Bonus from 1 July this year. Older Australians who work will be able to keep more of the money they earn from part-time work.

The new Work Bonus will allow age pensioners, particularly those who have seasonal jobs, to keep more of their pension if they choose to work. Eligible pensioners can earn up to $250 a fortnight without it being assessed as income under the pension income test

In addition, any unused amount of the fortnightly $250 Work Bonus will accumulate in an employment ‘income bank’, up to a maximum amount of $6,500. Credit in the ‘income bank’ can then be carried forward to future years and be used to offset employment income that would otherwise be assessable under the pension income test.

The new work bonus will benefit pensioners in all types of work, especially seasonal work such as an exam supervisor or a Santa Claus.

The Government is investing $93.7 million over four years to deliver the new Work Bonus.

More Help for Mature Age Workers

From 1 July this year, mature age workers (aged 50 years and over) with trade skills but no formal qualifications will have the opportunity to have their skills assessed and formally recognised to attain a qualification at Certificate III level or above.

Under the initiative, mature age workers will be linked to an accredited training provider when their assessment identifies skills gaps and a need for formal training.

The Gillard Government is investing $30 million over three years in the initiative, which will address both productivity and skills shortages.

Each year, this measure will benefit about 2,500 mature age workers.

Industries with a high proportion of trade occupations, such as construction, manufacturing, electricity, gas, water and waste services are expected to benefit, with an increase in workers. It will also ensure mature age workers have better job security.

More Help for Mature Age Workers builds on the Government’s $43.3 million Experience Plus program (Productive Ageing Package) which started on 1 July 2010.

This program provides for eligible older Australians with:

  • free professional career advice;
  • support and training for workers at risk of losing their job due to their health condition, injury or disability;
  • support and training to move out of a physically demanding role or who have been made redundant; and
  • training grants of $4,950 to increase the capacity of mature age workers to supervise or mentor Australian Apprentices or Trainees.

Greater support for Mature Job Seekers

Job seekers aged 55 years and over experience, on average, much greater durations of unemployment. The average unemployment period for a mature job seeker aged 55 years or over is 73 weeks. Among very long term unemployed job seekers (those unemployed for 24 months or more) 24 per cent are aged over 50 years.

The Building Australia’s Future Workforce package provides better support the very long term unemployed.

Between January 2012 and June 2015, mature age job seekers who have been on income support for more than two years (who are without recent work experience) will benefit from a new employer wage subsidy.

Around 35,000 mature job seekers who have been unemployed for 2 years or more are eligible for new employer wage subsidy of around $6000 for six months. The subsidy will encourage more employers to give mature age job seeks a chance in work, so they can transition into employment.

Age Discrimination Commissioner

The Government will provide $4.0 million over four years to fund, for the very first time at the federal level, a stand-alone Age Discrimination Commissioner and support team in the Australian Human Rights Commission.

This funding recognises the important role the Commission plays in giving a voice to vulnerable members of our community and promoting an open and fair Australia and delivers on a Gillard Government election commitment.

The Age Discrimination Commissioner will tackle the attitudes and stereotypes that can contribute to age discrimination at any age, but in particular they will be able to focus on addressing barriers to equality and participation faced by mature workers and senior Australians when compared with young people.

The Government strongly believes people susceptible to age discrimination deserve a dedicated advocate.

The new Commissioner will play an important role in raising awareness among employers about the benefits that can be realised from the valuable contributions that senior Australians can make in the workforce.

Ambassador for Ageing

The Government will provide $1.1 million over four years for the continuation of the Ambassador for Ageing program.

Since 2008, the Ambassador for Ageing has contributed to the Australian community by acting as an advocate for the value of senior Australians in our communities – promoting healthy and productive ageing.

The Ambassador for Ageing will continue to participate in major events and will continue to showcase Australian Government services for senior Australians, promoting key messages on the substantial and ongoing contribution of older people and the importance of productive and healthy ageing.

Harnessing the skills and experience of older Australians

The Gillard Government recognises the contribution made by older Australians to the community and the workplace. That is why we are establishing an Advisory Panel on the Economic Potential of Seniors Australians. The panel will be chaired by Mr Everald Compton.

The panel will examine the benefits and opportunities that come with a larger and more active community of senior Australians. It will ensure their potential is considered in range of policy debates.

Helping seniors stay connected through broadband kiosks

Thousands of older Australians will stay connected to family and friends through broadband internet with continued funding under the Gillard Government’s successful Broadband for Seniors initiative.

The Government will invest a further $10.4 million over four years to 30 June 2015 to continue to support the 2,000 Broadband for Seniors kiosks already established across the country.

Broadband for Seniors provides older Australians with free access to the internet, while giving them the confidence to use computers through personal training in their local communities.

This new funding will be used to provide free broadband internet, training resources and cover the costs of ongoing maintenance of computer hardware and software for all existing kiosks. This will ensure that local kiosks continue to run with the help of volunteer staff across Australia.

Over 90,000 older Australians have used the 2000 popular Broadband for Seniors kiosks. More than a third of these people had never used a computer before, and almost half had never used the internet.

Supporting grandparent carers

The Government will also provide $1.2 million over four years to establish a national network of peer support groups for grandparent carers.

Grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren make enormous sacrifices. Across Australia, there are more than 18,000 families where grandparents are the primary carers of children.

Twenty-five peer support groups will be established around the country for grandparent carers to meet, share information and experiences and support each other.

The Government has established dedicated grandparent advisors in selected Centrelink offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. These advisors will improve grandparent carers’ access to Centrelink payments and services, and provide information and referral to other government and community services.

Residential Aged Care Viability Supplement

The Government will invest $16 million over one year to extend the existing viability supplement, which compensates around 258 aged care providers for the additional costs associated with delivering services in rural and remote areas.

This funding will also compensate around 67 providers delivering specialised services to residents who are homeless, Indigenous Australians or receiving low care.

Without this measure, from 1 July 2011, all providers who receive a viability supplement would lose the 40 per cent increase to the supplement delivered in the 2009-10 Budget.

This is a one year measure as the Government has commissioned the Productivity Commission to undertake an inquiry into long term reform options for the aged care sector, which will be considered in the context of the 2012-13 Budget.

A New Social Security Agreement with Hungary

The Australian Government will finalise negotiations with Hungary to introduce a new social security agreement.

The agreement will allow residents who have spent part of their adult lives in both Australia and Hungary to receive pensions from both countries.

It will go some way to help improve the adequacy of retirement income for affected migrants and former Australian residents now living in Hungary.

It will also improve access to pensions and encourage and strengthen business between Australia and Hungary by removing the requirement for compulsory contributions to be paid into both countries’ superannuation and pension systems for temporarily seconded workers.

Hungary will join 25 other nations with which Australia has similar arrangements.