Pension increases, 2GB
RAY HADLEY: Now the long awaited changes to the age pension actually came into effect yesterday and many of the people that listen to this program across the country were confused by the changes. Full rate single pensioners are receiving an additional $32.49 per week, now a lot of them disputed that I can give you a gold plated guarantee that’s what you’ll get. Full rate pensioner couples will receive an additional $10.14 a week. The Federal Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin is on the line. Minister good morning.
JENNY MACKLIN: Good to be with you.
RAY HADLEY: Now, I know that you had the same problems that I had with pensioners being a bit confused. They thought they were going to get dudded but they won’t be.
JENNY MACKLIN: They will not be and these increases start at you say from this week, well this fortnight, and pensioners can expect to receive an increase into their bank accounts on their normal pension pay day, and your figures that you just read out are accurate. Of course, the pensioners they are going to see it come through in their fortnightly arrangements because they do get paid fortnightly as you know.
RAY HADLEY: Now one of the problems was you’ve changed the way it’s all configured and that’s what confused many people. They thought, oh, hang on, you’re saying you’re giving us $32.49 but you’re taking that (inaudible) bit away from me. But at the end of the day they are going to be $32.49 better off per week.
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes. Well in fact it’s now going to be a little bit higher because we introduced a new and better system of indexation so if I just go through it (inaudible). They’ll receive $60, or $30 a week, but $60 a fortnight increase in the base pension, that was announced in the Budget. And an increase of $5 a fortnight in the new pension supplement, and this is where the confusion arose because we’re bringing together the full value of the current allowances that people get. That’s the utilities allowance, the telephone allowance at the higher internet rate, and also the GST supplement and the pharmaceutical allowance. So instead of getting all those bits and pieces at different times, they’ll all be wrapped together. But people can be assured that they’re getting the full value of those allowances and they’ll now be paid with their fortnightly based pension. But they will be able to see that they’re not losing out. They’ll be able to actually check on their statement to make sure they are getting their increases, and then on top of all that they are getting an increase to the new pension supplement and new indexation increases of $5.50 a fortnight in the base pension. So, if you wrap it all together that actually means for a single pensioner on the maximum rate they’ll get an extra $70.83 a fortnight.
RAY HADLEY: Okay, now I know it’s not your baby so to speak, but the various State Housing Ministers …
JENNY MACKLIN: Housing is very important to us.
RAY HADLEY: I know it is, but people are worried about quarantining the pension increases from public housing rent increase. Now I think there is a moratorium on it. Have you had any dealings with the various State Ministers about what they can do to quarantine it a bit longer?
JENNY MACKLIN: We have and in fact the Prime Minister wrote to each of the Premiers saying that we want to see this pension rise flow through to pensioners; we don’t want it gobbled up by increases in rent. So we have got an agreement that this won’t happen this time round and we’ll keep talking with the Premiers to make sure we get that for as long as we possibly can.
RAY HADLEY: Now, are you planning any more changes to include other pensions apart from age pensions?
JENNY MACKLIN: This pension rise, that started from this week, applies to 3.3 million pensioners, and of course that includes our age pensioners, but it does also apply to disability support pensioners, to those carers on the carer payment, wife and widow pensioners, and of course our veterans who are on income support.
RAY HADLEY: Now if we have any problems, apart from Centrelink, are you envisaging we might need a hotline sometime down the track as we did when we first announced all of this?
JENNY MACKLIN: Centrelink have put extra staff on to their phone lines to answer any questions. And I think the other useful thing is that pensioners have been receiving letters from Centrelink over the last fortnight setting out what their individual circumstances are, and I have been encouraging people to check their letters, make sure they think it’s right, and of course if they don’t (inaudible) get on to their local Centrelink to go through it with them.
RAY HADLEY: Okay, thanks for your time again this morning, Minister.
JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure.