Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Centenary of the Age Pension, Newstart Allowance, Stimulus payments – Doorstop Canberra

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JENNY MACKLIN: This is a very special occasion to be celebrating the centenary of the Age Pension. And celebrating the centenary of the Age Pension in 2009 when the Rudd Labor Government has introduced historic reforms to the Age Pension, a very significant increase in the single rate of the Age Pension. Increases to payments for couples, and of course increases for veterans, for carers, and for people with disability. We’re making sure that our pension system is both adequate and fair but also sustainable for the long term. So I’d just like to thank everybody from the National Capital Authority who’s been responsible for the construction of this lovely memorial, the stonemason, the builders who put it together. But more than anyone to say to those who’ve received the Age Pension for the last 100 years, it is a recognition from those of us who are working today that we should contribute to the sustainability and adequacy of the pension for those who’ve worked so hard in the past. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you spoke today about how the pension is not discriminatory, yet single parents and Newstart recipients, people on the dole didn’t receive an increase in this year’s Budget. Were they discriminated against?

JENNY MACKLIN: What we’ve done for people who are receiving Newstart is pay an additional Training Allowance for those who are prepared to take up additional training, and have put in place a wide range of additional training options for those who are finding themselves unemployed because of the global financial crisis. For those who are single parents, we do recognise that it’s important to support single parents, and they receive on top of their parenting payment, Family Tax Benefit Part A and Family Tax Benefit Part B, neither of which are available to age pensioners. So we’re providing a range of different supports to those welfare recipients.

JOURNALIST: But the Newstart Allowance is below the pension rate, it’s a fair bit below, and the Government admitted that pensioners couldn’t survive on the pension rates, so how can people survive on the dole survive on that rate?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s why in the Budget we did have a particular Training Allowance that is available for those on Newstart. We’ve made a number of changes since the impact of the global financial crisis is being felt. To do everything we possibly can to support and sustain jobs. That’s why we had the economic stimulus payments paid to pensioners and to families last December. That’s why we had another range of stimulus payments made to families in March. And of course, all of the single parents that you’re talking about received those stimulus payments in both December and again in March. Many of them have benefited from those stimulus payments but of course for those who they were mainly targeted about, it was about supporting and sustaining jobs. People are much better if they’re able to get a job, and all of our effort has been about getting these stimulus payments out into the economy. We did it in December, we did it again in March. Now we’re delivering the infrastructure projects to support and sustain jobs.

JOURNALIST: Just on the stimulus package. It’s been reported that about 250,000 people didn’t get their tax returns in on time so they missed out on the payment. Was the Government expecting that many people not to get their act together?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, of course people have to do the right thing and put their tax returns in, and they particularly have to do that if they are going to receive this additional payment. I am very pleased that we have seen through the December stimulus payments, through the payments that were made in March, and through the tax bonus payments, many people receiving these payments. And as a result, the Treasury is telling us that we’ve been able to keep our economy in the positive, unlike similar economies around the world. This Government has taken decisive action to confront the impact of the global economic recession. We’ve done that by two rounds of stimulus payments to families, to pensioners, and through the tax bonus. Now we’re getting on with delivering the infrastructure that is all about sustaining jobs.

JOURNALIST: Minister, do you think that the age pension has a future in Australia? I know that a lot of changes have just come in, especially the increased age eligibility. Do you think that’s going to go up in the next (inaudible) years?

JENNY MACKLIN: Because of the changes that this Government has made in the most recent Budget, we’re not only delivering an increase to the age pension, we’re also making sure that it is sustainable for the long term. We have made some very tough decisions to make sure that it is going to be there, and going to provide that safety net for aged people out into the future as our country ages. One of those difficult decisions was the increase in the Age Pension age. That will come in gradually. It won’t start until 2017. But we’ve wanted to increase the Age Pension to make it adequate but also to make it sustainable.