Budget : Pensions, Indigenous – ABC Darwin Breakfast
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JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Minister for Community Services joining me to talk about the Budget, Jenny Macklin, good morning.
JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning to you.
JULIA CHRISTENSEN: I don’t know how old you are Jenny but maybe the retirement age going up won’t affect you and me but will affect a lot of my listeners, what’s the thinking behind it?
JENNY MACKLIN: The thinking behind it is that this is the age, the pension age of course, it hasn’t changed since the aged pension was introduced 100 years ago and of course we’re all living a lot longer now. Many other countries around the world similar to ours have already moved to increase their age pension age to 67. The United States, Germany, just to name a couple, and I think everybody around Australia understands we are an ageing society and if we’re going to pay for the age pension and make sure that it’s adequate and sustainable we need to make decisions like this.
JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Will that affect self-funded retirees, are you bringing super into line with the pension meaning that you won’t be able to access your super payments till the same age?
JENNY MACKLIN: No. As you would be aware we’re still increasing the superannuation age to 60 and that won’t happen for some time so we haven’t made that change.
JULIA CHRISTENSEN: But you will have the amount that can be taxed as super contributions for higher income earners. Is this a Budget which taxes existing workers to pay for those already on pensions?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course it is important that we demonstrate how we’re going to fund this increase in the pension. We need to be responsible, both the pensioners today but to show how we can sustain this pension rise over the long term and the superannuation concessions especially for high income earners have been very generous, so they are being reduced a little to help pay for this pension rise.
JULIA CHRISTENSEN: But they are there for a reason they just (inaudible) encourage more people to have private superannuation which is critical in our ageing population isn’t it?
JENNY MACKLIN: But these measures are only going to affect the highest income earner, people who can put away very large sums of money into superannuation and the vast majority of Australians can’t afford to do that.
JULIA CHRISTENSEN: I’m curious about the disparity in the pension increases. For a single pensioner an extra $32.49, yet for couples $10.14, doesn’t seem to make sense?
JENNY MACKLIN: One of the recommendations of the major pension review that was conducted was that we first of all had to really concentrate our increase on those who were the worst off and they are the people who are single and living alone, whether they’re aged pensioners, disability support pensioners or carers and the estimate was that we needed to provide around $30 to make sure we had an adequate pension for single pensioners. It secondly recommended that we pay around two-thirds of the couple rate to single pensioners and we’ve achieved that as well, so the estimate was that we needed this sort of increase for both singles and couples.
JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Steve Fielding, the Family First Member, has suggested that elderly couples might get divorced as a result of this.
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think we have to be sensible about this. This is a major increase for the pension. There hasn’t been a pension rise like this for many many years and something many people have campaigned for for more than a decade and this Government is delivering and delivering substantially especially to those people who are doing it the hardest, the single pensioners.
JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Jenny Macklin, no increase though for single parents or unemployed. At the same time $807 million for the Emergency Response, should Territorians see that as equitable?
JENNY MACKLIN: Two things I say about that. We have to remember for single parents that they receive both the parenting payment and Family Tax Benefits Part A an B and if you count what they get from the Family Tax Benefits, they’re receiving anything around $8,000 more than a single aged pensioner, for example, so let’s keep that in perspective. The second point that I make around the Northern Territory Emergency Response, we are demonstrating in this Budget that we’re committed for the next three years to keep investing in police stations in remote indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, improved health service, improved education services, and so the list goes on because we understand the extreme level of disadvantage of indigenous people in remote communities in the Northern Territory.
JULIA CHRISTENSEN: Jenny Macklin thanks for your time this morning.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you.