Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Budget: Pensions – 6PR

Program: 6PR - Breakfast with Millsy and Tony Mac

***E & OE – Proof only***

JENNY MACKLIN: Good to be with you both.

STEVE MILLS: You can recall the pensioner really hearing (inaudible) and other places around the country?

JENNY MACKLIN: I can, and I remember you guys coming over to Canberra, meeting me in my office, presenting me with what had come out of not only the pensioner rally but the campaign that 6PR had run so we really know how hard people have worked for this pension rise and we’re pleased to be able to deliver it.

STEVE MILLS: But it’s fair to say, and I know you probably might answer a third of it, but if things were a little bit better, in other words we weren’t in this economic crisis the world faces at the moment, some of the rises could have been a bit more generous, is that a fair summation?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think people were expecting a rise of around $30 for single pensioners, that was considered to be the sort of rise that people thought was reasonable, so we are very pleased to be able to deliver just over $32 a week for single pensioners, and as you know it’s important to do that for aged pensioners but also for carers and for people who are on the disability support pension.

STEVE MILLS: Single parents missed out though, Jen, that’s one of the things that a lot of people felt a little bit worried about?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think the important thing to remember about single parents is that they all also receive Family Tax Benefit A and Family Tax Benefit B, and if you put those together, of course it depends on how many children you have, but that gives you around $8,000 extra on top of your pension so they’re receiving quite a lot of additional support over that what a single aged pensioner receives.

STEVE MILLS: $32.49 for singles, and $10.14 for couples, there’s been some discussion that the couples have been treated unfairly. Even Senator Steve Fielding said last night it could encourage couples to separate.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think the important objective we had in this pension rise is to really deliver for those who’ve been finding it very very hard and the pension review that we conducted found that for single aged pensioners in particular but also disability support pensioners and carers those who were at home and those especially who were home alone were finding it hardest to make ends meet. We also took the recommendation of the pension review which was to make sure that we had paid the single pensioner at two thirds of the rate of the couple pensioner and that’s why we’ve ended up with the increases that we have.

STEVE MILLS: And the problem with the other side of the coin is of course is that the amount of money that someone can have on the pension is being reduced.

JENNY MACKLIN: This is why I’ve said big issues that you’ve raised with us when we were talking about this during your campaign. What was done is two things. One is really pick up the point that the pensioners have raised that they want to be able to do a little bit of work in their retirement and we’ve introduced a new work bonus and people will be able to benefit from that. They won’t face the same income test on the first $500 that they earn from employment, but you’re right on the other side we are changing the income test for other income that people earn. We have to pay for this pension rise in a responsible way and we particularly wanted to make sure that the increase went to those who needed it most.

TONY: Minister, it’s Tony speaking, just a quickie, $32.49, $10.14, now why the 49cents, why the 14 cents. How do we arrive at that?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s part of trying to do two things. One is we’ve increased the base rate of the pension by $30 and we wanted to as I’ve mentioned before pay the single pensioner two thirds of the couple rate…..

TONY: You’ve misheard the question…

JENNY MACKLIN: No, no I’m going on to the next bit…

TONY: Why 49 cents, why 14, why not $32.50?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’m going on to explain that because the pension is paid in two parts, the base rate and then we’re joining all of the supplementary payments into one major payment, called a pension supplement, and we wanted both the base rate and the supplement to operate in the ratio that I’ve just described. So to get it to that point we needed to add these, as you’ve rightly described, these rather unusual numbers to the total rate.

STEVE MILLS: Just before you heard off, Wayne Swan was in his element last night. Why has he got a black wrist band on his wrist? Can you tell us what that is?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes his son gave it to him so it’s pretty special.

STEVE MILLS: Okay, so it’s a gift?

JENNY MACKLIN: From his son.

STEVE MILLS: So all right, it’s been declared

JENNY MACKLIN: I think you’re allowed to be given nice little mementos from your son.

STEVE MILLS: No we’re worried about how we’re going to pay for it but hopefully the pensioners will be better off. My major concern now is that at a State level, a hike in their rents etc. which is normally what happens once they get a pension increase.

JENNY MACKLIN: Can I just make a point about that, I’m glad you raised that because the Prime Minister has written to all the Premiers saying to them that he expects that this pension rise will flow through to pensioners that it won’t be gobbled up by public housing rents.

STEVE MILLS: And extra charges as far as services are concerned. Well done Jenny, thank you for that and we’ll talk again soon.