Payments to pensioners; First Home Owners Grant
E & O E – PROOF ONLY
JOHN STANLEY: The scope of what’s been announced today, certainly in terms of payments is far in excess of what we’ve had over most of the Federal Budgets over the last 10 or 20 years. $10.4billion, a rescue package announced by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, earlier today. Lots of you have questions about exactly what you are entitled to and where there may be some anomalies, I will put all those to the Minister in just a moment.
Pensioners, low income families, first home buyers are the big winners out of the $10.4billion stimulus package announced by the Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd earlier today. The announcement came at midday and plainly those decisions that we saw being looked at over the weekend, the meeting of the Prime Minister’s Senior Ministers and Treasury, plainly the news that has come to the Government, is that the economy is slowing, the economic crisis is going to create a slowdown and we may go into a recession, we need to stimulate the economy. Well this is (inaudible) stimulus, there will be a lot of money washing around the economy in December for pensioners, low income families and first home buyers. The details are : $1400 available for single pensioners, that is all categories of pensions, and carers as well. Couples will get a $2100 lump sum and that will be paid in December, and for carers, people who get the carer allowance, they’ll get a supplementary payment of $1000 for each of the people that they care for. Now people, low income families if they get Family Tax Benefit Part A, they will also benefit, they’ll get a one-off $1000 payment for every child. And finally first home owners will benefit from the doubling of the first home owner’s grant. It is a comprehensive package. There are a lot of details, a lot of you have details about whether it will affect you or not. Some of the details are still being nailed down. Budgets take months to put together, this has come through after just a few days of crisis meetings. The Minister for Families, Housing and Community Services, Jenny Macklin is on the line with me now. Jenny Macklin, good afternoon to you
JENNY MACKLIN: Good to be with you John.
JOHN STANLEY: First thing that comes to mind, is after so much pressure for an increase for pensioners of $30 a week and resisting that saying it’s not the time to do it, it does seem quite a backflip to be awarding more to more people today.
JENNY MACKLIN: Well we have been of course aware of the pressure that pensioners have been under and I am sure your listeners and you are aware of what we did in the Budget providing a $500 bonus at the end of June and increasing the utilities allowance by about $400 so we had already done that for pensioners but we realised that there was more to do. We won’t have completed the full review of the pension until February and we’ll complete the consideration of that in next year’s Budget. So we did want to take action now to help pensioners and particularly help them as we continue the review process until June next year.
JOHN STANLEY: So I will get the details of that in just a moment.
JENNY MACKLIN: Can I just say, one thing following up your summary, just a couple of things I need to add to what you said. For families it really is for low and middle income families. Families who receive Family Tax Benefit Part A (inaudible) up to depending on the number of children, somewhere between $100,000 and $120,000 family income. So we’re really talking about three quarters of Australian families with children who will benefit from this measure today.
JOHN STANLEY: So they if they get Family Tax Benefit Part A, $1000 for each child
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.
JOHN STANLEY: And with pensioners, it is $1400 for single pensioners, and $2100 couples.
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes.
JOHN STANLEY: There are people, I had a caller earlier who is on workers’ compensation, she actually gets less than people who are on the pension, she doesn’t get a rent allowance, she won’t get anything. I had a fellow ring me and say that his combined income, he’s a very low income earner, getting $22,000 a year, he says, and he’s just under the pension age, he won’t be getting anything. Is it inevitable that there will be people, there will be anomalies, very low income people who will slip through the cracks?
JENNY MACKLIN: It is always difficult in these situations, we have wanted to really make sure we do the right thing by pensioners. In fact there are four million pensioners who will receive this very substantial down payment of $1400 if you are a single pensioner, $2100 if you are a couple. And we are extending it to self-funded retirees, who have a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, recognising that in these difficult economic times, they are under substantial pressure as well.
JOHN STANLEY: So now, does this cover, I had a caller before 5pm, and they don’t get any pension or part pension, but I think they earn less than $80,000, I think she said they do get the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
JENNY MACKLIN: Well that sounds about right. If they are of retirement age, so over the age of 65, and the income test for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card is about $80,000 for a couple, so that if they currently have a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card then they will be entitled.
JOHN STANLEY: So no pension, but just a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, self-funded retiree, you get the money.
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.
JOHN STANLEY: I think Vicki who rang us who was quite agitated, she might ring us back and let us know. I think she fits into that category, so.
JENNY MACKLIN: If she has a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card today she will be entitled.
REPORTER: And there’s two of them and they get a $2100 lump sum if they are a couple.
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s correct.
JOHN STANLEY: Okay. Just in relation to carers. Is it right they get $1400 and if they get the carer’s allowance, it’s $1000 for each of the people they care for?
JENNY MACKLIN: There’s two carer arrangements. One’s called the Carer Payment and that’s the same as a pension, so it is income tested and asset tested and paid at the same rate as the aged pension. So if you are on a Carer Payment the single carer payment person would get $1400, for couples $2100. Some of those people also have a Carer Allowance on top of that. The Carer Allowance is worth about $50 a week and that’s really paid in recognition of the effort that so many carers put in and some people are on the Carer Allowance alone, that’s not income tested, it’s not means tested in any way, so they will receive $1000 for every person that they care for.
JOHN STANLEY: Alright, and they can contact Centrelink (inaudible) in the next day or so.
JENNY MACKLIN: They certainly can.
JOHN STANLEY: The first home buyer’s scheme. When does the doubling kick in?
JENNY MACKLIN: Everything is eligible from today, but if you sign a contract between now and the end of June, then you will be eligible.
JOHN STANLEY: If you signed a contract yesterday, you miss out don’t you?
JENNY MACKLIN: I think so.
JOHN STANLEY: You’ve got to draw the line somewhere.
JENNY MACKLIN: These are always difficult decisions and I have had examples where of course people become of age, pension age, sometime in the future and we do have to just choose a date.
JOHN STANLEY: Okay, well we had a call from a fellow doing the right things, an owner builder, and started I think about six weeks, he’s building his first home, he won’t be eligible either will he?
JENNY MACKLIN: In the case of owner builders, I really don’t want to answer just over the phone, so I think it would be better if he contacted the Commonwealth, contacted FaHCSIA, you can give the details offline if you like and we can try and follow it up.
JOHN STANLEY: That is an interesting point, because I suppose you wouldn’t be signing a contract if you’d done (inaudible) but if you had actually commenced it then it’s the question of..
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I am not just sure.
JOHN STANLEY: Well that one could be an anomaly. But if you have signed a contract to build a new home then you wouldn’t get the payment.
JENNY MACKLIN: It’s supposed to be about the date of the contract. That’s right.
JOHN STANLEY: And it will all apply until the middle of next year. Is there a concern in the Government about all this money going into the economy, first of all, in terms of the impact on inflation?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well we really are most concerned of course of sustaining economic growth, these are very difficult times internationally, particularly in the United States and Europe and that does have an impact on our economy. The Government really has been determined to take early and decisive action to make sure that we both help Australians reduce the cost of living pressures they are facing, but also to sustain economic growth. So that’s why we have taken the strong action we’ve have.
JOHN STANLEY: ACOSS has argued that the unemployed should get some assistance as well?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’ve really decided to target the assistance to those we feel aren’t able to go out to work, like aged pensioners and disability support pensioners, carers, and veterans, that’s why we’ve targeted in the way that we have.
JOHN STANLEY: Okay. Alright, well if people have got specific questions, they can contact..
JENNY MACKLIN: Well in the first instance they really should contact Centrelink.
JOHN STANLEY: They should contact Centrelink. What we might do though, if there are specific questions or perhaps anomalies that come through to us, we can pass them on to your office to answer as well.
JENNY MACKLIN: That would be great.
JOHN STANLEY: Alright. Thank you for that
JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure.
JOHN STANLEY: That was Jenny Macklin, who is the Minister for Families, Community Services and Housing.