E & O E – PROOF ONLY
HOWARD SATTLER: Hello, good afternoon and welcome to the program on an historic day. Now, four months ago, if you can recall, this radio station 882 6PR organised a pensioner rally in the Perth Town Hall. It was packed out, about 200 people couldn’t get in there; so many people had turned up.
And it was all about trying to get some sort of a decent deal for pensioners who we felt were being hardly done by, particularly aged pensioners but including disabled pensioners as well and carers – people we felt who were struggling to get by. They told us horrendous stories about eating dog food and waiting outside the back of supermarkets for spare lettuce leaves and that sort of thing. Some pretty awful stories were told that day.
And since June, we have been campaigning without resile and unashamedly to get pensioners a better deal from the Federal Government, because it’s the Federal Government that gives them their pension anyway. Well, it’s borne fruit today, with major announcements being made by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer about a $4.8 billion down payment for pensions. Now this comes pretty hot off the heels of the Opposition. Okay, you might say trying to make capital by proposing an immediate $30 a week increase for single aged pensioners, and to flow through to others. Only three weeks ago, I spoke with the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services about why they didn’t – I think I used the word, gazump – the Opposition and go one better, and have a one off payment for pensioners. Here’s an excerpt of what she had to say.
[Excerpt of previous interview: There’s no doubt you’re saying, I’m getting the message strongly, you believe an increase is justified. So why can’t you introduce legislation as the Government to simply do that? JENNY MACKLIN: Well because we’re wanting to make sure we get it right. We’re not going to just rush a piece of legislation into the Parliament as the Liberals did this week. They rushed a piece of legislation in that leaves two million pensioners out. They leave out all the married couples, they leave out people who are carers. They leave out people on the disability support pension. HOWARD SATTLER: All right, well why not just gazump them and cover all those bases?]
HOWARD SATTLER: All right, that was my question to the minister. She joins us again now. Hello, Minister. How are you?
JENNY MACKLIN: Good to be with you, Howard.
HOWARD SATTLER: Okay. What changed? You’re going to rush something into Parliament now yourself, aren’t you?
JENNY MACKLIN: And we’re certainly going to make sure that we cover the needs of aged pensioners, disability support pensioners, carers, wives and widows, veterans and also self-funded retirees who hold a seniors – Commonwealth seniors health card. So we have been listening. I do recognise the campaign that you’ve been running, along with others, and we’ve really heard the message from people that we do need to act.
HOWARD SATTLER: So you did take notice of us on that day in June, did you?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, you and many others, Howard. Of course, there were as you said, many people at the rally in Perth and there have been others around Australia. You know that we did act in the last federal Budget, but we have considered that we needed to do more, and that’s why the Prime Minister’s made this very significant announcement today that…
HOWARD SATTLER: When did you decide you couldn’t wait till the Henry report in February?
JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve – we made the final decision just over the weekend, but we have been giving this consideration. Listening to people doing the analysis, as you would expect.
HOWARD SATTLER: Okay. Now this is going to punch a $4.8 billion hole I guess, in your surplus, but is it worth it?
JENNY MACKLIN: It is worth it, for two reasons. One is that older Australians, particularly pensioners and those self-funded retirees who are holding a seniors health card do need support. And it’s particularly important to do so in these very uncertain economic times. We do want to also make sure that we sustain economic growth and so that’s one of the reasons for paying this money in a lump sum.
HOWARD SATTLER: Now none of this is going to be taken by the state housing authorities, is it?
JENNY MACKLIN: No. It’s not being paid in that way, so it’s a lump sum that’s being paid to pensioners and they’ll receive that lump sum in the fortnight starting on 8 December.
HOWARD SATTLER: Cynics are saying well, how much tax is the Government going to take out of it? Are you taking any…
JENNY MACKLIN: It’s not taxable.
HOWARD SATTLER: Non-taxable.
JENNY MACKLIN: No, it’s not taxable, and it’s not counted for income test purposes for the pension either.
HOWARD SATTLER: And the disabled of course, always say – you seem to be campaigning mainly for aged pensioners. Are we included in this? So they are?
JENNY MACKLIN: They are. People who are on the disability support pension will also receive this lump sum payment. We do recognise that they have been doing it tough and so, they too, if you’re a single person on the disability support pension, you will receive $1400 and if you’re a couple, $2100 between you.
HOWARD SATTLER: All right, let’s talk about the carers. What are they going to get out of it.
JENNY MACKLIN: There are two types of carer support. One’s called the Carer Payment, which is income and asset tested like the aged pension. People who are on the Carer Payment will get $1400 if they’re a single, $2100 if they’re a couple. The other allowance is called the Carer Allowance. That’s not a means tested allowance. It’s worth about $50 a week. It’s paid for people who might have a husband working for example. They’re going to receive $1000 for each eligible person that they’re caring for.
HOWARD SATTLER: All right. I’ve got a couple of emails from veterans here. What can you tell them?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, the veterans are covered as well. The veterans will receive the same amounts as the single and couple aged pensioner.
HOWARD SATTLER: Now is this all one off and is that all there is?
JENNY MACKLIN: No, it’s a down payment. We are still continuing and are determined to get this right, as I said in my earlier interviews with you a few months ago…
HOWARD SATTLER: Three weeks ago, was the last time.
JENNY MACKLIN: [Laughs] I think that was that one, but I think we’ve had one…
HOWARD SATTLER: We’ve had a few and…
JENNY MACKLIN: Had a few…
HOWARD SATTLER: … unashamedly had a few, too.
JENNY MACKLIN: No, and that’s fair enough, Howard. We’ll continue to do our review, and as we’ve – I’ve said to you before, that will report to the Government in February and then will be finalised in the Budget in May.
HOWARD SATTLER: Have you got any provision for increases if that report comes down positively for pensioners?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, what we’ll do is consider it, of course, very carefully. This is really recognising that pensioners do need support now, and that’s why we’re paying it in the way that we are.
HOWARD SATTLER: Some people are saying giving them all this money, ha ha, all this money, is going to do awful things to inflation. Do you believe that?
JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t agree with that. Talking with a few individual pensioners and a number of the groups today, people of course, have very, very little money in the bank. They’ve got a number of things that they need to buy. One lady said to me, it’s really just going to make such a difference for her.
HOWARD SATTLER: Where did you find her?
JENNY MACKLIN: [Laughs]
HOWARD SATTLER: What, they rang you? Or you met them, or what happened?
JENNY MACKLIN: The phone hasn’t stopped ringing here, I can assure you today.
HOWARD SATTLER: So have you been taking calls yourself, have you?
JENNY MACKLIN: I’ve spoken to a couple of people myself, just to, you know, be able to talk with people and get a sense from them personally about how they’re feeling about it, and they’re obviously very pleased.
HOWARD SATTLER: All right. So what would you say of the campaign that we’ve started four months ago? … would you say it’s all been worth it and we – and it was okay to do it, because I thought at few stages there, you were getting a bit testy along the way.
JENNY MACKLIN: Oh, I’m not a testy type of person. That’s what government’s about. We understand that whether it’s a radio station or a pensioner organisation, are going to put their case. And that’s the great thing about Australia. People can say their piece and the Government’s listened, and I think that’s a good thing.
HOWARD SATTLER: Do we have to – do we go away now or do we keep the pressure up on you?
JENNY MACKLIN: I think the important thing really is to make sure that we continue to do this review. We’ve finished the consultation phase. You’ll notice in this decision that the Prime Minister’s announced today that we have given proportionally more to singles than two couples combined.
HOWARD SATTLER: Oh well, that’s on the basis that the light you turn on for two people is the same light you turn on for one.
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s exactly right. But that hasn’t been done before, and so that is a message that we’ve got from many, many pensioners. And so that’s one of the changes that we wanted to indicate, even in this initial down payment.
HOWARD SATTLER: Now, does this have to go through the Parliament as legislation?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, it does. But I would expect it will happen very, very quickly.
HOWARD SATTLER: Can’t see any opposition from the Opposition?
JENNY MACKLIN: I wouldn’t think so. I think they’ve recognised that they were going to short change a heck of a lot of people. This is a much better approach.
HOWARD SATTLER: Well, they were going to do something when you were going to do nothing, so I suppose…
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I don’t think there’s any point going into this in a half-hearted way. It’s very important that we provide support to aged pensioners, to disability support pensioners, carers, veterans. They all deserve support and that’s what the Government’s doing.
HOWARD SATTLER: All right, well thanks for responding.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you, Howard.
HOWARD SATTLER: We’ve got to go away now and work out what our next campaign is.
JENNY MACKLIN: [Laughs]
HOWARD SATTLER: Thanks for your time.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you, Howard.