Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Budget Boost for Older Australians

The Government will provide in excess of $1.3 billion over 5 years as part of the Federal Budget to fund four new initiatives in the Family and Community Services portfolio that will see more money and greater concessions go to older Australians.

Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today said that around 2.2 million people of age pension age who are on income support, including those on service pensions, will receive a one-off, non-taxed and income test free $300 payment.

“Older Australians on income support will receive this one-off payment automatically through Centrelink in June 2001,” Senator Vanstone said.

“Other people of age pension age who don’t receive a pension and who are not in the personal income tax system may, depending on their own and their partner’s circumstances, be eligible for the one-off payment of $300 which they can claim through Centrelink from July 2001.

“Self-funded retirees and many part-pensioners will benefit from Budget changes through the tax system.

Senator Vanstone said the other three important elements of this package are:

  • exemption of superannuation assets from the social security means test for people aged between 55 and age pension age from 1 July 2001;
  • extension of Telephone Allowance to eligible self-funded retirees of age pension age who qualify for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card from Sept 2001; and
  • increasing from September 2001 the income limits for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card to $ 50,000 for singles and $80,000 for couples.

“The exemption of superannuation will help around 55,000 people, some of whom will have their income support payments increased, while others will get payment for the first time,” Senator Vanstone said.

“This initiative adopts a key finding from the recent Parliamentary enquiry into an extensive range of issues surrounding mature aged workers.

“It is a positive response to concerns raised by people receiving income support and community groups, and is consistent with the general focus of the initiatives in the Australians Working Together package to help mature aged people who are unemployed.

“It will help people who have worked hard and long to build up their superannuation nest egg to keep their super for their retirement.

“People who are currently receiving a payment from Centrelink will get their increase automatically. Those who might become entitled for payment as a result of the change will need to lodge a claim with Centrelink.

Senator Vanstone said around 220,000 self-funded retirees who hold a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) would soon be able to receive the Telephone Allowance ($17.20 per quarter) to help with the costs of having a phone.

“Previously this allowance was only available to pensioners and some allowees. It is only right that self funded retirees who are over age pension age be entitled to the same concessions as other older Australians,” Senator Vanstone said.

“The higher income limits for the CSHC will mean that approximately an extra 50,000 self-funded retirees can claim the card for the first time.

“In addition, the Government will be encouraging more people to apply for the Card through a public information campaign.

“The Commonwealth will also negotiate with State and Territory Governments to extend some or all of the concessions available to pensioners and some allowees to people who have a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.

“This package is a clear example of how the Howard Government respects and appreciates the sound contribution that older Australians have made to this country and how the Government believes that they deserve something extra in return.”