Media Release by The Hon John Cobb MP

Equity for rural pensioners

The Minister for Community Services, John Cobb today said the Australian Government had passed legislation (Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (2006 Budget Measures) Bill 2006) through the House of Representatives, which will boost support for rural age pensioners and victims of domestic violence. The Legislation will also improve the integrity of the social security and family assistance systems.

Mr Cobb said the Coalition Government had responded to community concerns over the equity of treatment, between older Australians living in rural areas and city areas whose properties have increased substantially in value but remained exempt from the asset tested.

‘Currently around 10,000 age pensioners living on farms and rural residential properties may be precluded from all or part of their pension, because only their home and adjacent land of up to two hectares is exempt from the assets test, even though they might have a very good reason for not being able to better use the excess land to derive an income.

‘Under the Legislation passed today age pensioners living on farms and rural residential properties who have at least a 20 year attachment to the land, may have from January 2007, all land on the same title as the family home excluded from the assets test applied to Age Pensions and Carer payments.

‘This landmark improvement to curtilage rules, first brought in 21 years ago, will mean a better deal for many older Australians living in rural areas, by more fairly applying the family home exemption.

Mr Cobb said the Legislation also establishes further grounds upon which people can qualify for the Crisis Payment.

‘People who remain in their own home after being subjected to domestic violence may now be eligible for support, in the form of a one-off payment of around $230.

‘The Legislation recognises that some people who have been subjected to domestic or gamily violence may choose to remain in their own homes.

‘The crisis payment will help fund the cost of securing the person’s home and making other practical arrangements.

‘Two other important components of the Legislation will make additional amendments to relevant provisions dealing with information management, as part of the Government’s ongoing programme to improve the accuracy of payments and to reduce debts.

‘In addition the Legislation will provide Centrelink with the tools to detect and investigate serious and complex cases of fraud. These new provisions will mirror provisions already available to other Commonwealth agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office, Child Support Agency and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.