Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Pensions up $11.30 per fortnight

Today I am pleased to announce that from 20 March 2002 there will be a further increase in adult pensions and allowances which will benefit nearly four million pensioners and adults currently receiving income support.

Under legislation, adult pension and allowances are indexed twice a year in March and September. For the six months to December 2001, there was a rise of 1.2 per cent in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Pensioners also get the added protection of having their payments linked to Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE). In March and September, pensioners have their payments increased by the CPI and, if needed, adjusted to ensure they are at least 25 per cent of MTAWE.

From 20 March 2002, the maximum single rate of pension will rise by $11.30 to $421.80 a fortnight while the maximum partnered pension will increase by $9.50 to $352.10 a fortnight for each member of a couple.

This means that a single pensioner on full pension will receive an extra $293.80 a year. Each member of a pensioner couple on full pensions will receive an extra $247.00 a year.

As a result of these indexation increases, income and assets cut-off amounts have also increased. This means that more people may now become entitled to a pension and importantly, the concessions available to pensioners.

In 1997, the Howard government legislated to set pensions to at least 25 per cent of MTAWE, as well as continuing to raise pensions in line with CPI. This initiative fulfilled an election promise and was in complete contrast to the empty rhetoric of the Labor Party. Labor’s unfulfilled promise to legislate the MTAWE guarantee was particularly hollow and cynical because real wages for low income earners actually fell under the former Labor government.

This Government is committed to providing financial security by protecting the living standards of adult pensioners and these latest rate increases along with the recent drop in the deeming rates are a great boost for Australia’s pensioners.

Other payments to increase include Rent Assistance, Parenting Payment and Maternity Allowance.