Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

95 years of Age Pension

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, was today joined at Centrelink’s Ringwood Customer Service Centre by 95 year-old Mrs Alice Berry and Liberal Member for Deakin, Mr Phillip Barresi, to celebrate 95 years of Australian Age Pension payments.

Senator Patterson said technology has allowed Centrelink to provide more help for age pensioners than could ever have been thought possible 95 years ago.

“It is now a highly automated process, with almost 52 million payments deposited in age pensioners’ accounts each year,” she said.

“Annually Centrelink receives and processes almost 1.8 million telephone calls by age pensioners explaining their circumstances.”

Now more than 130 Financial Information Service staff are on hand to discuss how age pensioners can best arrange their assets to help maximise their living standards in retirement. Back in 1909 the Government’s focus was to just pay a pension.

“With life expectancy around 77 for men and almost 83 for women people now benefit from the age pension for longer. In 1909 life expectancy was 55 for men and 59 for women,” Senator Patterson said.

Australia’s first national old age pension payments were made on 1 July 1909. At that time the maximum rate of pension was 10 shillings ($1) a week (£26 or $52 a year).

The current maximum single rate of pension is $464.20 a fortnight ($12,069.20 a year), equivalent to more than 25 percent of Male Total Average Weekly Earnings.

In 1909 the Government spent around £1,000,000 per annum paying around 34,000 pensions, which was about 15 per cent of the population of age pension age.

Pension payments reflected the times. Pensioners were issued with pension cards, with their name, number and rate of payment hand-written at the top. Pensioners presented these cards at the post office once a fortnight and collected their payments in cash.

“Today, the Australian Government spends more on the age pension than any other single program. In 2004-05, the Government expects to spend $20 billion on 1.9 million age pensioners,” Senator Patterson said.

“Around two thirds of Australians of age pension age receive some form of pension. If we include Veteran’s pensions almost 80 per cent of the population over 64 years-old receives a pension, or part pension, from the Government.”