Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Government Assistance Available for Older Australians

With Seniors Weeks happening in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory next week, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, today acknowledged older Australians’ enormous contribution to Australian society and the economy.

Senator Patterson said, “Not only do we acknowledge their significant contribution to the Australian community – this Government believes in giving something back to them.”

Senator Patterson highlighted the significant range of Australian Government services and programs available to support older Australians such as easier access to concessions, incentives for remaining in the workforce and increased personal support through the Centrelink network.

Senator Patterson said that in just 40 years time, one in four Australians will be over 65 years old.

“There are a range of programs and incentives to help older Australians choose whether they wish to retire or continue working full or part time.

“The recent focus on our ageing population has highlighted that, now more than ever, we need to support Australians to make the right choices to enhance their retirement incomes,” Senator Patterson said.

“Almost 80 per cent of people over age pension age are in receipt of the Age Pension or a Service Pension and since the Howard Government has been in power, single pensions have increased by over $128 a fortnight and partnered pensions have increased by over $107 a fortnight. This support is improving the retirement circumstances of many older Australians.

“For those who wish to work past Age Pension age, support can be available through access to a part-rate Age Pension or the Pension Bonus Scheme. The Pension Bonus Scheme provides an opportunity for senior Australians to receive a tax-free bonus of up to $27,666 over and above their age pension if they choose to stay longer in the workforce.

Senator Kay Patterson also highlighted the release of “A more flexible and adaptable retirement income system” by the Treasurer, which outlined a number of initiatives designed to provide greater choice and improved access to higher incomes in retirement.

“Assets test concessions will be extended to include a new type of income stream investment which provides people with returns that are linked to the investment market.

“The Pension Loan Scheme also offers older Australians with an opportunity to top-up Age Pension to the maximum rate through a loan against their real estate assets.

“The Senior Australians Tax Offset allows eligible older Australians to earn up to $20,500 before tax is applied.”

The Howard Government has also increased the annual income limits and changed to a taxable income test to allow more self-funded retirees to access a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) for singles, a rise of 22 per cent and for couples, a rise of 16 per cent.

As a result nearly 50,000 additional people became eligible for the CSHC scheme and are more easily able to access the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme.

“In addition, there are a range of services that help Australians plan for their retirement,” Senator Patterson said.

“Centrelink’s Financial Information Service (FIS) and the National Information Centre on Retirement Investments Inc. are available to help people make informed decisions about their current and future financial needs.”

A range of publications produced by the Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) also provide practical and easy to read information for older Australians. These are:

  • Australian Retiree – Your Choices: a guide to assist retired people and those contemplating retirement, which includes information on a vast range of government and other programs, services and concessions.
  • Investing Money – Your Choices: jointly written by FaCS and the National Information Centre on Retirement Investments Inc., explains the important features of various investment options in simple terms.
  • Home and Residence – Choices for Older People: provides information on lifestyle and housing decisions and how these choices may affect entitlement to payments and services.
  • Moving House – Your Choices: Provides a practical and independent guide to buying, selling or renting, and moving house.

These publications are available free-of-charge from Centrelink offices or by calling Centrelink on 13 2300. The publications are also available on the FaCS website.