Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

New legislation to deliver on Howard Government election commitments

Australia’s seniors will receive a boost following the passing of legislation in the Senate today, which will deliver on the Howard Government’s election commitments.I am pleased the legislation was passed as it will give 2.5 million older Australians access to the extra assistance they deserve. said Senator Patterson.

The 2004 election commitments Bill contains provisions for:

  • a new utilities allowance for 2.2 million aged or veteran pensioners – $100 a year for singles and $50 for each member of a couple,
  • a $200 seniors concession allowance for 280,000 self funded retirees who hold a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card,
  • improving opportunities and flexibility for carers by increasing the number of hours they may spend in work, training or study, without losing qualification for carer allowance,
  • further amendments to provide grandparents on income support, who are the primary carers for their grandchildren, with a special rate of child care benefit from 1 January 2005, which will cover the full cost of approved child care for up to 50 hours for each child, each week,
  • increased bereavement payments in respect of people receiving above the general rate disability pension.

I am pleased to be offering a new payment to self-funded retirees, which will be issued this month. Despite several generous offers from the Australian Government, we can no longer wait for an agreement from the State and Territory Governments to contribute their share of funding to provide self-funded retirees the concessions they deserve.

The Howard Government was not prepared to sit back and allow the states to continue to block funding for self-funded retirees and in some cases strip pensioners of their benefits. In Victoria, aged pensioners have lost part of their motor vehicle registration concessions and in Adelaide, pensioners are struggling with high electricity costs. Aged and veteran pensioners will receive this new Howard Government assistance in March and September.

I am also pleased we are now able to offer extra assistance for grandparents who are the primary carers of their grandchildren. This follows the introduction last month of the waiver on the work, training and study test for access to Child Care Benefit for grandparents.

I am pleased senior Australians will now see the benefits of the Howard Government election commitments. We hope this assistance will assist them to achieve their goals.