Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Pension changes from 1 July 2004

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, today said around 850,000 Australians receiving a part-pension are expected to get a boost to their payments from July 1.

The rise is the result of the annual indexation of the social security assets test and income free areas in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which helps to protect the living standards of Australian pensioners.

Senator Patterson: “Many pensioners will get an increase in payments, while a number of people who were previously unable to receive a pension because of their income or assets may now be eligible.

“The majority of single homeowners who receive less than the maximum rate of pension because their asset holdings are above the assets test threshold will receive an extra $273 a year, while most couples in the same situation will get an extra $390 a year.

“For a single homeowner, the allowable assets limit increases by $3,500 to $153,000, while for couples the limit rises by $5,000 to $217,500.”

Senator Patterson said most single pensioners and partnered pensioners who receive less than the maximum rate of pension because of their income will get an extra $20.80 a year.

“Pensioners will also be able to earn more income without having their payments reduced. Pensioners will now be able to earn up to $122 for singles and up to $216 (combined) for couples before any reduction in their payment occurs,” she said.

From 1 July, Centrelink will automatically pay all relevant increases to eligible pensioners.

Senator Patterson said: “The Australian Government is committed to providing financial security for older Australians. In November 1997, we legislated to set pensions at 25 per cent of Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE), as well as continuing to raise pensions every six months in line with the CPI.”

Pension rates are regularly adjusted to keep pace with increases to the cost of living, and since March 1998 they have been boosted to reflect rises in living standards as measured by wages.

“The effect of MTAWE plus the real increase of 2 per cent from the Tax Reform measures means that single pensioners are now more than $43 a fortnight and each partner of a couple is more than $36 a fortnight better off.”