Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

States balked so the Howard Government delivered real assistance to Seniors

Reports that subsidies to pensioners travelling interstate will be cut are incorrect – there has been no change to transport or other concessions for age pensioners. In fact the opposite is true, the Australian Government has increased assistance to pensioners and self-funded retirees.

Despite several generous offers from the Howard Government dating back as far as 2001, State and Territory Governments have failed to provide their share of the funding to give self-funded retirees the concessions they deserve.

As a result of the state and territory failure the Howard Government is paying the Seniors Concession Allowance directly to self funded retirees.

In December last year, around 300,000 self-funded retirees holding a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) have already received the first $100 instalment of their new payment of $200 a year to provide extra assistance in their senior years. The next instalment is due in June 2005.

Self-funded retirees have taken steps to provide for themselves in retirement. The Howard Government recognises the importance of maintaining the lifestyle they deserve and has implemented these changes to assist them to achieve their goals.

More than two million older Australians of age pension or veteran pension age, receiving an income support payment, have already benefited from the new Utilities Allowance promised during the election campaign.

Under the Utilities Allowance singles receive $100 a year and $50 per year will go to each member of an eligible couple. It will be paid in two instalments, automatically on a person’s income support payday falling on or immediately after 21 March and 21 September each year.

The strong economic management of the Howard Government has provided the opportunity to deliver additional financial assistance to older Australians.