Written after the first Hockey Budget

They would have implemented all these harsh measures if only they could.

The aged pension, as it is, leaves people well below the poverty line. An attempt to reduce it further by indexing it to the CPI only is totally unconscionable as are increasing Medical costs by charging an extra $7 fee for a GP visit, increasing the cost of prescriptions and the threshold of the Medical safety net which will make health care unaffordable for people on low income such as pensioners, self-funded retirees, the disabled and unemployed.

The proposal to freeze eligibility thresholds for the pension for three years from 2017 is totally unacceptable. There is no parallel proposal to freeze the salaries and bonuses of the highest paid in our society at any time.

As it is now pensioners cannot afford any extra costs that arise in a period, they cannot afford to replace worn out appliances or repairs and maintenance.

The most heart wrenching funeral I attended was in March this year for a lady in her 80s who had virtually starved to death because she could not afford electricity to cook a meal. Her family found this out when she collapsed in the street and was taken to hospital. They were told by the hospital that she was dying of malnutrition.

She had been grossly overcharged for an electricity bill the previous July by the company that took over billing after it was privatized in NSW and had difficulty getting it sorted out. When her family learned of this they sorted it out and paid the bill and offered to pay for her electricity in the future. Her next bill was not correct either but she did not tell them as she did not want to bother them. She was afraid to use electricity and in order to stay warm went to bed at 5:00 pm in winter without an evening meal. Her family, who lived a long way away, were not aware of this. They had only seen her once in four months as her daughter had been ill and in hospital for much of that time.

The doctors tried to re-nourish her intravenously but said her body had shut down. She died slowly in hospital over a period of a month.

As a child, this lady had been deported with her family from Eastern Europe to Siberia by the Russian army towards the end of the Second World War. She survived five extremely harsh years in Siberia eating grass and snow and whatever roots could be dug up until her family escaped. Tragically after a life of working hard in Australia she died of cold and starvation in Sydney in 2013.

Older people who have been independent all their lives are proud and usually do not want to admit how much they are struggling, even to their families.

Minister Hockey and Senator Cormann have put the onus of balancing the budget on ‘their parents and grandparents’ as well as on the sick, unemployed and disabled. The elder bashing they have engaged in has been totally unacceptable and the statistics produced are ridiculous.

Life expectancy as a statistic has increased largely because large proportions of the present population have not been wiped out by epidemics or wars. On the other hand birth rates have been lower per head of population than pre-war. The fact that more people live to be over 70 does not mean that significant numbers of people will live to be over 90. I saw the most ridiculous statistic recently from Senator Payne who states that there are now 4000 people over 100 and by 2029 there will be 40,000. The way it was written made them sound like a plague. No statistical program can make a prediction like that.

The size of our work force cannot be predicted from the number of children currently in the population. Many young people will emigrate when they reach working age and a significant number of people educated elsewhere will come in to make up the Australian work force. The workforce and economy will be as capable of supporting retired Australians in the future as it is now.

People willingly support decent levels of retirement income for older people knowing they in their turn will receive similar support. It has been part of our Social Contract that people who live and work in our society will be provided with a means of living with dignity in their old age. Unfortunately the people who worked very hard all their lives for very low wages cannot expect this. They are left to become isolated and destitute.

 Retirees face losing $1500 in pension card perks. by Kate Cowling

Retirees who no longer qualify for the part pension stand to lose, at a conservative estimate, $1500 in benefits, which often include discounts on car registration, property costs and council rates, in addition to thousands of dollars in income from the pension payments themselves.  

Loss of income

The benefit losses are in addition to income losses of more than $13,000 a year in a 3 per cent growth environment, for part-pensioners with $800,000 in non-home assets that will be excluded under new eligibility tests, according to ASFA calculations. 

National Seniors has also done the sums and estimates the Pensioner Concession Card is about $2000 more generous than the CSHC, based on averaging out state benefits including energy and pension supplements. The CSHC is valued at about $3387 a year for a single pensioner, compared to $5462 for a Pensioner Concession Card, according to calculations by the group, which took into account prescription and doctor visit averages. 

The CSHC figure includes an annual $876.20 Seniors Supplement that was set to be abolished in the 2014-15 budget and is still before Parliament. 

Back to Index