Article by Kimberly Caines courtesy of the West Australian.
Seniors have been one of the big winners out of the Albanese Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit, who will be able to work extra hours without losing their pension entitlements — but the new measure is only temporary.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wrapped up the two-day event in Canberra by announcing the anticipated change to the pension — a policy WA billionaire Gina Rinehart campaigned for ahead of the Federal election.
The measure, expected to cost $55 million, is one of the summit’s 36 “immediate” solutions to help ease the country’s labour workforce shortages.
Currently, just 3 per cent of pensioners engage in any kind of paid work – a percentage the government hopes will increase markedly following the relaxation of the pension income test.
Aged pensioners can currently earn $7800 a year before their pension is affected — that’s up to $490 a fortnight — but Federal Labor is planning to increase that limit by $4000 to $11,800 over this financial year.
Under the plan, retirees will also not be kicked off the Centrelink system if they earn more than the income threshold for 12 straight weeks.
It will be extended to two years, and seniors will also be able to retain their pensioner concession card for the same duration.
Dr Chalmers said the pension change was a “time-limited measure”.
“In order to get more older Australian workers into the workforce, we need to make that easier by relaxing the various work tests,” Dr Chalmers said.
“It’s some sort of income credit so that people can work a bit more if they want to.”
The Prime Minister called the new measure “a work bonus” for older Australians, who he said could make a “greater contribution”.
“This is something I raised in one of my vision statements in Brisbane — one of the first ones we did in 2020,” Mr Albanese said.
“(I spoke about the ageing of the population and how we value older Australians and enable them, facilitate them to make a greater contribution. This is a time-limited measure to see how that works.
“But it’s consistent with what I said then and it’s consistent particularly with what the needs and the economy are right now.”
Ms Rinehart said the new measure could have gone further, and the paperwork pensioners need to undertake, along with other restrictions would just deter pensioners from working.
“Regrettably if there is any upper limit on what pensioners and veterans are allowed to earn, the onerous paperwork involved for pensioners and vets remains, and this by itself deters them from working,” she said.
“It’s very, very sad to see our politicians so removed from the lives of our pensioners and veterans when pensioners and too many vets are currently struggling with and facing more rising living costs.
“It’s beyond me why we are not letting our pensioners and vets work, without losing their pensions, paying income tax on their earnings, and without onerous paperwork.”
Last month, WA Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash Labor should have adopted the Coalition’s policy that would allow veterans and pensioners to work more without losing their pension.