Treasurer urged not to overlook pensioners

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Colin Brinsden
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is being urged not to forget pensioners as he puts the final touches on next week’s budget.

Peak lobby group National Seniors Australia wants a lift in the pension, changes to how self-funded retirees are assessed, and lower interest rates for people using their home as an asset to draw money against.

“If you want to stimulate the economy one of the best places to do it is by giving pensioners more money,” chief advocate Ian Henschke said on Tuesday.

“The government needs to look at the seniors sector and make sure they don’t forget them in the budget.”

Pensions usually increase twice a year in line with inflation.

But because the coronavirus pandemic has plunged inflation into negative territory, that did not happen this month.

Pensioners have received two $750 cash payments during the pandemic and the treasurer has indicated there will be more support on October 6.

Mr Henschke said increasing the pension would be a start, as would allowing more people on to the pension by adjusting the assets test.

He believes self-funded retirees need a break, having lost income with dividends not being paid from shares they hold, and because bank interest is very low.

“It’s important that the government recognises that older Australians have paid their taxes and they shouldn’t be prevented from getting a pension or part pension.”

Mr Henschke also wants to lower the interest rate for people drawing down on the equity of their home to supplement their income.

And he said the pension loan scheme rate of 4.5 per cent was way too high.

“I would prefer to see the interest rate for the pension loan scheme set by the Reserve Bank,” he said.

He is also calling for more money for home care packages for those people who want to stay in their own home and not go to an aged care home, more so after the impact COVID-19 has had on these facilities.

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