Nov 8, 2016

Constituency Statement – Pensions and Benefits: Pension Assets Test

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:32): I rise to inform the House of the story of a 72-year-old constituent of mine which reflects the shameful consequences on many older Australians that have come from the narrow-sighted changes surrounding pension assets. This constituent has been a hard-working tertiary educator and devoted single mother to four children. Instead of being now able to look forward to a comfortable and well-earned retirement, she is now faced with an uncertain economic future. She is also unsure of whether she will be able to continue to live in the inner-west community she calls home.

This uncertainty is the result of the rule changes that were supported by the coalition government and members of the Greens political party. This change has meant that my constituent’s pension has been reduced by over $300 a fortnight, simply due to her downsizing her home two years ago. The issue involves the so-called regifting of an asset: the difference between the sale price of her former family home and the purchase price of her new home. This money was used by her son, who continues to face particular living needs as he deals with and recovers from addiction. Of course, these changes also have an impact on housing policy and housing affordability in a city like Sydney.

Retiring in her 71st year due to ailing health, her new pension has now been cut to only $125 a week. With only a very modest superannuation balance, like a lot of women, she is facing the general cost-of-living pressures that are affecting Australians of all ages, and, on top of this, a range of specific medical costs, as well as an unexpected levy in her apartment complex. She is therefore now facing the dilemma of how to continue to get by financially. I find it appalling that this 72-year-old, who has contributed so much to the local and broader community, is receiving advice from Centrelink to either return to work or ask her son for money.

In the lead-up to the 2014 budget, I warned publicly of the dangers that changes to the pension asset test would have on Australians. While little can now be done to repair the damage that the Liberals and Greens political parties have done, I remain committed to standing up for what is right and fair. I hope that those who supported the changes will realise the impact of their ill-considered actions and consider the best interests of retired Australians in the future.