Call on Govt to Establish Age Pension Tribunal to Address Poverty
15 September 2016 at 10:00 am
A new report finds the current level of the Age Pension in Australia falls short of allowing an acceptable standard of living, with many pensioners suffering “substantial deprivation”.
The report, The Adequacy of the Age Pension in Australia: An assessment of pensioner living standards, found that age pensioners, especially older women who rent privately and live solely on the age pension, are at great risk of living in poverty. One-and-a-half-million older Australians live solely on the Age Pension and almost a third of them are living in poverty.
Speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday were the report’s three partners, David Hetherington from Per Capita’s Centre for Applied Policy on Positive Ageing (CAPPA), Jo Toohey, CEO of welfare charity The Benevolent Society, and Everald Compton, chairman of The Longevity Innovation Hub.
The partners said it was unacceptable that in a wealthy country like Australia so many vulnerable citizens were exposed to negative health and the social impacts associated with poverty.
The key recommendation of the report was the establishment of an independent Age Pension Tribunal to oversee and determine a just base rate for the pension that enables disadvantaged older Australians to live at a standard consistent with the reasonable expectation of all Australians.
Hetherington, the lead author of the report, said an independent tribunal to address this complex issue would help define an adequate Age Pension.
“The Age Pension Tribunal would be similar to Fair Work Australia for the minimum wage or the Remuneration Tribunal which determines the remuneration of key commonwealth offices, including politicians. Why should there not be one for older Australians,” Hetherington said.
“The research findings shed a light on the lived experience of hardship for many pensioners in Australia. The analysis of the HILDA (Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia) quantitative survey is added to by our qualitative research of focus groups we conducted with pensioners from across the country – they add a deeply human insight in the age pension adequacy issue.”
Co-author Compton, who founded lobby group National Seniors Australia, said: “It is time for the pension to be determined by the actual expenditure that pensioners make day by day, rather than the current complex method. The current pension clearly falls short and this cannot be ignored by the government.
“It is the intention of our team to relentlessly pursue with vigour a solution so that pensioners achieve a lifestyle which is clearly above the poverty line. A prosperous nation such as Australia can do no less.”
Toohey said: “It is clear that the Age Pension is inadequate. It is unacceptable that people who have contributed to society all their lives are forced to live at or below the poverty line.
“It is clear that urgent measures are needed to ensure the most disadvantaged older Australians live a life consistent with the expectations of all Australians. As the fifth wealthiest nation in the world (according to the OECD), simple survival for our older citizens is not enough.”
Other recommendations of the report include:
- increase the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) to reduce the gap between age pensioners who are homeowners and those who are renters
- index CRA to housing costs instead of CPI to more accurately reflect changes in costs faced by renters
- provide nationally standardised, Medicare-funded dental care to all full pensioners
- increase and raise awareness of government schemes that subsidise or reimburse costs associated with non-pharmaceutical health expenses, for example medical disposables associated with diabetes.