9 May 2019
Major parties have ignored requests from seniors to increase the pension and make it easier to downsize from the family home, as a major report has outlined the problems of pension poverty across the nation.
A survey of Downsizing.com.au subscribers has found that about 80 per cent of seniors believe it is not possible to adequately live on the pension.
When asked by how much the pension should increase, the most popular survey response was 20 per cent, closely followed by 50 per cent.
The same survey has found that, apart from increasing the pension, seniors are also very keen for the government to allow people to exempt the proceeds of the family home sale from the pension assets test.
Such a move would make it easier for seniors to move into more age-appropriate housing, which at the same time would free up larger homes for younger families.
This outcome was supported as the highest priority government action by 43 per cent of our survey respondents (as of 6 May there were 416 responses).
Despite the strong feelings from our community on these issues, there is little sign of action from the major parties.
We put our survey results to the offices of Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
The Liberal-National Coalition campaign HQ gave us a response, which stated that it had no plans to review the pension but had made changes several years ago which had led to pension increases. The response also lists other promises and actions for seniors. You can read the full response here.
As yet, we haven't received a response from the ALP.
With just a few days to go before the Federal election, the policy positions of the major parties can be summarised as below:
Neither the ALP nor the Liberal-National have committed to significant age pension increases.
However, One Nation is promising a $150 a fortnight pension increase and Clive Palmer’s United Australia party is promising $150 a week pension increase.
The ALP says it will invest $2.4 billion to allow three million pensioners access to free dental care, to allow pensioners to get $1000 of free dental work every two years.
The ALP will block cash refunds for excess dividend tax credits, with pensioners to be exempted from this change. The Liberal-National parties will keep this benefit.
The ALP has promised to build 20,000 affordable homes in its first term, including for older women who are at risk of homelessness
The ALP will make substantial changes to capital gains tax and negative gearing relating to housing, to “put first home buyers back on a level footing with investors”. The Liberal-National parties will not change current arrangements.
Innovation and aged care
The Liberal-National parties will establish a new $34 million Aged Care Workforce Research Centre, to research new ways to deliver care to older Australian and also train and educate aged care providers.
The ALP will provide small businesses an incentive to put on additional employees aged over 55 (along with young workers and carers). Companies with a turnover of less than $10 million which have been operating for more than two years will be eligible for an additional 30 per cent tax deduction for up to five new workers’ salaries for their first year of employment, capped at $50,000 per company.
The limited action from major parties on pensions and downsizing comes after a major report by Anglicare was released on 29 April which found that just 3.2 per cent of available rental listings could be regarded as affordable for couples on the aged pension.
“Housing in Australia is broken. Our figures show that affordability is down across the board,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.
“There is a huge shortage of secure, affordable rentals. That’s causing record levels of rental stress and even homelessness.
“And now we’re seeing older Australians are getting stuck in expensive and insecure rentals – at a time in their life when they need stability more than ever.”
Downsizing.com.au helps people on lower incomes find suitable accommodation through its free Seniors Flatmates service. The Seniors Flatmates platform is typically used by renting seniors who are looking to rent out a spare room.
Although this will be our last pre-election story, Downsizing.com.au will continue to advocate for our over 50s community to whoever wins government in the 18 May election.
By Mark Skelsey, News Editor at Downsizing.com.au. Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org