At Budget time every year, and at every election, Australia’s Age Pensioners take an unwarranted political and social pounding.
They are accused of being an intolerable burden on younger taxpayers who are concerned that most pensioners may be welfare cheats.
The cynical aspect of it all are that their accusers are mostly tax evaders who constantly cry out for more corporate welfare such as tax cuts, subsidies and low interest rates.
Nevertheless, the fact is that the Age Pension today amounts to a payout of 45 billion dollars a year, a figure that will double by 2030 as more Australians grow older and take a lot longer to die.
The question for us all is how we finance it without sending oldies to the gas chambers as some fascists would like to do.
We can start by taking an objective look at the current situation and work out how to turn it into a positive.
The Age Pension is indisputably inadequate, very close to the poverty line, and has been for a long time.
In September of this year, in attempting to have our nation face this issue, I was part of a team that prepared a report on THE ADEQUACY OF THE AGE PENSION. We presented our findings to the Press Club in Canberra where it went nationwide on ABC and Sky.
It was the result of a partnership of the Longevity Innovation Hub (that I chair), the Benevolent Society (Australia’s oldest charity) and Per Capita (an eminent think tank).
Part of our research involved holding focus groups across the nation where ten pensioners would meet for two hours to discuss what they actually spent daily, weekly, monthly, annually and what necessities they could not afford. It revealed a totally different result to that which is achieved by Treasury when they base their pension calculation on a number of economic indices. Older people have costs that others do not have.
Our quite definite conclusion was that the Age Pension must rise, but its size must cease to be the political decision that it has been since it was created in 1908.
The prime recommendation of our report was that legislation be passed to create an Age Pension Tribunal that would be totally independent of political pressures and whose determination of the amount of the Pension could not be challenged by Parliament (in the same manner as the Parliamentary Salaries Tribunal).
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