The adequacy of the Age Pension is an issue that regularly rears its head in Australian politics, as seniors and advocacy groups call for the fortnightly payment to be boosted to improve the living standards of those who rely on the cash to get by in retirement.
However pensioners were left seething this week after Social Services Minister Anne Ruston described the Age Pension – which sees pensioners receive on average $66 per day – as “a generous amount”, during an interview with Neil Mitchell on 3AW on Monday.
Senator Ruston – who joined the Morrison Cabinet in May – was discussing the recent deeming rate slash with the radio host during a phone-in interview, when she made the comments which triggered a furious backlash from listeners, as well as attracting comments on social media.
“I don’t think a debate about whether I could live on (the pension) or not is relevant,” she told Mitchell. “It is a generous amount of money that the Australian taxpayers make available to our older Australians.”
“The pension is generous?” Mitchell then asked the minister, repeating: “I’m sorry, did you say the pension is generous?”
Ruston added: “In terms of the amount of money that taxpayers fund our social welfare system, we put a lot of money into it.”
Following Mitchell’s show, people also took to Twitter to slam Ruston’s comments, with one person writing: “If Minister @Anne_Ruston thinks the pension is “generous” withhold her MP’s salary & get her to live on the pension, bet she’ll change her mind real quick!”
Another commented: “Your government should hang its head in shame. So you think single pension is ok when cup of coffee with a friend is a luxury try never leaving yr home as no money for petrol or bus fare till next pension day.”
While a third wrote: “Anne Ruston…you try living on the “generous” pension…many people on the “generous” pension had little super behind them….and as for those on newstart they get alot less [sic].”
Ruston’s comments came just 24 hours after the Coalition announced they would be slashing deeming rates, following an outcry from the public after the Reserve Bank slashed the cash rate for two consecutive months in June and July, bringing it to a record low of 1.00 per cent.
Deeming rates, which are a set of rules used to determine income generated through financial assets, were last adjusted in 2015.
Around one million Australian retirees look set to receive a financial boost as a result of the change, with single pensioners expected to receive around $800 a year or $31 a fortnight. Couples will pocket $1,053 a year, which equates to $40.50 a fortnight.
Large investments will be cut from 3.25 per cent to 3 per cent, while smaller ones will decrease to just 1 per cent from 1.75 per cent. The Government said pensioners can expect to see funds in their accounts by September and that payments will be backdated to July 1.
Appearing on ABC’s Insiders on Sunday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said one million welfare recipients, including 630,000 pensioners, would be strengthened by the lowering of the deeming rates.
“It will cost the budget about $600 million, but pensioners will be better off by up to $804 for a single and more than $1,000 as a couple,” he said.