I was quite dismayed recently to see a message from the social media page of former Senator Jacqui Lambie (Independent member for Tasmania) saying the Age Pension is not welfare it is a right, and a reward for working hard and paying taxes all your life. I disagree. The aged pension was never, ever a reward for working hard and paying taxes.
The Age Pension has always been a payment designed to support people after their working life and are unable to look after themselves financially. To many people in the past, it was a source of pride to have earned enough in their working lives to be self-sufficient when they retired and not be beholden to the government for assistance.
In the early days, you had to prove you were destitute and had no family that could support you before you could get assistance. It was somewhere in the 1950s when the government increased personal income tax so that anyone who reached pension age and was unable to support themselves could have access to an aged pension. Even then, people were often too proud to access it and worked until they dropped.
In the ’90s, the government realised it was not going to be able to support the increasing number of Baby Boomers who were heading towards retirement, so they introduced the employer-funded superannuation scheme as a means to handle this. The government provided many incentives and tax saving measures to implement this, with the aim of providing workers with their own nest egg when they retired so that they would not be dependent of the welfare system to survive. The pension would then revert to being a taxpayer-funded welfare system for all those who had been unable to work and contribute sufficiently to their own support.
Unfortunately, people’s mentality has changed over the years from having a pride of self-sufficiency to an attitude of ‘the world owes me’. Now, they have their nest egg to spend how they want and live the life of Riley, while still putting their hand out for a pension. They have no idea what it is like to try to manage on the pension (and only the pension) for their rent and food and bills and medical expenses.
That is what Age Pension is for, people! It is welfare. It is small handout from the government to help you survive life until you die. It is not a right so that you can go on your overseas trip and have a bit of spending money. It is not a right so you can afford private health insurance while those reliant on a pension battle the years of waiting in pain. It is not a right so you can keep your holiday house as well as your home.
The government has been providing tax concessions on your superannuation while it has been growing and a co-payment if you added to it yourself, so they do not owe you anything. Besides, most people can still access a part pension if their assets are not too high, and if they are – why would you need a pension? Don’t you have any pride?
There is a world of difference between those who receive an Age Pension because they need it and those that receive it because they want it. Either way it is still classed as welfare, not a reward.