‘When will Age Pensioners rate a real mention in the budget? Not this year’

May 12, 2021
Josh Frydenberg announced a budget with increased focus on women, spending on major infrastructure projects across Australia, and funds for aged care in direct response to the findings of the royal commission, but nothing for pensioners. Source: Getty Images

Once again, Australia’s Age Pensioners fail to rate a mention in a budget. The 2021-22 Budget, handed down by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on May 11 fails to offer pensioners any direct assistance, and at this point they have to be left wondering their true worth in the modern Australian society.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, political ideology goes out of the window and governments will spend heavily on whatever is required to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the people, and the stabilisation of the economy to guarantee a seamless recovery.

Six months ago, the October 2020 budget delivered by the government spent heavily to take our country from a position of being in the black to reaching deficit figures never before experienced. The May budget continues along similar lines with the result that Australia – and therefore Australians – will have a deficit of $160 billion, which translates to a nett debt of almost $1 trillion by 2025.

At first view it appears no one misses out in this budget; there appears to be something for everyone. Spending is massive and there are goodies for taxpayers, homebuyers, trainees, apprentices, job seekers, parents, business owners and mental health.

Nothing for pensioners though.

Aged care funding is no gift for older Aussies

But wait, you say! Aged care was given a $17.7 billion boost of new money in this budget, surely this is a benefit for pensioners? Perhaps. However, what seems to be a positive move by Morrison and Co must be remembered as being a direct result of a damning royal commission report highlighting the dreadful conditions being experienced by our elderly in nursing homes and lack of home care.

This is not a benefit for pensioners. It repairs a system already in existence that had been drained of funds by a procession of governments over many years. Aged care is a necessity in all societies and the manner in which society provides services for the most vulnerable, who through no fault of their own need help in their latter years, is a direct indicator of that society.

Read more: Nick Bruining reveals the pros and potential pitfalls for over-60s in the 2021-22 Budget

An aged care system must be seen in the same light as any medical necessity, not as a benefit for the elderly or a pensioner. Unfortunately for many the need for aged care results from years lived, the same as many other illnesses or diseases effecting those of younger years.

Thankfully, out of almost two million pensioners, only approximately 300,000 require such assistance at any time, and 180,000 rely on a Home Care Package to avoid the need for full-time nursing care. This budget provides for an additional 80,000 home packages, which is as welcome as it is well-overdue. The budget provides for a additional funding of $10 per person per day in a nursing home. I hope this money finds its way to the coalface and improves daily life for aged care residents.

Reducing pension payments is the goal

I note, too, that the budget provides for the elderly who downsize their residential property, placing $300,000 of a sale into their superannuation fund. Of course there are ramifications for pensioners with this proposal, with the possibility for many to lose a part-pension. This is not a benefit.

Superannuation will now be paid by employers on earnings below $450 per month, which may indeed affect many pensioners trying to make ends meet. It will also cause significant confusion for pensioners who do not have superannuation funds, the number of which may surprise the government. I can see this being something of a messy situation.

The work test for voluntary non-concessional and salary-sacrificed superannuation contributions was also scrapped, making it easier for retirees to contribute more into their superannuation. I cannot believe there are many ‘retirees’ who have money to do so.

If the truth be known, the changes to superannuation contained in this budget are designed to increase the assets of a pensioner thereby reducing the pension or part-pension they currently receive.

Elderly home owners can, when they have the need, avail themselves of the Pension Loans Scheme, the government’s reverse mortgage, which has been increased in this budget. It is sad to think pensioners in our society who have worked hard for years to pay off their mortgage have the need to go cap-in-hand to the Government for a reverse mortgage hand out.

No, in my opinion, there is nothing in this budget for pensioners to be happy, regardless of their personal financial situation. Those receiving a full or part-pension or those self-funded receive no relief. The cost of daily essentials continues to rise and pensioners are seeing no further increase to their bottom line – now or in the future.

Whose vote really matters?

This budget can only be seen as an election budget. The government would have you believe it is a budget that invests in jobs whilst providing a platform for recovery from the pandemic. It must be noted that the promises the budget contains do not have an immediate start, but are incoming over several years – particularly after May 2022, when there just happens to be the need for an election.

I’ve been a pensioner for many years. It is hard to continue to be concerned with the future when my time on this earth is somewhat limited. It appears to me that there is more emphasis on the need for work and provisions for retirement than there are on the choices for families together with the need for personal achievement. Such is the priority for employment that the welfare of children is being sacrificed with parents encouraged by our governments to send their children (some as young as six weeks old) to daycare, rather than encourage them to stay and home.

There are no provisions or allowances for parents who do stay home to bring up their children, and in my opinion there should be! Surely it is more cost effective to pay a parent to stay at home looking after their children than it is to provide all these systems. Wouldn’t it create jobs, too, for young people looking to enter the workforce? That has to be a good thing.

This budget sees the return of dangerous money lending policies guaranteed by the government. Housing loans are to be made available to single parents on a 2 per cent deposit with an additional 18 per cent deposit being guarantee by the government. With median property prices being almost unachievable for most families, how many single parents will be able to afford — what will be — a substantial mortgage? I can only see this as being a recipe for disaster.

The problems with buying a house are purely and simply housing affordability. The cost of property has gone beyond what regular, hard-working families can afford and until people realise the need to move to regional areas the problem will surely continue. This opens up the problem of lack of employment. We really have made it hard for ourselves.

The only real benefit contained in this budget in my opinion is the major injection of funds into the area of mental heath. For whatever the reason, people are suffering from mental heath issues, the injection of funds is really positive and fundamental to ensure those people receive the treatment needed.

As I said before, I consider this budget does very little but increase our total nett deficit as a nation to a level that (apparently) is acceptable when compared with other Western nations. The budget spends, spends, spends for short-term electoral gain and at some time in the future we will pay the price.

In the meantime pensioners carry on with life, some well off and some with nothing. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime, but I look for the day when people will come before the economy and profit. Also, with the increase in military spending in this budget, I am also wondering what the government is keeping from us.

What did you think of the budget? Were there areas you feel deserved more consideration?

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