Pensioners and Retirees
The older generations built this country. They worked for it. They fought for it. And while we owe them a debt that we can never completely repay, the very least we can do is allow older Australians with a comfortable, dignified retirement.
Unfortunately, successive governments have allowed the living standards of retirees to decay. Self-funded retirees have been subjected to constantly changing rules, undermining their hard-earned investments and their plans for a self-sufficient retirement. On the other hand, pensioners have suffered through decades of miserly pension increases that don’t keep up with soaring health, food, energy and housing costs.
The result of this is that here in Tasmania, retirees are regularly faced with the impossible choices: meat or medicine, heating or eating, paying the rent or three proper meals a day.
Compounding this is a bureaucracy that is designed to be unwieldy and difficult for the least well off to be able to access. Centrelink staffing has been cut to the bone, causing excessive wait times, hold times and processing delays. Older Australians are struggling, and when they try to access a little extra help it is difficult to find.
The OECD suggests that more than one third of all Australian pensioners are living below the poverty line. Over 65s were more than twice as likely to live in poverty than those below that age.
The Jacqui Lambie Network believes that this is a national disgrace, and if elected we will use the balance of power to push for the standard of living for retirees to increase as a top priority.
Self-funded retirees have worked hard to invest in their own retirement. They did this by making decisions based on the rules that existed during their working lives.
It must be understood that those at or near retirement age are uniquely vulnerable to sudden changes in the laws surrounding their investments. Investments carefully planned over the course of decades often cannot be adjusted at such short notice without incurring significantly diminished retirement income.
The Jacqui Lambie Network believes that a deal is a deal. Any changes to retirement investment vehicles must include a provision grandfathering in existing investments. It’s only fair.
In addition, we recognise that many older Australians have conceived their retirement plans based, in part, around the availability of refundable franking credits. While the JLN understands that the issue of franking credits for high income earners is a factor in increasing income inequality, we believe that removing franking credits entirely disproportionately effects those on low and moderate incomes.
As such, while we recognise that the issue should be addressed, we will not support removing franking credits from those with incomes of less that $180,000 per year. In addition, we will not support legislation removing franking credits that does not include an exemption for Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSFs) where the members are receiving a fund pension.
Let’s make this very clear: The pension is not a welfare payment. It is an entitlement, earned through a life spent building this nation.
As a strong and prosperous nation, we have a responsibility to ensure that our elderly is afforded a comfortable, dignified retirement. Currently, that is far too often not the case.
Pensioners don’t ask for much. But when our elderly is unable to afford the basic necessities of life they are not getting a fair go.
Governments from both sides of the fence have allowed this to happen, by treating the pension as welfare and those that receive it as a drain on our budget.
The Jacqui Lambie Network will fight to see this end once and for all. We will support an immediate increase of the pension of $150 per fortnight as a means of urgently addressing the unacceptable standard of living faced by many pensioners. In addition, we will ask government to develop an effective mechanism by which the amount of the pension is regularly assessed to account for the true increase in the cost of living.