Pensioners raise voice against payment changes

PENSIONERS raised their voices in anger on Thursday with leading seniors advocate group COTA Australia fighting back against proposed changes to the age pension.

In a submission to the Senate Affairs Committee Inquiry into Social Services, Council of the Ageing argued that the proposed changes would dramatically affect the quality of life of our senior citizens.

COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates said that while older people would be hit by the freezing of eligibility thresholds, changes to deeming rates and increasing the qualifying age to 70, they are most worried about the proposed changes to indexation.

Almost 1.5 million older Australians depend either entirely or primarily for their income in retirement with almost a million more claiming it as a large chunk of their income.

"Cutting indexation to CPI only will mean a big and growing cut to the pension over time and will result in many pensioners spiralling into poverty, ill health and even homelessness," Mr Yates said.

"If only the CPI had been used since 2009 the pension would already be $30 per week or $1560 per year less. That gap grows to over $80 per week or $4160 per year in 10 years, and keeps growing.

"This measure is extremely harsh and goes beyond even that which was recommended by the Commission of Audit."

COTA is pressing the government for a review of the retirement incomes system including the age pension, the superannuation system, including its tax concessions, the settings of the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, and taxation treatment of retirement incomes.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, speaking on a Melbourne radio station yesterday, would not be swayed on compassionate grounds saying his government was committed to getting the Federal Budget under control.

"If we want a strong economy, we've got to have a strong budget," he said. "So, rather than people looking at things in isolation and saying, 'Oh, this is the impact on me', we've got to look at the impact on Australia.

"Pensioners are patriotic people. They know what it's like to run budgets, to run families and they understand that we've got to live within our means and I think, also, they're grateful for the abolition of the carbon tax because that will save pensioners money as well as saving everyone else money." - APN NEWSDESK

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