National Seniors Australia has welcomed Labor’s exemption of full and part age pensioners from its policy to axe tax-credit refunds for retirees.
National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said the original policy, announced two weeks ago by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to claw back $56 billion over 10 years, was misguided.
The changes, called “a Pensioner Guarantee” by Labor, followed an outpouring of concern from pensioners and self-funded retirees around the nation.
“We’re glad the ALP has listened to the concerns we’ve voiced on behalf of our members,” Mr Henschke said. “We said the policy had unintended consequences and now the people who can least afford to lose income will be protected.
“But we believe it needs to go further. The almost 240,000 pensioners now immune from the change represent about 20 per cent of those affected. What about the other 80 per cent, who are self-funded retirees?
“The purpose of the policy, according to the ALP, is to stop the rich rorting the system. But what about those who are not rich, not rorting it and who are not pensioners?
“One of our members, Joe, wrote saying he’d worked and paid taxes for 49 years and isn’t ‘rich’. He summed up the feelings of many self-funded retirees, saying: ‘My generation was encouraged to plough more into superannuation and, if possible, invest in shares in Australian companies so we could be self-sufficient’.
“Two other members, a couple who retired 19 years ago and have been self-funded ever since, told us their dividend income would be hit hard by the policy. They said they would have no option but to spend what is left of their capital and go on the pension.
“Like hundreds of thousands of others, they made their investment decisions based on a policy that’s been in place since July 2000.”
Mr Henschke said it was clear that Australians wanted a reasonable level of certainty in financial planning and superannuation.
“What’s happened over the past couple of weeks shows that you can’t ignore people’s concerns and that it’s possible to adjust a policy to make it fairer.
“Let’s hope this leads to a proper debate about how we can have a fair and sustainable retirement system in a rapidly ageing Australia.”
Ian Henschke is available for comment.
Media contact: Lynda Schekoske 0488 047 380 or Rosemary Desmond (07) 3233 9106.