As the independent voice of older Australians, National Seniors Australia calls on the federal government to use the 2023 budget to give seniors the confidence to save and spend.
Older Australians contribute the economy, but with inflation above 7%, market volatility and rising cost of living, the government would do well to boost seniors’ confidence.
As part of our ongoing advocacy, we have put forward 12 key policies to help older Australians help build a better nation.
One of the most important things governments can do is strengthen the retirement income system and address pension poverty.
That is why we are calling on the government to provide for more regular indexation of the pension during times of high inflation, rather than every six months as is currently the case.
We believe increases in inflation and cost of living should be factored into pension payment recalibrations in June or December. This will help stop those on the Age Pension from falling behind when it comes to meeting day-to-day living costs.
We also call for improvements to rent assistance for pensioners facing difficulty with rising housing costs. Ultimately, an Independent Pension Tribunal would be the best way to regularly assess and set pensions and other government payments.
Such a tribunal would take the politics out of the pension!
As we have been proposing for many years, government should do more to help older people help themselves by taking the handbrake off and reforming the rules around work. While we welcomed the temporary $4,000 increase to the Work Bonus, the government should reform income test rules so there is no disincentive for pensioners to work more if they need to.
Industries, including health and aged care and agriculture would benefit from our policy and the resulting injection of much needed workers.
Pensioners would retain more of their payments when working, to encourage greater workforce participation to fill labour shortages.
Speaking of workers, we are calling for a traineeship scheme so mature-age workers can fill the many vacancies in home care. As one provider recently told us, he was not willing to take on new home-care clients unless he can be sure there will be workers to deliver these services.
Another important focus of our budget submission is the need for housing. Unless there are incentives to downsize, and the construction of age-suitable housing, many older Australians will either remain in unsuitable and potentially unsafe homes or be forced into residential care.
That’s why we are calling for proceeds from the sale of the family home to be exempt from the pension assets test. We also propose a capital grants scheme to fund rental housing and smaller-scale residential care homes.
Also, a more generous dedicated home-care loans scheme that allows older people to fund additional health care and support services would enable them to stay in their homes for longer.
Major costly reforms to the aged care system are underway and there is a need to ensure taxpayer monies are well spent and not subject to petty politics. We believe the establishment of an independent expert body can achieve this. The body would assess the fairest and most efficient way to fund the many reforms that will roll out over coming years.
While there is, as always, a big focus on what government can do for you, we are conscious many of you want to know what you can do for others.
That’s why we continue to advocate for clean energy bonds to give older Australians a way to invest safely in the solutions required to meet our emissions targets. Interestingly, this policy aligns with the Treasurer’s recent calls for greater investment in social and environmental projects, so we hope this might get some attention.
Lastly, pension gifting limits should be lifted to encourage more seniors to help younger people meet housing and education costs.