Retirement in Australia how the Government Treats Elderly Pensioners

It appears to have been forgotten that Australia’s development as a nation, the building of our nation’s reputation overseas and development of our trade partners is largely due to the efforts of those who have lived and worked before us. Our older Australians are treated shamefully by our government in comparison with some other developed countries.

Many of our elderly people are migrants who came to Australia with nothing to start a new life. These was these early migrants alongside our earlier generations of Australian who lived and endured through two world wars and the great depression, where the majority of people had nothing or very little. They worked hard to achieve the standard of living we all seem to take for granted these days.

Life in the late 1800’s and up to mid 1900’s was not easy for the average citizen. Food and housing was scarce, clothing was hand made or hand me downs and the majority had to make do. Employment opportunities for women were very limited and the men were employed in mainly manual jobs with long hours, few benefits and low wages.

When you consider performing manual work in states like the Northern Territory, Queensland and Tasmania where the variation between hot and cold temperatures are extreme, work life for the average person was certainly not comfortable without heating or air conditioning. In comparison to the employment conditions of today, they suffered greatly. The question is why are our older generations now treated like second class citizens?

The old age pension is a mere pittance, barely enough to cover basic needs, when surely they deserve better. The standard of health and dental care of our elderly people is abominable and there is not enough pension money each fortnight to save or enjoy many of the things they did when they were working. You see older people day after day, staying at home, doing little, when these are the years when life could be so good. Unfortunately it is only the minority who enjoy a self funded retirement.

Drawing a comparison between the levels of caring for an Australian pensioner to that of a German pensioner shows just how hardline the Australian government is with respect to the care of our elderly. A relative receives in the vicinity $2,000 per month and also half of her deceased husband’s pension. She receives subsidised dental and health care, she is allowed to work as much as she likes and her pension is not affected.

Any person who works over 11 years is entitled to a full pension when they retire. Any person who works less than 11 years is entitled to a part pension. To maintain their pension payments, all they are required to do once per year is contact their relevant department and confirm that they are still alive. That’s all. She is able to save and travel to Australia every 2-3 years for a holiday or wherever else in the world.

Now compare that scenario with the way our pensioners are treated. The Australian government concocts the policies to keep our elderly on a short leash and highly dependent on their handouts. Centrelink, the massive, national, social control department of the Commonwealth government administers the policies with a complicated system of asset level testing and income tracking. There is a mountain of paperwork for each person. Harsh limits on their additional income that affects their fortnightly pension payments. Even small receipts of extra funds will adjust their pension downward. They are given a paltry additional payment of $500 per annum gratis, that the new government has now withdrawn.

The old age pension is also taxed! Our elderly people paid income tax all their working lives, paid tax on everything they have purchased, paid tax on any superannuation accrued, paid tax on any capital gain and we are taxed to the day we die.

A migrant who is entitled to an overseas pension or part thereof, loses a percentage of that payment as tax. The reaction heard from these people is how dare they! Their overseas pensions are earned overseas and had nothing whatsoever to do with the Australian government. Not only is their overseas pension taxed, but then their fortnightly benefit is also reduced.

Our elderly people don’t have much of a life on a pension, it is simply an existence and a frugal one at that, with no prospects of too much comfort. Theirs is a life of financial and health compromises, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Heaven help us.

16 April 2008