The Coalition’s working pensioner policy, giving older Australians and veterans the freedom to work and earn more while unlocking a desperately needed labour force, has been debated and passed by the Senate.
It passed last night in the form of Coalition amendments to the Government’s Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Lifting the Income Limit for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card) Bill 2022.
The amendments were introduced by Senator Dean Smith on behalf of the Coalition and mirror his Private Senator’s Bill – the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Enhancing Pensioner and Veteran Workforce Participation) Bill 2022.
It gives effect to the Work Bonus Scheme policy announced by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton in June 2022.
The Work Bonus, which is the amount pensioners can earn while still collecting the full pension, is doubled from $300 to $600 a fortnight.
An annual review determines how long the initiative continues for, reflecting a hope that the economic conditions requiring it will eventually improve.
Other incentives for pensioners to return to work include suspending, instead of cancelling, pension payments for up to two years if their income exceeds the limit.
Pensioners who earn above the income limit also keep their Pensioner Concession Card and its associated benefits for two years.
Senator Smith argued the Coalition’s strategy was characteristic of the proactive approach it has taken on working pensioner reform.
“Despite Labor’s stalling tactics in the Senate, the strengths of the Coalition’s policy shone through,” Senator Smith said.
“Our amendments won the endorsement of Independent Senator David Pocock, the Jacqui Lambie Network and the Australian Greens.
“This is an effective, targeted policy to address the critical worker shortages crippling Australian businesses.
“It is also badly needed by older Australians and veterans trying to support themselves through the cost of living crisis – and doing so with insufficient support from the Albanese Government.
“Our policy is both more generous and contains provisions that can make it ongoing, unlike Labor’s approach that only lasts until the end of this financial year.”
The Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Lifting the Income Limit for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card) Bill 2022 will now return to the House of Representatives.
“I call on the Albanese Government to follow the lead of the Senate and accept its amendments in the House of Representatives,” Senator Smith said.
“The Coalition has presented them with an opportunity to immediately relieve cost of living pressures on pensioners and address worker shortages.
“The Government delayed discussion of working pensioner reform until its Jobs Summit and, although it announced its own policy at that time, has subsequently failed to pass legislation on it.
“Three months have passed, pensioners and employers continue to suffer, and the Government must now take the responsible step of putting this to a vote on the next Parliamentary sitting day.”