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Tuesday, 4 April 2000
Page: 15219

Mr Latham asked the Minister representing the Minister for Family and Community Services, upon notice, on 16 February 2000:

(1) Are university research scholarships included in the means testing of age pensions.

(2) Is this practice consistent with the Government's commitment to lifelong learning, and in particular, third age learning among the nation's senior citizens.

Mr Anthony (Minister for Community Services) —The Minister for Family and Community Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) Yes, scholarships from Australian universities are included in the income test for Age Pension, consistent with the treatment of scholarships for all means tested social security payments.

Any additional allowances paid by a university specifically for the reimbursement of 'out of pocket' expenses such as photocopying or printing are not assessed as income.

(2) The Government is committed to the principle of lifelong learning and the important social role it plays in society, particularly given the increasing lifespan of the Australian population.

The Government also affirms the principle of targeting social security payments, whether Age Pension or payments to people of workforce age, to people with the least financial resources. These two principles are not at odds.

Scholarships are treated as income under the income test because they are generally intended to assist with living expenses. This means that above an 'income free area', pension is reduced by 50 cents for each dollar of income earned or received, including scholarship income. Under the Government's tax reform initiatives, this pension taper rate will reduce to 40 cents from 1 July 2000.