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Friday, 7 September 1984
Page: 673

Senator ROBERTSON —Can the Minister for Social Security provide any information on the impact the changes in social security payments, announced in the Budget, will have on the disposable incomes of pensioners and beneficiaries.

Senator GRIMES —Fortunately, I do have some information on the changes-

Senator Walsh —Fortuitous.

Senator GRIMES —Yes, purely fortuitously information on the changes in the real disposable income of various pensioners and beneficiaries which have occurred as a result of Budget changes. We made a number of significant changes in the Budget to direct much needed assistance to pensioners and beneficiaries, particularly those who are totally or largely dependent on their pensions or benefits for income support. We increased the single rate pension by $2.50 and the married rate pension by $4.20-an increase which more than compensated for the Medicare effect; we gave a $2 increase in the additional pension and benefit for children and the family income supplement and increased the mother's and guardian's allowance by the same amount. We gave a $5 increase in the maxium amount of supplementary rent assistance and an increase in the threshold for the special pensioner tax rebate from $5,429 to $5,534. At the same time we introduced a special tax rebate for beneficiaries from 1 July 1984 of $50 for single beneficiaries and $75 for married beneficiaries, which will ensure that beneficiaries wholly or substantially dependent on benefits will not have to pay income tax.

These measures will provide a significant increase in real disposable income. I emphasise that the figures I am about to provide are real increases after taking account of inflation. In fact, the increase in money incomes is much greater. I also note that they exclude the impact of the $5 supplementary rent increase. For a single pensioner with one to four children there will be an increase of between 3.15 per cent and 3.65 per cent in real values. For married pensioners the increase is between 2.5 per cent and 3 per cent. For beneficiaries, the single adult beneficiary without dependants will receive a 5.6 per cent increase in real disposable income; if the beneficiary has children the increase will be between 7.8 per cent and 9.7 per cent. Married beneficiaries will receive a 2.2 per cent increase, and up to 5 per cent increase if they have children.

These figures demonstrate that there has been a real increase in disposable incomes of pensioners and beneficiaries as a result of the Budget. There has been a real increase in that disposable income when taking inflation into account. I noticed in an article in the Age the other day that figures used in this place have been quoted comparing the pension with the so-called poverty line. I find it interesting to hear people such as Senator Messner and Senator Chaney using poverty lines because when they were in Government they did not like them at all and said that we should not use them. Even in those figures they do not include the supplementary rent assistance, something which should be included, given that housing costs and the costs of rented accommodation are a very important aspect of poverty.

When account is taken of the supplementary assistance, the picture is the opposite to that painted by the Age and by Senator Messner. Rather than a married pensioner couple being worse off in November 1984 compared with November 1982, they are better off. The figures in 1982 were 3.4 per cent below the poverty line; in 1984 they are now 2.4 per cent below the poverty line. Notwithstanding this, the major point is that increases in income security payments in the Budget will clearly be of major assistance to pensioners and beneficiaries and, in real terms, result in their being better off in 1984-85 than they were in 1983-84. The people who will benefit most are those who are most needy, in particular those groups of pensioners and beneficiaries who have children or who are living in rented accommodation. This was the group we intended to assist. We assisted them last year and we will continue to assist them while they remain the poorest group in the community.