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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 1074

Mrs D’ATH (9:05 PM) —It was a federal Labor government that saw the most historic reforms occur to pensions in this country. In September 2009 we saw the base rate of the pension significantly increase and a new formula brought in that continues to see higher than previous increases to the pension for both single and couple pensioners. I am very proud of the fact that the federal Labor government’s reforms in the area of pensions has not ceased. We continue to move forward to make important reforms and improvements for pensioners across this country and across the electorate of Petrie.

On that point, I seek to talk about the importance of the new work bonus payments. On Thursday last week the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Minister Macklin, introduced legislation that will see us further support older Australians on the age pension to stay connected to the workforce through a new, more generous work bonus. It was the Labor government that introduced a work bonus scheme on 20 September 2009 to enable pensioners to earn extra money and not have that apply to their income test.

As part of the election commitments in 2010 we made a commitment to improve this work bonus. I am very pleased at the fact that the minister has now introduced legislation that will allow pensioners to build up any unused amount of their $250 per fortnight bonus in an income bank to a total of $6,500. The income bank can be used to exempt future earnings from the pension income test so that a pensioner could earn up to $6,500 a year extra without it affecting their pension. This could be from regular work each fortnight or, for example, over a six-week period before Christmas or four weeks over tax time.

In Petrie there are more than 21,400 pensioners. These pensioners have already benefited from the government’s historic pension reforms. They will now benefit further from the introduction of this new work bonus scheme that, once passed, will become applicable from 1 July 2011. This means that those pensioners in my electorate of Petrie and across this country who do part-time work—they may do Christmas wrapping or other part-time work at Christmas time, or they may pick up some retail work or they may be retired accountants who do taxes for people in the community at tax time to earn a bit of extra money—will be able to earn up to $6,500 per year without it affecting their pension.

This is an important reform. It is not a reform in isolation. In 2010 the federal Labor government announced a whole range of further reforms in the area of seniors as part of the Delivering for Seniors package. I am very pleased with some of the additional initiatives, not just the work bonus, which will be so beneficial for those pensioners in my electorate. These initiatives include the $4,000 worth of training and assessment to support 7,500 mature age workers, a dedicated Age Discrimination Commissioner, new peer support for grandparent carers and new rules for reverse mortgages to protect seniors, which is so important to ensure that their assets are protected for the long term.

In relation to mature age workers, we know how important it is to keep people in the workforce and to ensure that people are able to fulfil their working life and provide support. If they find themselves in a situation where they become redundant later in life but they have not yet reached pension age, they need to get back into the workforce; they need to have an income. Retraining these people will be so important, and this will be very beneficial to those seniors in my community who find themselves unemployed later in their working life. These are just some of the reforms this government has introduced. I am very proud of these reforms. I look forward to speaking on the legislation in detail when it comes before the House. The work bonus will be a blessing to my electorate. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—Before I call the Nationals Chief Whip, the Government Whip has pointed out to me that we are creating history tonight—this is the first time that the chamber adjournment debate has been held in the Main Committee.