Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Bob Hawkins

Perish the pension …

*Pic: Pascal Maramis, Flickr

At the turn of the year, my $117-a-week age pension disappears. I am not about to whinge that, at 78, I will be plunged into poverty and rendered unable to pay my way through whatever is left of my very fortunate life.

I am confident, even though my assets will diminish at a faster-than-usual rate, that my ever-simple lifestyle will enable me to continue to pay all my conventional bills. Why, I’ll still probably be able to pop down to the village a couple of days a week for a coffee and chat with friends.

What I am doing is making comment on what I believe to have been bare-faced Coalition theft from the coffers of the far-less-than-rich (by modern-day standards) to underwrite the largesse our back-sliding Prime Minister and his slippery Treasurer are intending to dole out to the very much richer — in tax cuts to much more financially endowed businesses; and in the form of a billion-dollar subsidy to a giant fossil-fuel-polluting, almost certainly criminally corrupt, foreign mining company.

Worse, the Tory Coalition’s daylight robbery is compounded by retrospective legislation under which many thousands entitled to their age pensions under the old rules are no longer entitled to them under the new rules, effective January 1, 2017.

(Should our pollies’ combined conscience ever persuade them that they have, indeed, been obscenely over-generous to themselves in the form of self-legislated massive pension emoluments, I just can’t imagine them even considering the possibility of retrospectivity.)

English-born, I trained in journalism in Britain from 1955-59; served as a national-service conscript in the British Army (through the dying days of the Malay Emergency 1959-61); and worked in British colonies (Hongkong and Fiji) for several years before finally coming to rest in Australia in the early 1970s. Despite these years of service to “The Empire”, I was bluntly informed that I have no entitlement to any kind of pension from Britain.

That didn’t worry me. I have lived a fairly economically Spartan existence that has always enabled me to pay debts on time. And non-risk investments have allowed me to safeguard my modest assets through difficult economic times as well as to plan to be able to pay my way in retirement after my income ceased.

When I retired in 2009, at 71, I was also aware that I was not entitled to an Australian age pension — I had slightly too many assets to qualify — so I didn’t bother to apply.

A few years later, a Centrelink-savvy acquaintance told me he was certain that I had since become entitled “to at least something”. That was in 2013.

And so it turned out: my assets had slipped just enough to put me into the eligibility zone. In July of that year, I was informed by Centrelink that I was, indeed, eligible, and that I would receive $28 a week (including “energy supplement”) and (the much greater prize) the coveted “health card”.

For that I was truly grateful. I set to pondering just how I would dispose of that $28 weekly windfall.

In the years since, my assets have continued to dwindle and I have no income other than cash-interest rates on my superannuation and a couple of term-deposit bank accounts. These, in the estimation of Centrelink, put my annual income at about $17,000-a-year (presumably including my pension payments).

At some stage last year, my age pension had soared to the rarefied heights of more than $6000 a year/$234.35 a fortnight.

(Before going on, I’ll put that into some kind of purchasing-power perspective. Last May, my best mate, Bif, an ageing whippet, broke his left rear foot. Three months later, after bills totalling $6000-plus, Bif was back to as good as he’s ever going to be. That prolonged veterinary adventure gave me a curious way of assessing the buying power of the age pension that I have been entitled to until Turnbull’s retrospective legislation (to reduce allowable assets) comes into operation on Sunday, January 1, 2017.)

Again, I stress, I am not complaining about my own lot. I regard myself as fortunate enough to have assets that will enable me to pay my way out of life. (That doesn’t include buying a pre-paid funeral from the vultures of the undertaking industry. I’ll leave the last rites’ costs in the care of my kids.)

But I am contemplative of the effect the loss of a pension income to scores of thousands of fellow geriatrics will have on their personal budgets as well as on the national economy as a whole.

One argument is that we will all go on a spending spree simply to get our assets back to below the allowable limit. Why not a world-tour trip, including to the polar regions to watch the carbonisation of the glaciers and to spot the last of those big white bears? Or, perhaps, to Vegas, where we could launder away the difference between what we’ve got now and how much Canberra will allow us to own before we can reclaim a pension payment?

That won’t happen to me. I travelled for too many decades pre-retirement ever to want to venture far from the place I have made my final home. Because I’ve got far more than enough work at home to keep it in reasonably good nick, I try not to be tempted to leave my property.

I’ve let my passports lapse, and I don’t like wasting time crossing to the mainland, because it means I’ll have to run the gauntlet of the cacophonous chaos that our big cities have become.

And I’m not willing to hand out $100-plus each time to go to live ballet, opera, concerts, over-priced eating houses etc when I can watch and listen in the comfort of my own home — and I’m not a bad cook, either.

But, from January 1, 2017, with that $100-a-week-plus pocket money no longer coming in, I won’t be quite so able and willing to spread a bit around here and there — a few bucks for help in the garden; for the services of an odd-job person to do maintenance work on my decaying infrastructure; for Amnesty, to assist its never-ending battle to counter the awfulness of our government’s criminal behaviour towards refugees and its incompetence in providing for the needs of Australia’s dispossessed and contemptuously denigrated original owners; for campaigners against animal-cruelty, such as the doughty, indefatigable Emma Haswell at her Brightside Farm Sanctuary in southern Tasmania; for restoring eyesight to the poor of the Third World through the likes of the Hollows Foundation; for a friendly pig to have a chance of living out its natural days rather than ending up in the bloody horror of an abattoir; for buying a church across the river abandoned by its “faithful” (even an atheist can appreciate the loveliness, the spirituality, the redolent sense of time of an old stone church); for Linz to keep his priceless TT afloat . . .

The list goes on. All of these small handouts that I have become used to making, admittedly on an irregular basis (I resist telephone charity calls as politely as I can manage), could now be stymied by a consideration as to whether I can continue making them without damaging the informal budget that is designed to enable me to see out my days in credit.

Though I feel fairly certain I can continue to pay all the bills, it doesn’t lessen the bitterness I harbour towards Liberals, Labor and Nationals for their criminal failure to acknowledge the single-biggest combined threat to all of us: climate change, global warming, ocean-rise, forest-clearing, air and water pollution, species extinction . . . And, worse: government subsidies to those whose activities contribute to the intensification of carbon pollution of the atmosphere.

All of these phenomena are a direct consequence of the lunacy of a life form (humanity) whose most prominent leaders are implacably determined to extract every last vestige of wealth out of our vulnerable and finite planet in their ceaseless quest for yet another, and another, and another almighty dollar . . .

And I don’t just mean politicians, most of whom are simply the tools of the real powerbrokers — the multinational corporations and the (mostly) men that run them — who, with total disregard for all life forms, doggedly plunder onwards in pursuit of their worship of mammon. Bill Clinton probably never realised the awfulness of his astute observation that “It’s the economy, stupid”.

I know, I know! Some of you might argue that the point of no return has already passed. I don’t disagree. But surely, when we look about us, and view the destruction we have wrought on our beautiful planet home in the space of a couple of highly industrialised centuries, we should at least try tidy it up and leave it with a better chance of revival after the disappearance of humans (imminent, I hope) whose mindless destruction has brought Earth to its very un-pretty pass today?

If Turnbull and his cronies had told me they were taking away my age pension because it was desperately needed to encourage, say, carbon-emission reduction, I would not have minded in the least.

But to know that my $100-plus a week pension payment has been clawed back to go straight into the handout barrel that will help finance Adani’s assault on the Great Barrier Reef and a further spewing of fossil carbon into the atmosphere!

That really sticks in my ancient craw. — Bob Hawkins*

*Bob Hawkins , a journalist for 61 years, always declared his earnings; always paid his tax without complaint; was never on the dole; honestly declared his assets when, in his middle-70s, he applied to be eligible for an age pension; and he used the resulting small pension — which eventually increased to more than $100 a week — to support the Cygnet local economy in the form of payments for odd-jobbing and gardening services. Last year, as a great supporter of people in elected office and the public service working diligently to give us the relatively stable society that we most of us enjoy, he took great pleasure in watching the hopeless Huon Valley Council and its CEO being given their marching orders. As a person with assets of around half a million, he doesn’t mind losing his pension because he can still comfortably afford his simple lifestyle. But he would like to see the filthy rich (the likes of Malcolm Turnbull and his political and business mates) also contributing something. HNY.

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  1. Bob Hawkins

    January 28, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    #50 That’s true, David. My intent was to say simply that, while others had, I had not. Sorry for the misunderstanding. I did not mean to accuse you.

  2. David de Burgh

    January 27, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    And Bob, nowhere have I said you did!

  3. PHilip Lowe

    January 26, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Jon Sumby.I will explain it to you again Jon. Self inflicted poverty is where some people deliberately choose to blow their dough on gambling, booze etc. on the principal that the less you have as you get older, the more the state will provide.
    Profligate selfishness. Being a poorly educated, industrial Manchester thicko myself, I have often sat amongst those who advocate this SIP style of living. Perhaps it exists in some parts of Tassie? Perhaps you don’t recognise it. I look forward to your comments. Phil.

  4. Jon Sumby

    January 26, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Re 47 Philip,
    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘self inflicted’ or how it relates to welfare support.

  5. Philip Lowe

    January 24, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Jon Sumby No45.I read your passionate outrage,but you avoid the issue of self inflicted poverty and associated self inflicted health issues.I am thinking of gambling in all its forms,alcohol and tobacco ,and poor diets.Fight the good fight by all means,but face up to the real problems that cause so much misery.Phil.

  6. Geoffrey Swan

    January 24, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    #40 What a tragic story Claire – thank you so much for your bravery in sharing your personal story..

  7. Jon Sumby

    January 24, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Re #44, PHilip,
    Reminds me of a public debate in Melbourne a few years ago.

    There was a set of community houses built for people on low incomes or with special needs. I saw them; they were attractive, aesthetic small houses with nice paintwork and designed by an architect to be liveable and comfortable.

    They caused outrage among the good folk of Victoria and the debate spilled over a few weeks of articles in The Age newspaper.

    What was the cause of the outrage?

    They were too nice. The poor should not have attractive well-designed homes to encourage in them a sense of community, self worth, and participation in society.

    The poor only deserve concrete boxes designed on strict utilitarian principles with no nice paint schemes and little front gardens. Government housing should not be where an old age pensioner or a disabled person can live, but a place where they can only exist.

    Despite the explanation by the bleeding heart lefties in Housing Victoria that the houses were cheap, cost effective and came in under budget; the judgement of many good citizens of Victoria was that yes, it is important to provide public housing for the poor, but public housing should not look nice because the poor don’t deserve nice houses.

    A just and fair society does not judge the poor but assists on the basis of need and support.

  8. PHilip Lowe

    January 21, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    Jon Sumby.Please comment on self inflicted poverty,working the system so as to get maximum benefits,and self inflicted health problems.They are connected.

  9. Bob Hawkins

    January 21, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    #37, and many of the other comments: You seem to missing the point. The debate has veered off into the realms of entitlement — which is not what I was talking about. The essence of my article is in my final two sentences. If you read them, we might all be able to get this debate back on track. And, David, nowhere have I said: “I paid my taxes so I am entitled to receive the pension.”

  10. lola moth

    January 21, 2017 at 9:05 am

    #41 Pete, if the pension is deleted then pensioners will have to be deleted. When you take up vagrancy I will take up arms. Revolution is not just for the young.

  11. Pete Godfrey

    January 20, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    #39 Thanks for your explanation Jon.
    I grew up knowing that when a low paid worker retired they received an old age pension.
    Now I am very near that time, I will be collecting my pension, unless it is deleted.
    If that happens I will be taking up the life of a vagrant.
    Getting rid of the pension as it seems is an aim of the right wing loonies is going to be politically difficult. We have 100 plus years of people being paid the pension. It is a bit of history that would be hard to delete.
    Like I have said, if everyone earnt enough money to pay for their own retirement there would have been on one to actually do the low paid jobs.

  12. Claire Gilmour

    January 20, 2017 at 12:46 am

    Ok I will use myself as example.
    Tell me what I am?
    Am I rich or poor – economically? And What do I deserve out of government funds?
    I worked for free in my parents business from 8 -16.
    From 16-17 whilst still at school I worked part time (school holidays) and volunteered in community based programs and paid rent to live at home.
    From 17 – 21 I worked full time, lived out of home, rented. My boss was underpaying me (saying I was younger than I was), but when I realised this I was told by a government official it was too late to get my owed pay back.
    From 24 – 45 I was married twice. Both husbands refused to contribute to super.
    At 29 I was diagnosed with cancer and told I would never have children. I was raped, mentally and physically abused for years by my father until I was 16. Although I often talked to/called police in those years, the police said they could do nothing to help me … unless there was someone dead in my home! Should I have NOT tried to revive my mother when she was dragged by her hair a number times to our lake to be drowned? Or jumped on my fathers back as a kid trying to tear him off her whilst he was bashing her? That was ALL legal back then!!! But then at 16 I was disinherited from my grand parents because I spoke out against my father.

    In 1997 I moved to my hideaway in a forest in Tasmania. A 50 acre rainforest property, which I personally built from scratch. No gov funds.

    Two years later in 2011 the Tasmanian government and forestry Tasmanian burnt 90% of my property to ground through their surrounding e niten plantations. Therefore devaluing my property. Prior to that they had killed my last breeding dog through 1080.
    In 2010 I did stupid thing and stood for the Greens as a candidate, because since I can barely get a job! For a few years I have had to rely on centrelink sending me to job service providers who have then sent me to jobs whereby they have used me and the government system for cheap labour then sacked me when that has ended. These jobs are physically hard labour jobs. … But I have my own aged (solar) power, water (when FT doesn’t affect it), have to look after my road. I use public transport, have no kids.
    The government has devalued me and my property for years …
    Tell me Jon what do I live on in the future? The Giant Freshwater crayfish?
    Yes .. the government and politicians owes many – big time!!!
    Where and how do I get my taxes back … let alone the unfairness?
    Whilst I was hoping the new Liberal Tas planning laws were going to help people, I’m a thinkin that, when taking into consideration the next Federal round of taking pensioners etc on the road as they have done to others claiming centrelink … the gov is simply trying to add spurious value to properties so to claim more from the vulnerable once again …


  13. Jon Sumby

    January 19, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Re 34 and 36, Lola and Pete,

    I believe I can give you a real world example; the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

    This is a dedicated budget allocation funded from tax. It works in that if, say, you worked and then declared your income less deductions etc. and the ATO generates how much tax you pay and how much refund you get.

    So all tax is collected and then the NDIS gets the money that the legislation has determined it gets from the total tax pool (the total tax pool is called general revenue i.e. the total amount of tax gathered by the government). This money is specified by legislation to be spent only for the purposes of the NDIS.

    There is no extra levy or tax that you pay for this. You pay tax at the level set by the tax laws for your level of income, e.g. up to $18,200 in income no tax is payable and then progressive rates after that.

    The general revenue is spent on the other functions of Government, for example, the ABC has an annual operating budget and the Government tips money from general revenue into the ABC to fund that operating budget.

    The same with the age pension which is also funded from general revenue.

    As the Australian Bureau of Statistics explains:
    ‘There was a further development of specific relevance to social security in 1945. The Commonwealth split the personal income tax into two components. One, the social services contribution, was to be used exclusively to finance social security cash payments. Revenue from the contribution was paid into the National Welfare Fund, from which all such cash payments were to be made, but there was no link between personal contributions and entitlements. The fund was supplemented by subventions from payroll tax and general revenue. In the event, the social services contribution was again merged into a single personal income tax in 1950. All cash payments are now made direct from general revenue.’

    What this means is that the tax remained the same but a similar process to the NDIS happened except it was announced on the tax return. Something like you pay X in tax and 95% goes to general revenue and 5% goes to the National Welfare Fund; i.e. the tax take was ‘split’ into a specific component just as today’s tax take splits off a specific amount from the overall tax revenue and dedicates that to the NDIS. Note that as I mentioned earlier, no welfare specific fund can cover the actual welfare spend so the National Welfare Fund was, ‘supplemented by subventions from payroll tax and general revenue’.

    When the National Welfare Fund ended in 1950 you still paid X tax but all the money went into general revenue and the age pension is paid out of that general revenue as part of the social security system (unemployment, disability, single parent, Austudy, indigenous programs, etc.)

    There was no extra tax or levy as, just like with the NDIS, a portion of the tax take was directed to a specific Fund. That Fund only lasted 5 years and that was 67 years ago, so there is no dedicated mount or fund that pays the age pension; it comes out of general revenue as does every other welfare payment.

  14. Wining Pom

    January 19, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    ‘A cynic could suggest that the opportunistic Greens…’

    ‘opportunistic Greens’

    That is very cynical.

  15. David de Burgh

    January 19, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    To say “I paid my taxes so I am entitled to receive the pension” simply does not wash. If that is all it took to qualify then the Packers, the Turnbulls, yes even the hated Abbotts would enjoy the old age pension when they reach retirement age. Of course I suspect that is not what Peter Godfrey means. He is really saying “people like me paid our taxes so we are entitled”. So obviously just paying tax isn’t enough to qualify you for the pension so there needs to be income or asset level cut-offs, which takes us to Bob’s lament.

    The Government hasn’t lowered the asset level at which the full pension begins to decrease, in fact they have raised it by a considerable amount. This means that people with not much at all can have quite a bit more in the bank before they begin to lose part of their pension. That is no doubt a good thing, targeting people who really need it, a point usually ignored by the whingers.

    What has happened is that the taper rate has increased so that the part pension cuts out earlier because of the amount of financial assets you own. Incidentally this simply restored the taper levels to what they were before the Howard Government, perhaps over generously, changed them in around 2006. So while the amount you can own before losing any of your pension has been increased, the level at which you lose it completely has been decreased.

    But let us look at those upper limits. Bob, it appears from what you are saying that you must have financial assets totaling at least $542,500, apart from your house, cars, personal possessions and Bif. Now that might not make you wealthy but it is hard to reconcile why your fellow Australians should give you $117 a week to save you from withdrawing it from your savings. After all isn’t that what savings are for? Surely you use your own money first before relying on the taxpayer.

    Your use of the word “retrospective” is surprising given your most deserved reputation as a wordsmith. There is nothing retrospective about these changes. Just as the changes 10 or so years ago that gave you the part pension in the first place couldn’t be classed as retrospective.

    I admire your ability to spend such a large part of your pension entitlement article on the evils of climate change, wicked capitalists and wishing the extinction of the human race, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the pension changes are reasonable. I agree that there are plenty of wasteful areas of Government that need to be urgently addressed but that doesn’t make this one bad.

    A cynic could suggest that the opportunistic Greens voted for this change only because they knew it would be unpopular and that the Govt would wear all the blame. If they would support more of the Governments economic measures then the pain of sorting out our spending problem would be more widely shared than lumping it so unfairly on a humble journalist.

  16. Pete Godfrey

    January 19, 2017 at 9:22 am

    #33 Thankyou for your explanation Jon. I read the act and it reads as though a person was required to pay both income tax and a social security contribution. Unless they earnt below a taxable level.
    The boat analogy doesn’t quite hold water if that is the case.
    To use the boat analogy it would require that our income was increased by the amount we wanted to put into the boat fund.
    I am not a lawyer, but it reads to me that people were required to pay tax and also a social security levy. In another part of the act it talks about companies taking income tax and the levy out of employees wages.
    If the government just rolled over the levy into consolidiated revenue then people are still paying for their pensions.
    Thankyou for your arguments in favour of the rights of the poor to exist. You are a thoughtful fellow.
    #35 Phillip
    The arguments that poor people should not receive a pension that you put across don’t hold water for me either. That assumes that every person is capable of earning a high wage and saving for their retirement. Not all jobs pay such high wages, in fact there are many jobs where people are paid mean sums for their work.
    We are following the U.S on lowering minimum wages, and casualising the workforce. That means more worker drones to serve the uber rich.
    It seems that the harder a person works (such as labouring, nursing, aged care etc) the lower their pay.
    Phillip you would have us punish those who were only capable of those jobs. Sounds like Liberal party rhetoric to me.
    Sure everyone has the right to be rich in the eyes of the ruling classes, but if everyone was rich no one would do the menial tasks. There would be no one collecting garbage, sweeping streets, fixing roads, doing manual work.
    No one to serve the rich people in restaurants and cafes, no one to scrub the decks on their yachts, or crew them.
    It comes back to the old bash the poor or disabled for being poor.

  17. Philip Lowe

    January 19, 2017 at 7:19 am

    Jon Sumby.It is not a moral judgement,it is plain common sense.Obese people who cannot stop eating too much have lap band surgery.It may save their hip and knee joints,and their hearts.This isn’t a moral judgement,this is common sense.Self inflicted poverty is an immoral situation.People who have left leaning politics always accuse anything that doesn’t lean left of being of Facist or Nazi even.Why not get tough with the evils that rot health and wealth.Namby pamby lefty politics only excuse problems and do not tackle them.dodgy right wing politicians will use any untruth to wangle anybodies votes.

  18. lola moth

    January 18, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    33# Jon, great analogy but I’m still confused. It wasn’t that we no longer wanted a boat, we just didn’t want the hassle of a separate account for it. I still want my boat. Surely as all my money went into one account rather than two the boat money still exists? It needn’t be a yacht, a dinghy will do.

  19. Jon Sumby

    January 18, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    Re. 29, Pete,
    I suspect you misunderstand. To give you an analogy; imagine you are saving for a boat. To stop you accidentally spending any of your income that is supposed to be the part of your boat savings, you set up your income this way.

    Your income (say an amount ‘X’) goes into your main bank account called ‘general revenue’ and then a specified amount is directed into another account called ‘boat fund’.

    After a few years you decide that you don’t want a boat any more, so you close the ‘boat fund’ and the money in that account is now transferred back into your general revenue account since the ‘boat fund’ account no longer exists.

    As well, your income (‘X’) keeps going into your general revenue account but not one bit of it goes into the ‘boat fund’ because that no longer exists.

    This is what happened in 1945. Income tax was a set value (say, X) but some was separated out to sit in a bucket that was called in the legislation the ‘National Welfare Fund’ from which the age pension was paid (as welfare).

    When the trial was ended, income tax was still ‘X’ but the National Welfare Fund did not exist and no money went to it. The pension payments now came (and still do) from general revenue. Any money in the National Welfare Fund bucket was simply tipped back into the general revenue bucket.

    So there was no ‘tax increase’ that remained after the trial ended, income tax remained the same, just there was no bucket that was filled specifically as the age pension welfare payment.

    So there is no extra tax that is specific for the age pension, the age pension is paid by current and future taxpayers – there is no ‘saved’ pot of money from tax paid by workers in the past to pay for their retirement

  20. lola moth

    January 18, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    #29 Pete I’ve been asking that question for years and the only answer I get is that the 5% was put into the pot along with all the other tax and our pensions would come out of the pot. Tax was not lowered because our pensions were still assured. It just wasn’t put aside for that specific purpose as it formerly was. I fear that superannuation could be given over to government control in the same way and then similarly absorbed into the pot.

  21. mark

    January 18, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    A nice article, but it is worth mentioning the pension thresholds were only at the levels they were because of another one of the old lying rodent’s vote buying exercises in the dying days of his government. They’re only returning to where they were before his intervention.

    And there are some others at lower asset levels who will see their pension increase.

  22. Jon Sumby

    January 18, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    Re 25, PHilip,
    What you are describing is a moral judgement approach to welfare, commonly described as the ‘deserving or the undeserving poor’.

    Back in Victorian times if a poor person approached a charity, the charity had inspectors to assess the needy person. If their home was clean and not ‘slovenly’, if they had a bible and a picture of Jesus on the wall, etc., they were ‘deserving’ of charity. If not they got no aid.

    When unemployment allowance was introduced in Australia in 1945, eligibility for the dole included a home inspection by Government inspectors and a police assessment of the worthiness of the unemployed person.

    In more recent times more proposals have been made. A few years ago it was proposed that obese people be prevented from getting certain medical procedures (like knee reconstructions) under Medicare as their ‘lifestyle choice’ of being fat should not come at the cost of the taxpayers.

    The same has been proposed for other groups of people where the moral judgement is that they are unworthy of aid as they are the cause of their condition. Which comes full circle back to the undeserving poor. It is deeply ingrained in right-wing ideology that rich people are successful because they work hard and live wisely; poor people are the cause of their own poverty because they are not successful and are ‘leaners’, bludging off society, and should get no aid at all – assistance should be reserved for ‘good’ people who are wealthy.

    Last year a Liberal MP in Victoria proposed that prisoners when released from prison should be barred from receiving the age pension or any other social security payment and that the ex-prisoners pension should be paid to the victims of the prisoner’s crimes. The moral judgement here is that a person sent to prison is intrinsically ‘bad’ and should not be given any of taxpayers money as aid.

    Social security in Australia is based on need not moral judgement, although the media and the Liberal’s as often as they can try and paint the poor as undeserving bludging leaners. Both Liberal and Labor have embraced neoliberal economics and consider social security as a bad thing and to make being on Newstart as punishing and as demeaning as possible to ‘encourage’ people to get back into work.

    Last year Scott Morrison, as Treasurer, said that he believes the age pension as a step of last resort and should only be enough to cover immediate cost of living. The Liberals are certainly of the opinion that the age pension is too generous and Morrison flagged cuts to the pension rates at some point in the future.

    This they can do as the age pension is welfare paid through general revenue and they can change the rates easily. As the demographic ‘bubble’ of retirees from the baby boomer generation comes through in the next decade, I expect the age pension to be substantially reduced with the argument of only enough in the pot to distribute being used. This will become more salient in the light of Turnbull’s desire to give corporations a $50 billion tax break which will put a permanent large whole in the budget revenues as well as the Abbott and Turnbull governments commitment to spending $200 billion over the next decade to the largest military expenditure in decades – some submarines and fighter jets.

    These spending commitments and tax breaks will put stress on the budget and as we have seen in every right-wing government the first thing to go is welfare, national health schemes, libraries, education, etc.

    Going down the path of moral judgement for social welfare is a dangerous one. Whose moral judgement one of the first questions raised.

    I strongly suggest you read this article as it is one of the better ones on the subject.
    The introduction and discussion fully draw out the different social attitudes toward the poor.

    Click on ‘Download full-text PDF’, you’ll get a pop up screen asking you to join the site but ignore that as two or three seconds later it disappears and the article is loaded.

    The grasshopper and the ants: popular opinions of just distribution in Australia and Finland


  23. Pete Godfrey

    January 18, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    #26 Thankyou Jon, for that information, the only other issue is this. So the act was repealed, the major question is “was the tax levy dropped”.
    If income tax was not lowered with the deletion of the law, then we have still been paying for our pension, only under a different guise.
    It is a bit like the petrol tax that Ex Premier Nick Greiner brought in in N.S.W decades ago. It was called the 3 x 3 road levy. It was 3 cents a litre for 3 years. That tax has never been dropped either. The people of N.S.W still pay the extra tax on their petrol, only the 3×3 signs don’t go up near roadworks anymore.

  24. Pete Godfrey

    January 18, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Why Australians are entitled to the old age pension.

    We hear so often these days from conservative politicians, that people should save for their own retirement.

    These politicians are either ignorant of how the old age pension works or are deliberately misleading the population of Australia.

    The old age pension is funded from an extra tax that was added in 1945. This tax was called the “Social Services Contribution”. The Social Services Tax was a distinct tax, it is what is called an hypothecated tax. Meaning that the money collected under that tax is only to be used for that purpose.

    In the beginning of the system in 1945, a persons tax return would show how much tax and how much social services contribution they paid. This was done to make tax increases more palatable.

    In the early 1950’s during the Menzies era, this practice was discontinued, and the tax return only showed how much tax had been paid as it does now.

    What this means is that every person who collects a pension has actually paid for their pension in their tax. The governments who collected that money should have put it aside as was intended.
    A recent article on the ABC website quotes David Leyonhjelm .

    Senator David Leyonhjelm calls to restrict pension, says being poor ‘nothing to be proud of’
    By political reporter Uma Patel

    Mr Leyonhjelm needs to take an interest in history, what he says is totally wrong.

    Why should any person be too proud to collect their own money that was paid in taxes while they worked, to fund their retirement.

    Next time a politician tells someone to save for their retirement or that they should have a large cache in superannuation, ask them why we should pay twice for our retirement.

    Ask the politician where the money went that they already paid in for their retirement. How did it come about that a dedicated tax was changed to be mixed into consolidated revenue.

    The government have two choices really, one is to pay people their pensions that they are entitled to
    Or they can return the money as a lump sum and people can invest it to pay for their retirement.
    If the government don’t want to pay pensions in the future then they should drop that portion of tax (5% I believe) and people can then put that into their own superannuation fund.

    The old age pension is definitely an Entitelment. I will gladly collect it in a couple of years time.

    Pete Godfrey

  25. Terry James

    January 18, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Open Letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Social Services Christian Porter, Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge and General Manager Centrelink Hank Jongen …

    Complaint concerning Centrelink treatment of ‘clients’

    I can only hope that one day soon that you are on the wrong end of an adverse, incorrect or incompetent ruling by Centrelink (as I have) and that you become the recipient of one of their horrid, threatening letters.

    Maybe then you will experience the ‘joy’ of sitting for hours in a crowded Centrelink office, waiting to see a Centrelink drone who will promise that another Centrelink drone will contact you by telephone. Maybe you’ll be sick with cancer, suffering from both the disease and the treatment (prone to infection) and sitting there waiting to fix a Centrelink mistake that was not your fault (as was I). Six times during face-to-face contact with Centrelink officers I have been promised follow-up calls that never eventuated, the promise not delivered. So much for being treated with dignity as a Centrelink ‘client’.

    Before, during and after treatment for cancer (chemo and radio therapy) I was forced to spend many hours “hanging on the telephone”, trying in vain to make contact with a Centrelink officer. You’ve known about the number (millions) of abandoned calls to Centrelink for sometime and apparently have made no effort to fix the problem, probably because it does not affect you.

    I can only hope that you’ll be sick as a dog with a life threatening disease like cancer and get to experience the harassment and bullying by both Centrelink and the contracted Employment Pathway Planner to seek employment when your number one priority (job) is wellness and survival.

    I can only hope that, as I have, you attend a mandatory appointment with a Centrelink drone (that costs you employment income) that is followed up by a nasty letter threatening suspension of payments, that requires another personal visit to the Centrelink office (more petrol and lost wages) to sort out because the incompetent Centrelink drone ‘forgot’ to finalise the mandatory appointment details on her computer.

    I can only hope that a Centrelink Assessor hangs up on you (after calling two hours late after an agreed hour) because you demand an apology (right to be treated with dignity) for being ‘kept on ice’ waiting to change a dressing on a suppurating wound and now running late for an appointment for radio therapy at the Holman Oncology Clinic. The Assessor failed to log that call, as required. Try sorting that mess out with ‘Missinglink’ while in a very poor state of health.

    If you think that this is a proper and humane way to treat a 62 year old citizen with multiple health issues and one who has worked serving his country for 38 years then I suggest that you seriously re-evaluate your fitness to hold public office.

    If you think that suspending the presumption of innocence for the rugged and the buggered is OK (as with your latest attacks on Centrelink ‘clients’) then you have no place making decisions that affect the lives of Australians and, your idea of democracy is seriously skewed.

    Fix Centrelink now and show some compassion and respect for those less fortunate than you.

  26. Jon Sumby

    January 18, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    #24, Pete,

    The Social Services Contribution tax you mention was repealed in 1950:

    ‘Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1950

    – C1950A00048
    No longer in force

    Act No. 48 of 1950 as made
    An Act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1949, to repeal the Social Services Contribution Act 1945-1949 and the Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1945- 1948, and for other purposes.

    Date of Assent 14 Dec 1950.’

    This Act was itself repealed in 2014 as part of a legislative clean up that repealed 1120 redundant or no longer relevant Acts that were still on the books such as the Excise Act 1918, the Coal Industry Act 1952, and the Fisheries Act 1968 among others, which is why it is listed as ‘no longer in force’.

    So to answer you question, the Social Services Contribution tax was ended by legislation in 1950 and pension payments reverted to general revenue, which funded pensions before 1945-50 and as it does now.

  27. PHilip Lowe

    January 18, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Jon Sumby No 22.Eloquently put sir,but please,what of the situation where someone has pissed their wealth up the wall and left themselves not well off in old age?They will get maximum benefits will they not?Such behaviour is related to health care where some people take responsibility for their own well being by looking after themselves,and others couldn’t give a rats arse and smoke and drink themselves into dire need.,expensive dire need.Do you Think it true that politicians ignore common sense in order to garner votes often pandering to the lowest common denominator .

  28. Pete Godfrey

    January 18, 2017 at 8:45 am

    #22 Jon, maybe you can clear this up more.
    Alfred Deakin brought in the Social Services Contribution tax, in 1945. As I pointed out in my comment it was an hypothecated tax, only to be used for payment of pensions.
    Did Robert Menzies abolish the tax altogether or as I suspect did he leave the tax in place and just roll it over into consolidated revenue?
    If he did abolish the tax it seems strange that the treasury did not mention that in the article that I read, only that Menzies changed the way the scheme ran.
    Can you point to the legislation or date of repeal of the social services contribution tax.

  29. Chris

    January 17, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    Hay Manda has the right idea, continue the tradition and lets throw the pensioners overboard.

  30. Jon Sumby

    January 17, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    To end a few myths.
    The age pension is:
    – not a payment made as a reward for your working life.
    – not a payment that you have paid for through your taxes.
    – not a payment you are entitled to just because you have worked and paid taxes.
    The age pension is welfare. It is a social security payment just the same as the disability pension or the unemployment allowance.

    The age pension began as State based payment systems between 1901 and 1908 but became a Commonwealth payment by legislation in 1910. The age pension is paid from general revenue except for the period 1945-1950 when a ‘social contribution’ scheme was trialed but the system reverted to payment from the general revenue stream from which the age pension is still paid.

    Unlike other countries, such as the UK and Greece, Australia does not have a social insurance pension scheme in which a portion of a persons tax is directed to a tax fund exclusively for social security payments. None of these type of funds in other countries can cover pension payments and so all are supplemented by revenue from other tax sources. This is the reason why the 1945-50 trial ended as it wasn’t efficient.

    The 1945-50 trial is possibly the source of the myth that the taxes you have paid fund your pension on retirement. Superannuation is a social insurance scheme and was gifted to the private market as part of neoliberal economic ideology, rather than being introduced as a government based pension scheme as done in other countries. It is ironic that back in 2014 Joe Hockey while searching for government revenue proposed to effectively nationalize the private market superannuation schemes and bringing all the money in those schemes under government control.

    People are not automatically entitled to the age pension when they reach retirement age, it is and has been since 1910, a welfare payment that is needs based and calculated on net worth and assets.

    The age pension is the single largest welfare budget in Australia at $47 billion per year.
    The age pension has always been set at between one fifth and one quarter of the average weekly wage; in 1910 it was 21% and currently it is 24.7%

    So if you see Facebook memes or comments that go along the lines of, ‘Pensioners are entitled to the age pension because they worked hard and their taxes pay for their pension’, remember that the age pension is a welfare payment paid through the social security system from general revenue and is needs based and not an entitlement or a reward.

  31. Studler van Surck

    January 17, 2017 at 11:54 am

    #20 Sorry Seventy Eight Dollars of course per year but 7.8% is a hell of a lot better than 3% AND you can have some fun!

  32. Studler van Surck

    January 17, 2017 at 11:20 am

    And here is the absolute obscene incentive for oldies that have been frugal all their lives to go on a spending spree: For every thousand dollar they have in the bank they are lucky to get 3%pa, thus $30pa but for every thousand dollars over the Government decreed limit that they SPEND they will receive 26x$3=$88pa for life. Crazy what?

  33. Jennifer king

    January 16, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    It seems kind of crazy to take back the money as most of it will go back into general revenue. We all pay GST.

  34. john hayward

    January 16, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    Most of the values that Bob espouses could be described as “politically correct”, which can be translated to mean views reflecting humanistic values.

    The “PC” term unsurprisingly has the connotation of a view adopted for self-serving purposes, as this largely covers the range of conventional political motives.

    With our species seemingly headed for a premature extinction, let’s hope the composition of a respectable epitaph is assigned to people like Bob.

    John Hayward

  35. O'Brien

    January 16, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Perhaps we should all follow the example of our Prime Minister. Hide our millions of dollars in offshore accounts to avoid paying tax in Australia. Or perhaps Sussan Ley or Bronwyn Bishop have the right idea. We really should take the lead from our betters.

  36. phill Parsons

    January 16, 2017 at 9:02 am

    What is this and the clawback by Centrelink all about?. Thew ratings agencies determine Australia’s risk and therefore it’s interest rate. To keep that rate low a AAA rating needs to be kept.

    The ratings agencies need to see action to control the deficit to be convinced the government is being frugal.

    These are two measures they decided to use to show that. There are others such as growing the economy including through strategic investment funded by low interest borrowing but they decided on these because they could do them.

    They would have a tax reduction to stimulate private investment but given the global situation the likelihood of this increasing tax revenue from the large tax dodging corporations is very low.

    In other jurisdictions taxing the wealthy has grown the economy. Paying their fair share would certainly point the budget deficit toward the black faster than taking pennies from the mouths of the poor.

  37. PHilip Lowe

    January 16, 2017 at 4:18 am

    Now if you have been careful in life,worked,paid your dues and saved a few quid,then you may be penalised and not receive a decent or full pension;but if you have been a regular at Wrest Point,bar and casino,and you have little to show for it,then the state pension will be yours in all its glory.Is this correct?
    Sounds like you need a Wrinklies Rebellion.

  38. Philip Lowe

    January 16, 2017 at 12:19 am

    Voluntary Euthenasia here we come.Tax breaks for the living,
    Eat,drink and be merry.Bar code your sell by date on your chest.Council inspectors will come round and scan you to see that you haven’t gone past your expiry date.Fabulous farewell parties.The possibilities are endless.But surely this is better than a wrinkly skinned,toothless old and older age in a care home,isn’t it?

  39. John Alford

    January 15, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    #12 Was it Nick or Cassie who said we are all neo-liberals now? Echoes of Tony Blair talking about so-called New Labour as Thatcher’s children. The Greens will never increase their vote until they have a far stronger social justice platform.

  40. Tim Thorne

    January 15, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    Well said, Bob. A further point needs to be made. If one lives in Sydney and has assets worth $500,000, there is a fair chance that almost all of that will be the family home, which is exempt from the Centrelink test, so one will be eligible for the full pension. Here in Tassie, however, the same total of assets would be split close to 50/50 between assessable and non-assessable, thus reducing the pension. When it comes to bequeathing ones assets, however, there is no difference.

    That seems inequitable and for that reason, as well as for those outlined by Bob, it was despicable of the Greens to support the changes.

  41. lola moth

    January 15, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    #7 Pete, the pension is indeed an entitlement meant to reward us for a lifetime of hard work and taxpaying. The present government is trying to manipulate the public into thinking the pension is some form of theft by useless old people and those despised baby-boomers. They will not be happy until we are cheering them on as they rip the safety net out from under our own parents. More people need to learn how our pensions came to be so we do not slip into the delusion that it is “welfare”.

  42. Bob Hawkins

    January 15, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    #8. Thanks for that reminder, Grant. I seem to remember a Democrats leader who made much the same mistake over JWH’s GST (which is very much a tax on the poor). Greens support for the Tories on this issue was, indeed, a very silly mistake that could prove costly to a usually sensible political grouping.

  43. Helen

    January 15, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    I note that, very generously, the writer of the article is not seeing himself as hard done by, although lamenting that he is not able to support as many good causes as he might have done previously.

    He does make the point that he wouldn’t mind at all if the money gained through the pension cuts were to be applied to dealing with climate change which the present government is strenuously trying to avoid.

    With regard to comment #8, perhaps readers should look at the following article from New Matilda from which I quote an excerpt.

    “In summary, these changes are going to affect those most able to look after themselves.

    Perhaps this is why former Labor finance minister Craig Emerson thinks that the ALP should embrace them. Emerson calls the reforms “a modest tightening of the assets test on pensions,” and argues that Labor’s opposition amounts to “controverting its time-honoured philosophy of targeting government support to the underprivileged.”

    The real winner from this political battle has been Social Services Minister Scott Morrison.

    This reform had the potential to be politically damaging for the government. By doing a deal with the Greens, Morrison has been able to legislate a deficit reduction measure while deflecting the anger over the changes onto the minor party. This also puts to bed the most unpopular aspect of last year’s pension changes, the change to pension indexation.

    Morrison has thus been able to claim a significant victory, while the Greens are wearing all the blowback”.


  44. Grant Chester

    January 15, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    The author is wrong to blame only the “Tory Coalition” for this pension clawback.
    The pension changes passed the Senate with support from the Greens, which includes local Senators Nick McKim and Peter Whish-Wilson. Without their support these changes would never have got through the Senate. Credit where credit’s due.

  45. Pete Godfrey

    January 15, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Why Australians are entitled to the old age pension.

    We hear so often these days from conservative politicians, that people should save for their own retirement.
    These politicians are either ignorant of how the old age pension works or are deliberately misleading the population of Australia.
    The old age pension is funded from an extra tax that was added in 1945. This tax was called the “Social Services Contribution”. The Social Services Tax was a distinct tax, it is what is called an hypothecated tax. Meaning that the money collected under that tax is only to be used for that purpose.
    In the beginning of the system in 1945, a persons tax return would show how much tax and how much social services contribution they paid. This was done to make tax increases more palatable.
    In the early 1950’s during the Menzies era, this practice was discontinued, and the tax return only showed how much tax had been paid as it does now.
    What this means is that every person who collects a pension has actually paid for their pension in their tax. The governments who collected that money should have put it aside as was intended.
    A recent article on the ABC website quotes David Leyonhjelm .
    Senator David Leyonhjelm calls to restrict pension, says being poor ‘nothing to be proud of’
    By political reporter Uma Patel
    Mr Leyonhjelm needs to take an interest in history, what he says is totally wrong.

    Why should any person be too proud to collect their own money that was paid in taxes while they worked, to fund their retirement.

    Next time a politician tells someone to save for their retirement or that they should have a large cache in superannuation, ask them why we should pay twice for our retirement.
    Ask the politician where the money went that they already paid in for their retirement. How did it come about that a dedicated tax was changed to be mixed into consolidated revenue.

    The government have two choices really, one is to pay people their pensions that they are entitled to
    Or they can return the money as a lump sum and people can invest it to pay for their retirement.
    If the government don’t want to pay pensions in the future then they should drop that portion of tax (5% I believe) and people can then put that into their own superannuation fund.

    The old age pension is definitely an Entitlement. I will gladly collect it in a couple of years time.

    Pete Godfrey

  46. Wining Pom

    January 15, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Great finish to a very good article Bob.

    I see no halting of the whirlpool that is human civilisaton.

  47. Geoffrey Swan

    January 15, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Good to hear from you Bob – thanks for sharing and putting it all into perspective.

  48. John Biggs

    January 15, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Would there were many many more like you Bob.

  49. mike seabrook

    January 15, 2017 at 10:51 am

    bob – have another look at climate change – a warmer tassie especially in the stuffed, cold, bleak tassie winter economy (think tourism) would be great for tassie – possibly burning all that adani coal may warm the joint,

    and besides tasmanians will not pay- ever since the feds halted construction then under way of the gordon-below-franklin hydro scheme – tasmanians have become leech like bludgeing mendicants in sucking up the mainland gst funding

    – possibly the feds could further compensate tassie for their actions which prevent and slow the warming of tassie

  50. mike seabrook

    January 15, 2017 at 10:39 am

    welcome to the deplorables – if you were living in west australia you could get some satisfaction in as soon as 2 months time at the state election.

    the values of those elected and the responsibility a lot of these hypocrites show personally to the common wealth astounds – and those who value ethics do not attempt to remedy their reputations by outing and shunning all the rorting hypocrite colleagues of theirs (they are protecting and covering for) who are looting the system

    donald and pauline et al are showing the way

  51. John Maddock

    January 15, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Good man. Salt of the Earth.


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