MEDIA RELEASE: Scrapping pension age increase to 70 welcome – now let’s focus on measures to support mature employment and tackle age discrimination

Leading seniors’ advocacy body COTA Australia today welcomed the Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement the government will overturn its policy of increasing the retirement pension age to 70 years – after it reaches 67 years in 2023.

COTA Australia Chief Executive Ian Yates said COTA had long argued that the pension age should only be considered as part of a comprehensive independent review of the retirement income system, including the tax system, pensions, superannuation and other retirement income arrangements to ensure we can equitably support Australia’s ageing population.

“In the meantime, the Government’s More Choices for a Longer Life package in the Federal Budget is the right approach to mature age employment – providing a package of measures including fighting ageism in the workforce, job subsidies, career review and reskilling programs, better job placement, support to older entrepreneurs, and incentives to keep working while on the pension,” Mr Yates said.

“There is no point in raising the pension age further when people who want to work longer are too often locked out of even being considered for jobs because of persistent ageism and age discrimination.

“Forcing older jobseekers to wait another three years struggling on Newstart before accessing the aged pension, because we have an employment system that is stacked against older workers, is not fair or sensible, and many do not even access Newstart because of the draconian means testing requirements.”

Mr Yates said government needs to focus on lifting workforce participation rates substantially among people older than 55 and supporting people who want to work into their 70s.

“Lifting workforce participation will contribute much more money to the Federal Budget than raising the pension age further could ever save and it will result in better retirement incomes for many retirees, again saving the Budget.” he said.

Mr Yates said Australia’s pension and retirement incomes system must be sustainable, but not at the expense of the well being of older Australians who are already experiencing discrimination.

“The More Choices for a Longer Life package in the last Budget, on which COTA worked closely with then Treasurer, Scott Morrison, contains a wide range of positive measures that are a good first step in dealing more proactively and constructively with an ageing population,” he said.

Mr Yates said the government now needs to put its energy into making sure More Choices for a Longer Life gets properly implemented, is carefully monitored, and is built upon in the MYEFO statement later in the year, in the next Budget and in its election commitments.

“Australia needs to invest in its older population who contribute enormously to the economy and society but could add even more substantially to economic growth and social cohesion if properly supported,” he said.

“COTA also continues to call on the government to commission an independent review of the whole retirement incomes space, with input from key stakeholders and bipartisan support from the Opposition and Greens, who we urge to support such a review.”

Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Jenny Stokes 0478 504 280

COTA Australia is the peak policy development, advocacy and representation organisation for older Australians, representing COTAs in every State and Territory and through them over 500,000 older Australians.