Older Australians suggest they are open to pushing wealthy pensioners off government payments but have warned the Abbott government against including the family home in an assets test.
A survey of more than 6500 Australians aged over 50, by the consumer action group the Fifty Up Club, provides clues about what changes will be accepted and what will be rejected in the Abbott government’s first budget.
In a clear warning to Treasurer Joe Hockey, more than 45 per cent of respondents say they will sell their home and move into a cheaper property if the family home is no longer exempt from the pension assets test. Keenly aware of the political dangers of meddling with the pension, Mr Hockey will not make any changes to the family home test, despite his desperation to control Australia’s $40 billion-a-year – and fast growing – aged pension costs.
But other results in the poll suggest older Australians are open to some of the “tough” decisions foreshadowed by Mr Hockey to repair the budget and return it to surplus within a decade.
Most people in the survey indicate the current pension exemptions are too generous and that some wealthier pensioners should no longer receive payments. Asked whether a couple should qualify for a part-pension if they own their family home, have more than $1 million in assets and receive $60,000 a year in income, more than 70 per cent of respondents say: “No.”
But the Prime Minister Tony Abbott will be relieved to hear his decifit tax appears to be more popular among older Australians than it is among his colleagues, who are grumbling both privately and publicly about the broken promise. Mr Abbott’s controversial plan to raise taxes on high-income earners is accepted by more than half of those in the survey.
Asked if Australians earning more than $80,000 a year should be asked to pay extra income tax to help balance the budget, about 23 per cent give an unqualified “yes” and 37 per cent say: “Yes, but it should kick in at a higher income threshold." About 27 per cent think the deficit tax should be scrapped.
While Mr Abbott and the Treasurer were originally contemplating a tax hike for Australians earning more than $80,000, the severe public and Coalition MPs' backlash is understood to have encouraged them to lift the threshold for the tax rise to incomes as high as $150,000 or $180,000 a year.