Mick, with a crook back, welcomes backdown on age pension
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Mick, with a crook back, welcomes backdown on age pension

Mick Bradley, who is a health patient transportation officer, says there's no way he could have waited until 70 to get the pension and has welcomed the government's backdown.

The 62-year-old fell over at home and is off work, and said the nature of his physical work leaves him pre-disposed to back injury.

“My work involves taking patients from hospital to hospital on stretchers and wheelchairs, and to homes that often entails going up and down stairs – it’s very physical work and very tough on the back,” he said.

Mick Bradley, 62, has to wait until 66.5 to get the age pension.

Mick Bradley, 62, has to wait until 66.5 to get the age pension.

Photo: Charles Elias

On Wednesday Treasurer Scott Morrison announced the government’s decision to drop its policy to increase the age pension age to 70.

Mr Bradley, who lives in Nelson Bay on the NSW coast, will be able to get the age pension at 66.5 and would not have been affected if the pension age had gone to 70, as it would have been phased-in to protect older workers.

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He says that 66 is already long enough to wait after working in physical jobs all his life. He reckons younger workers, who would not have gained access to the age pension until 70, would have been really up against it.

“There’s no way I could wait until age 70; it would have been impossible to work for that long. “There's the disability support pension but you have got to go through a lot of hoops for that and you virtually have to be incapacitated,” he said.

“I know younger people that are laying bricks and scaffolding and they have no hope of waiting longer for the age pension and don’t have a lot in their superannuation,” Mr Bradley said.

Many groups representing older Australians and those who work in physically-demanding jobs have welcomed the backflip by the government.

NSW Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes  said the announcement was a “step in the direction of reality”.

“[The policy] was an abuse of the working spirit of people in Australia that they deserve to have a period in their lives where they can take some rest as they get into their older years,” he said.

Access to the pension is already on its way up. The former Labor government raised from 65 to 67 for anyone born after January 1, 1957.

Paul Versteege, the policy co-ordinator at the Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association, said many of the 100,000 people over 50 who are on Newstart and have no real chance to ever work again at least now know they won’t have to wait an extra three years for the pension.

Others are in two minds about the change.

Richard Jeney, who has been in the construction industry for 21 years and started his own handyman business in 2012 in Port Melbourne, says people in physical jobs need to start thinking about how they are going to keep working for longer and to think about their retirement while they are still relatively young.

Mr Jeney injured his back and realised he had to change things so that he could keep working for longer, so he decided to get off the tools and focus on the business side of things.

Richard Jeney with his dog, Hux, says those doing physical jobs need to think of ways to keep working when they are older.

Richard Jeney with his dog, Hux, says those doing physical jobs need to think of ways to keep working when they are older.

Photo: Joe Armao

“I know concreters [who are] 40-45 with busted backs and knees, but at 45 you can change career, you shouldn’t be waiting until you're 65 to think what am I going to do for the next two years.”

Brendan Coates from the Grattan Institute supports an increase in the pension age to 70.

“It’s a shame the government has made this decision given the long-term budgetary costs.

“It would encourage people to work for longer and boost the budget because people would not be relying on the age pension for as long.

“The long-term budget problem still looms from the early 2020s onwards as population ageing really starts to bite.

“The reality is that you could carve out a different disability support pension activity test for those who would not be able to work until age 70,” he said.

He said the main group that increasing the pension age would have hit is those that would have received a part-rate pension.

These are wealthier retirees who, in the main, are physically capable of working for longer, Mr Coates said.