Article by Adrian Lowe & Cheyanne Enciso courtesy of the West Australian.
George Gibson wants to be able to work without being financially penalised for doing so.
Business groups agree people like the 71-year-old Perth pensioner are what the underpressure Australian labour market needs to alleviate some of the pressure putting it under unprecedented strain.
But until key changes are made, Mr Gibson, pictured above, a sole trader from Secret Harbour, and the near-20 per cent of Australian pensioners open to returning to work are unlikely to do so.
“I’ve got to make sure that any earnings are below a certain level and I don’t think a pensioner should have to think about that,” Mr Gibson said.
“I think a pensioner should be able, if they want to, continue working without being penalised.”
Mr Gibson was speaking after Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s weekend support for an overhaul of the work bonus scheme for pensioners — which Mr Dutton conceded could have been done when his party was in government.
Pensioners can earn $300 a fortnight before their pension payments are reduced.
Mr Dutton, pictured below, wants this increased to $600. Industry groups — whose members are desperate for any fix to the worker shortage — broadly support the moves and want the Federal Government to consider the idea at its September jobs summit.
Estimates from Deloitte Access Economics have a 5 per cent rise in the number of over-55 s in the workforce as boosting national gross domestic product by $48 billion.
The idea has long been championed by WA mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, pictured right. Mr Dutton confirmed conversations with Mrs Rinehart had helped inform his stance.
Mrs Rinehart said she applauded Mr Dutton “for the leadership he has shown on this issue”.
“I would encourage the Government to not only consider the benefits to the department of eliminating pensioners’ paperwork but the revenue generated from additional income tax … and businesses then able to generate more taxable profits,” she said.
Mrs Rinehart wants the Government to go further than Mr Dutton’s policy however, by eliminating any upward limit to what pensioners can earn, “and just let them contribute like other Australians by paying income tax” .
She said adopting a scheme similar to New Zealand would create 450,000 workers nationwide .
Ian Henschke, chief advocate at Lobby group National Seniors Australia said recent polling found 19 per cent of pensioners wanted to return to work in some capacity.
Removing pensioners working from the Centrelink system would be a huge benefit, Mr Henschke said, and instead pensioners could be pay income tax once they hit the tax-free threshold.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA chief economist Aaron Morey said all options needed to be on the table in a tight labour market and the current provisions really only allowed older Australians to work one day a week.
“In terms of tapping into the full potential of the local workforce, it’s critical,” he said of reforming the rules.
Council on the Ageing WA chief executive Christine Allen said many people did not want to retire — and a growing number could not afford to, particularly women.
”We’re seeing older people now supporting not only their children and grandchildren, but, of course, we’ve got an ageing population — many of them are also supporting older parents and it’s a financial strain on many who cannot afford to retire,” she said.
Tourism Council WA chief executive Evan Hall told The West Live the “grey army” would also be a huge boost to his industry.