The Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has today committed, if re-elected, she will introduce legislation in the first sitting of the new Parliament to allow senior Australians to work without unfair penalties to their pensions.

Fewer than three per cent of Australian pensioners (74,000 out of 2.6 million) presently receive a working income in large part due to the restrictive rules on employment.

Under the current legislation, pensioners with no other income or assets lose half of every dollar they earn above $480 a fortnight.

In addition to income tax, their pension income is also taxable. It means thousands of vulnerable working pensioners who have limited savings are being penalised at a tax rate that is higher than the wealthiest Australians in the top income tax bracket.

It’s an unfair system that has pensioners questioning why they should even work at all.

“Australia is in the midst of a labour crisis and we have a willing and able workforce ready to go. It’s time to unleash our seniors,” Ms Sharkie says.

A National Seniors survey revealed 20% of pensioners who are not currently working want to get back into the workforce.

“It simply makes moral and economic sense to introduce legislation that will allow our seniors to remain or re-join the workforce and not be unfairly penalised for it.”

The Private Members Bill to be introduced by Ms Sharkie if re-elected will exempt work income from the Age Pension income test. It’s a move that will greatly benefit vulnerable Australians who do not have sizable savings, particularly women who often have little or no superannuation when they reach pension age.

National Seniors Australia has led the campaign for changes to the Aged Pension income test. It says these legislative changes will be a win for businesses, a win for pensioners and a win for the Australian economy.

Presently, there are more than 420,000 job vacancies across Australia according to the ABS.

In New Zealand, nearly one in four people (24.8%) aged 65 or over are in the workforce. In Australia, just 14.2% of people in the same age bracket are active participants.

Deloitte Access Economics in 2012 estimated that a 5% increase in older worker participation (aged 55 and over) would result in a $48 billion boost to Australia’s GDP.

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