The Age Pension in Australia was an outcome of workers capacity to win it

Image from the Worker (1908): Labour won the Age Pension against the opposition of wealthy Asutralia

Contributed by Glen Davis

Access to the Age Pension in Australia dates from around the time of Australia’s federation. Prior to this, charities supported those who’d become too old to work.

At the turn of the 20th century, it was considered Australia had a strong labour movement, offering gains for the working man. We’d led the world with the 8-hour working day, and other workplace gains followed.

On June 10, 1908, the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Invalid, and Old Age Pensions Act. This was the first-time such legislation was enacted Australia wide. It was eligible to men aged 65, and over. Only then was there a defined age for retirement.

Photo from The National Musuem Australia: Times were tough for those too old to work

However, payment did not commence until  1909. By then Women aged 60, and over, were also deemed as eligible. Those not deemed eligible includes those who had not lived in Australia for over 25 years, with sadly a local born group of people deemed as ineligible. Yep, you can almost guess: The first Australians.

Over time the pension system was challenged, as there were those who wanted means testing. Others wanted it based on contributions. During the height of the Great Depression, the Scullin ALP government reduced the pension at the behest of the Big Banks.

For those experiencing the extreme privations of the time, this action made their lives even worse. A provision for automatic increases in pension rates based on changes in the cost of living was introduced in 1933, repealed in 1937, and reintroduced in 1940.

In 2018 for the first time in human history there were more people aged over 65 than under 5. It’s estimated by 2050 there’ll be more people aged over 65 than under 4. This will mean 3.4 people of working age for every one aged over 65. Who will pay for the pensions, health care, and other requirements of our ageing population? If it’s us, the working people, how long are we expected to work?

Alternative ways for funding the pension must be found. The taxation system could be changed to compel the wealthiest to contribute to line with their capacity.

For many years in Australia the retirement age, the eligibility for the aged pension had been 65. However, changes to eligibility are happening such as in June 2023 eligibility rises to those aged 67, with the ‘goal’ that in 2035 only people aged over 70 will be eligible.

You’d hope with the advances in technology we’re all working less and less, so we could enjoy more leisure time. It doesn’t seem our rulers want this to happen, so let’s work it for ourselves. We have a world to win.

1 Comment on "The Age Pension in Australia was an outcome of workers capacity to win it"

  1. Helene Walkowsky OFS | 2 December 2022 at 9:02 am | Reply

    The French politician Emile de Girardin (1802-1881) been credited with the saying “gouverner c’est prevoir”, governing is foreseeing. That has never been a strong point of most Australian politicians, who have the habit of not looking further than the length of their noses. Instead,in order to justify their cheating and lying, the LNP have scared the younger population out of their combined wits by vilifying older people as “unsustainable burdens on society” , as lazy, drug abusing poker players.
    The older generation has been contributing to a pension fund for years only to be robbed of those savings by the LNP. So, people what about making the superrich, the millionaires and billionaires pay their dues in taxation. That’ll solve “the problem” once and for all.

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