Hockey’s message to current aged pensioners: don’t worry

Treasurer Joe Hockey has confirmed a Medicare co-payment is in the mix of budget measures. AAP/Lukas Coch

Treasurer Joe Hockey has moved to reassure older people fearful of being hit by budget changes, saying the main target of his push to contain aged pension costs will be his generation and those that follow.

As worry mounts among seniors at the Treasurer’s targeting of the pension, Hockey said: “For those people who are concerned about their pension next year, they need not be concerned as an aged pensioner.

"And I say to people the year after they need not be concerned and so on.”

His message for people on the pension or over 65 was: “It’s going to be my generation, a younger generation and those that follow that are going to have a lot of the changes take place as we get older.”

Hockey also said a Medicare co-payment was in the mix of budget measures. “Medicare is growing at twice the speed of the economy. We all have to make a contribution because nothing is for free.”

His electorate of North Sydney, one of the wealthiest in Australia, had one of the highest bulk billing rates and “to me there is something wrong with that”.

He strongly hinted the government would seek to prevent people diverting to the emergency departments of hospitals to escape the co-payment. It can only do this with the agreement of states.

Defending the plan to lift the pension age over the longer term, Hockey admitted that an attitudinal problem in business towards older workers had to be addressed.

“We need to change our attitude towards people continuing to work as long as they want, because you don’t end your life when you turn 65 or 70.”

Businesses should be encouraged to start thinking about employing people who wanted to restart their careers after 50 or 60.

This included focusing debate on how to have a restart after a life of manual labour. Many of these people had been going on the disability pension.

Hockey flagged that there would be provision in the controversial paid parental leave scheme – under which mothers could get up to $75,000 over six months – to ensure the women returned to work.

“Essentially, they have to return to work. When you see the legislation it will be clear, there will be a form of obligation.”

Hockey said this would be a budget “that is going to deliver over 10 years and, in fact, delivers out to 2050”.

He confirmed the government would get around the problem of pre-election promises by the timing of measures. “We are honouring our commitments and in relation to many of the structural changes that we have to make, the Australian people have the opportunity to make decisions at the next election.”