CATHOLIC Social Services Australia (CSSA) has proposed an independent body to review welfare entitlements to ensure that Australian pensioners and others on benefits are no longer “fed the scraps from the political table”.
The proposal for an independent Entitlements Commission was made in a discussion paper lodged as part of a CSSA submission to a Federal Government pension review which closed last Friday.
Centacare Brisbane executive director Peter Selwood has also supported the proposal, seeing it as a way to ensure fairer outcomes for elderly and vulnerable members of the community, particularly single aged pensioners.
CSSA executive director Frank Quinlan said the proposed commission would set and review pensions and other income support payments annually.
He said the current arguments between the Federal Government and Opposition parties over payment amounts and the timing of such payments were a perfect example of why such a body should be created.
“In many ways it’s unreasonable to expect politicians can make such decisions effectively,” Mr Quinlan said.
“Decisions on such needs should be undertaken in a scientific and reasoned way – away from the political process.”
Mr Quinlan said the commission would operate at arm’s length from government in much the same way as the Fair Pay Commission, the Commonwealth Remuneration Tribunal and the Reserve Bank of Australia.
“Why should those on benefits only be fed the scraps from the political table?” he said.
Mr Quinlan made the comments as the Coalition prepared to introduce a private member’s bill into the Senate to lift the single pension by $30 a week. The bill was passed in the Senate on Monday night.
However, it was defeated in the Lower House last Tuesday after the Opposition’s bill was deemed unconstitutional.
Mr Selwood said he totally supported the CSSA proposal for an independent Entitlements Commission.
“The politicisation of an important social service that makes sure elderly and other vulnerable members of the community are well cared for is extremely dangerous,” Mr Selwood said.
“To have an independent body to make ruling on pension and welfare entitlements is a good thing.”
He urged all political parties to support the CSSA’s proposal for such a body.