Minister Rishworth interviewed on the Today show.

Topic: Interest rate rise, financial assistance for pensioners to down-size homes

KARL STEFANOVIC: Well, the feeling on the streets this morning, everyone is struggling financially, especially with that interest rate rise. Today, the Government is proposing a controversial plan that could help pensioners cope with the cost of living - offering financial incentives to down-size their homes. 

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth joins me now. Thank you so much for your time this morning. Just first-up, given the interest rate rise yesterday, there is some pressure building on the Reserve Bank Governor. Do you think it's time he went?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, that is a decision not for me to make. Obviously the interest rate rise was particularly concerning for many Australians. We know many Australians are doing it tough and so certainly feel the pain of those Australians that are facing another interest rate rise. In saying that, this has been predicted for some time. Earlier this year it became clear that we would see a number of interest rate rises, but that doesn't make it easier for Australians facing the increased cost of living.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Is your government feeling the pressure at the moment to try and reduce the impact and the pressures on Australian households?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, our focus is absolutely on what we can do to reduce the cost of living. There’s a number of proposals we’ve already taken to the election that we’ll be putting forward. We’re constantly looking at ways we can address the cost of living. But there is the challenge of having a huge Commonwealth debt.

KARL STEFANOVIC:  Okay. Also, let's move on to this scheme. How is it going to work? Are you asking pensioners to give up their dream homes for younger families? Because that, from the outset, seems a little unfair.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: No. What we are doing is giving pensioners the choice that if they find themselves in a house that isn't meeting their needs any more, that they can down-size without the financial impediment of potentially losing their pension or actually having it cut off all together. 

At the moment, you’ve only got 12 months in which you can sell your home and not have the proceeds of your home treated like other income for assets tests and means testing. So, we're going to extend that for two years so that pensioners have more time to find a home once they've sold their home, and also deem it at a lower rate. This means that their pension won't be affected as a result of selling their home.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Isn't it a similar policy to Scott Morrison's before the last election?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, yes, there was a similar proposal at the last election, and Labor's not going to say no to good ideas. The difference is, though, the former government never implemented it. They had nine years to implement it and they didn't. We're actually getting on with the job of actually implementing it. We think this is a good idea. We think it will help pensioners actually not have a financial disincentive to move into a more suitable home.

KARL STEFANOVIC:  It sounds like a good idea. Really quickly, what about pensioners being able to work at a reduced tax rate?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, we announced in the Jobs and Skills Summit the ability for pensioners to work more hours without their pension being affected. So, we've introduced, or we will introduce as soon as we get the legislation through the Parliament, an extra $4000 that a pensioner can work in this financial year that won't affect their pension.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Okay. Let's hope that continues to rise. Good to talk to you, Social Services Minister. Appreciate it.