Minister Rishworth interviewed on The Project


Topic: Federal Government’s introduction of new legislation aimed at freeing up more family homes by encouraging pensioners to downsize.

LISA WILKINSON: Well as we just saw, Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth is responsible for the bill and she joins us now. Minister, have you done any modelling to see how many houses this will free up?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, the measures that are already in place encouraged 8000 pensioners to downsize. We're hoping that we'll do a lot more. But of course, this isn't about forcing pensioners out of their home. What it is, is trying to take away the financial barriers. And we do hope that this will result in more pensioners not facing that financial barrier.

RACHEL CORBETT: Does it assume, though, that the only reason pensioners don't downsize is financial, because there's often a lot of emotional attachment, that it's very hard to impact with policy?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, absolutely. We're not suggesting this as any silver bullet, but what we want to do is make sure that the that if it is financial barriers, if pensioners feel it's not really worth it, because they could indeed with $1 million sitting in their bank account, if they're not getting any other income, could actually lose their access to the pension. So that would be a big consideration, I think, for many pensioners. So we just want to get that disincentive out of the way so that it's not sitting there to stop pensioners from doing this.

WALEED ALY: But isn't the problem as we heard Nicki Huntley of The Economist just say, that you then send pensioners into competition directly with first homeowners. They're the people that are- or first home seekers, I should say. And they're the people that are struggling the most to get into the market, and now this just puts another barrier to them.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, we don't think that will be the result of this policy. What we want to do is make sure that those pensioners who might be living in a three- or four-bedroom house that have not been- had the incentive to move, that this provides them with that incentive and frees that up for another family that might need rooms of that number. So, look, we're not suggesting this is a silver bullet, but we do think it is an important step to make sure that disincentive doesn't exist there. And importantly, pensioners aren't cut off from the pension when really all they want to do is buy a new home.

WALEED ALY: Sure, I understand that. And I'm not suggesting you are saying it's a silver bullet. It's a question of whether or not it might make housing affordability for first home buyers worse. So, I mean, I get your point. You're saying you want to create or remove the disincentive for people to downsize? I get that. But that's only that one end of the equation. You necessarily make it harder for first home buyers, don't you? Can you explain to me why that's not true?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, this applies to the principal place of residence, so it could be a retirement village which is not competing with first home buyers. I think what we want to do is just make sure that people are getting the right type of housing. This isn't just about housing supply. It's also making sure that people can have quality of life. I think we all know perhaps someone that is in a house way too big for them that isn't able to do the cleaning or the gardening. So this is more than just a housing policy. This is about ensuring that pensioners are not punished and that we're able to support people getting to suitable housing.

LISA WILKINSON: Could the end result of this also be that developers just move right in and knock these old family homes down and replace them with a bunch of townhouses? Or is that something that you want?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, that's not a matter for me. That is a matter for state governments and planning authorities. Really for me, it's making sure that a pensioner that might not have any income that wants to get out of their principal home they've had for many years, you know, has perhaps $800,000 in the bank, needs that to buy another house, but doesn't lose their pension. That is the key of this policy is to make sure that pensioners don't have that disincentive.

PETER HELLIAR: Amanda, a quick question, but important questions. Do you say castle or castle?



PETER HELLIAR: [Talks over] Excellent. That's the right answer. Thank you.

WALEED ALY: It's a wonderful question with zero context.

LISA WILKINSON: You say castle.

WALEED ALY: Yeah, I say castle and I get pilloried for it all. And they made me change the voiceover.

PETER HELLIAR: You’re going to call the great Australian movie, The Castle. You’re going to call it the castle.


WALEED ALY: It’s a different thing.

UNNAMED SPEAKER: No, it’s not.

WALEED ALY: Minister, I'm sorry about that.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: [Indistinct] of it.


WALEED ALY: Sorry for wasting your time on that, Minister. We really appreciate you speaking to us. Thank you.