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Five-year pension pause fails fairness test: NFF

29 September 2008

THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling for changes to the aged pension to take account of the succession planning realities of modern family farm businesses, saying greater flexibility is needed to manage the hand-over of the farm to the next generation without imposing economic and social hardship.

The NFF’s proposal labels the five-year waiting period imposed on farmers – from the time they gift the farm to their children upon retirement – before being able to access the aged pension, as “patently unfair”.

“While debate in Canberra rages about benefit scales for the aged pension, many retiring farmers can’t even access it,” NFF President David Crombie lamented. “The five-year waiting period fails to recognise the unique nature of farm family/business life, nor the need for the next generation to take over Australia’s future food and fibre needs.

“The farm is not only a place of business it is also the family home. As such, many farms simply cannot support multiple families for five years without the pension... forcing farmers to either sell the farm, or work well beyond retirement age delaying, or deferring, retirement indefinitely.

“The current inflexibility causes major transition issues. With around 40% of farmers over the age of 55, and those over 65 representing 18% of all farmers, sensible succession planning is being thwarted – especially when one or more of the children want to continue working the farm.

“It’s a vicious cycle. This scenario also means many skilled and passionate young farmers are lost to agriculture – forced to leave the farm business rather than endure five years of financial and emotional stress while their parents wait to qualify for the aged pension.

“Too often those who do try to weather the unjust five-year pension pause see the family unit shattered as a result of the stress, not to mention resentment if the farm is, ultimately, sold.

“These issues unnecessarily plague farm families, are easily rectified and would result in one less obstacle to effective succession planning. We’re simply asking the Government to restore commonsense and fairness by waiving the five-year waiting period to facilitate the smooth hand-over of productive farm land to the next generation of Australian food and fibre producers.”

The NFF’s Pension Review submission is available online at: Submissions to Government

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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