Minister 'out of touch' on pension: Labor

Labor has criticised Social Services Minister Anne Ruston for describing the pension as generous.
Labor has criticised Social Services Minister Anne Ruston for describing the pension as generous.

Labor is demanding the Morrison government's new social services minister apologise for describing Australia's pension as generous.

Anne Ruston, who was elevated to the cabinet role after the election, made the comments during a media blitz on Monday to sell the coalition's deeming rate reductions.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese seized on Senator Ruston's remarks, calling for her to say sorry and avoid making similar statements.

"Anne Ruston just shows how out of touch she is and how out of touch this government is when it comes to the real living standards that people are enduring," he told reporters in Perth on Tuesday.

"Pensioners do it tough. They deserve our respect, they get a pension as payback for what they have done in contributing to this nation."

Deeming rates are used to estimate how much some pensioners earn on their financial investments.

While seniors groups and Labor have argued for further reductions to match record-low interest rates, Senator Ruston's general comments about the pension also raised eyebrows.

"It is a generous amount of money that the Australian taxpayers make available to our older Australians," she told 3AW on Monday.

When pressed on the comments, Senator Ruston said: "In terms of the amount of money that taxpayers fund our social welfare system, we put a lot of money into it."

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg avoided directly criticising his colleague, saying Senator Ruston had provided relief for pensioners through the deeming rate decision.

"I understand pensioners have challenging times, a number of pensioners do it really, really tough," he told reporters in Townsville.

National Seniors Australia's Ian Henschke said the government's claim of pensioners getting more than $800 more each year did not add up.

The deeming rate on the first $51,800 of a single pensioner's financial investments - and the first $86,200 of a couple's - will drop from 1.75 per cent to 1 per cent.

The rate for balances above those amounts will go from 3.25 per cent down to 3 per cent.

Australian Associated Press