The $250 cost-of-living cash payment is starting to roll in, but will that change votes in the federal election?


Barbara Best laughs as she checks her banking phone’s app to see if her $250 bonus has arrived.

“A cash bonus always helps,” she thinks.

“But it’s going to be absorbed pretty quickly.”

Barbara is one of around 6 million Australians receiving the one-time payment this week, as part of a package of cost-of-living relief measures announced in the March budget.

Payments began flowing into bank accounts on Wednesday.

Anyone who receives a government benefit will receive the funds automatically, including those on Old Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Youth Allowance and Parental and Jobseeker’s Allowance.

While cash bonuses are always welcome, recipients have mixed opinions about the wisdom of the payout and the impact it will have on voting choices in the May 21 federal ballot.

Area residents enjoy lower rents on average, but generally pay more for fuel and food.(ABC Kimberley: Vanessa Mills)

“Not enough to influence the votes”

Barbara Best and her husband are self-funded pensioners living in Broome.

The 69-year-old is eligible to receive the payment as she holds a Commonwealth Seniors card.

“I think a lot of older people are having a hard time, especially with the ridiculous insurance costs here, and things like fuel and electricity,” she says.

A woman stands smiling in a garden
Ms Best is one of 6 million Australians set to receive a $250 bonus.(ABC News: Erin Parke)

But she doubts the $250 will be enough to ease the financial stress of many recipients or distract from the lack of more substantial investment in the elderly care sector.

“To put it into perspective, it’s going to cost $800 to go visit my youngest daughter who’s having a baby, and it’s going to cost $4,000 to replace my husband’s hearing aid.

“I think the investment in aged care and the NDIS is more of a talking point between people our age, because we get to that point where you think, ‘What if I had a fall or a stroke? cerebral, what would happen to us? ‘”

The largest increase in the cost of living in two decades

The payments are part of what Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described as “temporary, targeted and responsible” measures to address spiraling daily costs.

Australia is experiencing its largest consumer price increase in over 20 years.

The latest data from the Bureau of Statistics shows that the cost of living has risen 5.1% over the past year, with non-discretionary costs – such as food, fuel and healthcare – reaching 6, 6%.

The one-time welfare bonus is expected to be around $1.5 billion.

“Like a drop in the ocean”

Len Altman and his wife posted the payments to their account on Wednesday.

They live in the town of Yorketown in South Australia and will spend the money on fuel to travel the 250 kilometers to Adelaide for bulk groceries.

“Things in the country cost more because of freight and fuel, so we’ll try to fill up at a store in town to refuel,” Altman said.

A man with glasses and a neat beard smiles.
Len Altman says the $250 bonus payment will quickly evaporate for regional retirees.(Provided)

The couple own their own home and say they have reduced car trips and food shopping during what Mr Altman describes as the “slow erosion” of disposable income.

The retired geophysicist says he would have preferred to see the $1.5 billion invested in improving care for the elderly and tackling climate change.

A dusty fuel tank with a roadhouse visible in the background
Area residents pay over $3 a liter for fuel in some remote areas.(ABC News: Erin Parke)

“I personally think it’s the wrong direction,” he says.

“I’m not an economist, but my understanding is that it will be inflationary when people go out and spend this money, when we already have an overheated economy.”

Payments are expected to be distributed in full by the end of April.

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