Govt to pensioners: call Centrelink

Nearly 700,000 pensioners will find out close to Christmas if they'll face cuts to their pensions.

Pensioners concerned about a new assets test can seek clarification from Centrelink now, federal cabinet secretary Arthur Sinodinos says.

New asset thresholds for pensioners will come into effect on January 1, but News Corp Australia reports that letters confirming individual cases won't be sent until the weeks before Christmas.

Those likely to be affected and those just outside the threshold will be sent a first letter in coming weeks, and another letter with more details will be sent to those affected in December, according to Human Services Minister Alan Tudge.

Senator Sinodinos said the timing was a matter for Centrelink.

"Any pensioner who has an issue should get on to Centrelink now and get it clarified, and they're waiting to answer their (pensioner's) questions," Senator Sinodinos told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.

Under the new rules, the pension will be cut by $3 a fortnight for every $1000 of assets beyond the new thresholds. The asset-free area will be $375,000 for homeowner couples; $450,000 for single non-homeowners, and $575,000 for non-homeowner couples.

Pensioners can also use an online tool to estimate the impact.

According to Senator Sinodinos, up to 90 per cent of pensioners would see no change, and some would actually get an extra $30 a fortnight.

"This is a way to put more money into the pockets of those on the full pension rate, those pensioners with very few assets," he said.

Shadow finance minister Jim Chalmers said it was "cruel and unusual and pathetic" to wait until now to tell people who have worked all their lives their pensions will be cut, when the change has been on the books for a year and a half.

"They should have done it before the election," Dr Chalmers told reporters in Brisbane.

He said people want to retire with dignity rather than being treated in this "shabby and shambolic" way.