Monday, 22 June 2015
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015; Consideration in Detail
I would just like to say I take the minister up on his challenge. If I am elected to the next parliament, I will be voting to reverse these measures because I think they are totally unfair and unreasonable. Really, government should be about priorities for people and we have seen the government's priority has been very narrow. First they wanted to introduce a co-payment which would have attacked the elderly and then they wanted to increase the pension age to 70 years, but they were unable to do that. They have come back today and decided that they are going to take from the pensioners of Australia parts of their pension to make their lives not better but harder and more difficult. They do this in a situation where Australia has adequate financial capacity to look after those less fortunate than ourselves and we have debt levels among the lowest of the OECD countries.
Interestingly enough, in Australia we spend about eight per cent of our GDP on the elderly and in Europe they spend about 20 per cent of their GDP on the elderly and disadvantaged. That gives you an indication of the priority this government puts on the elderly and disadvantaged people. Are Australians any less worthy than those that live in Europe? Do they have any less need? Are they better looked after? You would have to say no when you look at the amount of money being spent on the health system as a proportion of GDP compared with what is spent in Europe, the United States or other developed economies.
Again the government seems to be attacking those that can least afford it. A person who has $25,000 in earnings and superannuation will lose over $8,000 of their pension. It hardly acts as an encouragement for people to put money away for super to provide for the future. They are going to see half of it go. Also, they will lose their eligibility for part of the pension. That is a negative incentive. We really need to provide an incentive the other way. We need to boost demand in this country to ensure that the money supply is sufficient to create growth so the government will have the revenue to provide for those that need support.
I do not think I have ever seen in my life a person who is receiving the pension enjoying a high standard of living, wasting money, or going out and doing things that other Australians are entitled to do. Life should not end when you reach pension age. We should not disregard Australian people who have served this country well over many years and who fought in the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam and other conflicts for the nation, only to find in the twilight years of their life they have been disregarded, that they have been given very low priority on the government's agenda.
Surely the government should be a government for all Australians, one that has a responsibility to look after their standard of living, their future and what they can aspire to be. We do not just love our mothers and our children. We love our grandparents as well, and our love should not be diminished by the way we treat them in society. What sort of example does that set for future generations coming forward? It is not just about the present; it should be about the past and recognising that senior citizens of Australia are people we should respect, that wisdom resides in a lot of our elder citizens, that they still have a lot to contribute to Australia. How can they have the respect of the community if they are constantly being attacked, if their income and their lives are being slowly diminished by a government that continues to cut away at the small entitlements that they have at the moment?
This comes at a time when we have a government that has less debt than the Menzies government had. The Menzies government had a debt of about 40 per cent of GDP. Today it is around about 14 per cent of GDP. Where has that other 30 per cent gone? Why doesn't the Liberal Party become the party of Bob Menzies, which looked after all Australians? It was a broad church. It provided a rising standard of living. It had expectations that whoever you were, wherever you came from, regardless of how much money you had, you could have a fair go in this country and be looked after. Why do we have to have a persecution philosophy, where we aim at those people who are unable to support themselves or defend themselves when under attack? Why do we constantly attack them? Why don't we create the sorts of incentives that are needed in this country to provide a rising standard of living for our people? Bob Menzies would be rolling in his grave if he saw the sorts of measures that are coming forward in this parliament to attack those who cannot look after themselves, to attack the pensioners of Australia.
The pension, for many people, has been sacrosanct—most important in their sustainment and their lifestyle. I think we have to vote against these measures. We have to support our elderly. We have to support those on a pension and a fixed income. We realise that the figures that the minister quoted today are not extraordinarily high when compared with those of other competing nations that have similar standards of living to our own in Europe and the United States. I will be voting against the measure.