Monday, 22 June 2015
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015; Consideration in Detail
I rise today because it is a great shame that we are even having this debate in the chamber here today. If the Prime Minister were a man of his word, we would not be here today debating this bill. Before the election, the Prime Minister said there would be no changes to pensions. There was no ambiguity in that statement—no ifs or buts. The PM made very clear to the Australian people, who remember well that promise: if elected, there would be no changes to the pension, full stop. Yet here we are today debating exactly that: changes to pensions. It is very clear from the title of the bill—Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015—that this is indeed an amendment to pensions.
Labor will hold this government to its promises. We will be opposing this bill, we will again stand with the Australian pensioners, and we will take this up to the next election, because breaking your promises to the Australian people should count. You cannot take money from pensioners while protecting wealthy Australians. It is wrong, and Australians know it is wrong.
In the analysis of the bill, Industry Super Australia have said that the changes proposed will not in any way be delivering fair or sustainable pensions, as claimed by this government. They said:
Current retirement incomes policy settings are falling short of their goal of providing all Australians with a comfortable living standard in retirement. The net impact of the changes contemplated by the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 will make things worse. In particular, the legislation will adversely affect women and those on low to middle incomes over time.
Their analysis has directly suggested:
That is a point that I think this parliament needs to be very conscious of.
Over two thirds of single women aged 55-69 will retire on incomes below a comfortable standard. Even younger women face a difficult future. More than half of women currently aged 25-29 will retire on incomes below a comfortable standard.
NATSEM's analysis agrees that measures in this bill will unfairly impact Australians on lower incomes. Their modelling suggests that nearly 80 per cent of these cuts to pensions will be borne by Australians in the lowest income quintile.
Make no mistake: as I said, it is Australian women in particular—our widows and those living alone—who will bear the brunt of these cruel measure. I would like to draw the House's attention—and that of the minister while he is in the chamber—to a constituent of mine from the electorate of Newcastle. Patricia is a single woman, separated from her husband some years ago now. She wrote to me and said:
I'm about to retire after working until 68 (as suggested by the current government) and have discovered that, with the new proposed budget, I will end up about $4,000 per year worse off because I have, apparently, tried to hard to top up my super, silly me, I should known they'd change the rules!
Hope you'll help stop these new assets test rules which will really affect many middle income people like me.
Well, we can assure people like Patricia that Labor will be opposing these proposed measures. Patricia is one of thousands of women who will be in the same boat. Contrary to government opinion, these are not women who are 'liquid asset billionaires'. These are women who have struggled. We already know it is difficult for women to achieve equity in pay and then, further, ensuring that their superannuation is equal to that of their male counterparts. But women—single, divorced, widowed or otherwise—who are looking to retire are grossly impacted by these measures put before the House today.
My question to the minister is: where is the fairness in these proposed attacks on part pensioners and their retirement incomes? Has the government done any modelling? Has the government instructed the Office for Women, or any department for that matter, to perform modelling on the impact of these cuts to Australian women? When modelling shows that 80 per cent of single women retiring in 2055 will be disadvantaged, further entrenching social inequality in Australia, how can this minister, his government and the Australian Greens justify their— (Time expired)