Senate debates

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Statements by Senators

Pensions and Benefits

1:50 pm

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

And that will make the Australian pension age the highest in the world. Imagine being the first for that—being so mean to those working Australians who have paid their tax all of their working lives as to say to them, 'And you can work longer and you can have a pension age amongst the highest in the world.' And it goes on with the cuts to deeming thresholds. You would not think that a government that is allegedly so pro private business and so pro all sorts of measures would cut the deeming thresholds. But, again, that is what it wants to do. The Prime Minister wants to cut the deeming thresholds used in the pension means test from $77,400 for a couple to $50,000—that is a massive cut—and from $46,600 for a single down to $30,000. This means part pensioners will get less and some pensioners will lose their pension altogether.

I attended a forum, as did Senator Smith, where pensioners in the western suburbs of Perth—the more affluent suburbs—told Senator Smith in no uncertain terms that they were not happy about losing any kind of money out of their pocket. And, of course, there are also the new taxes that the Abbott government has already levelled. There is the fuel tax and also the GP tax, which might be gone but is not forgotten. It will be back for sure—make no mistake about that. In fact, I think Minister Ley is on the record as suggesting that the GP tax is there for a later day.

As those opposite like to cry over and over again, 'What's Labor done?' Well, let's have a look at Labor's record in relation to pensions. In 2009, Labor implemented the largest increase to the pensions in 100 years. That is our legacy. That included a $70 per fortnight increase to the base rate of the pension and fixing indexation of the pension to the highest of either CPI or 27.7 per cent of male total average weekly earnings or to the new Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index. That measure helped to ensure that the rate of the pension kept pace with the real cost of living for pensioners. What do those opposite want to do? It seems to me that anything that Labor did that contributed to the wellbeing of Australians is well and truly under attack by the Abbott government. I can assure those opposite that Labor will not stand by and allow the Abbott government to diminish the incomes of Australian pensioners.

Three point seven million—that is the group that the Abbott government have well and truly got in their eyes. That is part of their target. That is the group that they want to really get with these measures. Let's just really understand who it is that the Abbott government is attacking. Of that 3.7 million, 2.5 million are aged pensioners, working Australians in their senior years who have well and truly contributed to the wellbeing of the Australian community; 830,000 are disability support pensioners; 240,000 are carers pensioners; 70,000 are veterans pensioners. That is the group that the Abbott government and the Prime Minister want to absolutely target with this cruel, hard measure that is part of their budget—


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