Wednesday, 21 March 2018
Questions without Notice
Pensions and Benefits
My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Social Services, Senator Fierravanti-Wells. I refer to reports today that the Prime Minister is taking his misleading scare campaign on Labor's reforms to dividend imputation cash refunds to pensioners across Australia. Will the Prime Minister be telling the pensioners he meets with that he has cut $1 billion from pensioner concessions and axed the $900 seniors supplement to self-funded retirees receiving the Commonwealth seniors health card? How many pensioners in Cowper are worse off as a result of the government's changes to the pension assets test that came into effect on 1 January last year?
I thank Senator Moore for her question. I think what was very clear to the Prime Minister in his discussions with the electorate of Cowper today was that the retirees and the pensioners that he spoke to reinforced the message that they will be thousands of dollars worse off. And, of course, what we see on the front page of TheDaily Telegraph today is that not only are you going to rip out $60 billion from self-funded retirees and pensions but, lo and behold, you are going to exempt your union mates—absolutely appalling! But why does that surprise us.
Mr President—it's been a while!—my point of order is on direct relevance. Whilst I know the minister is giving us some context, my question was particularly about the number of pensioners in Cowper who had lost their entitlements, if that could be answered in the next minute.
Senator Moore, your question began with referral to reports, where you made assertions. You asked your first question, 'Will the Prime Minister be telling pensioners something?', and then you asked the question you just referred to then. It was a very broadly drafted question. I cannot direct the minister how to answer a question nor parts of it. They are entitled to answer parts of it as they see fit.
The question dealt with the government changes to the pension assets test, and there was also reference to the billion dollars being cut from pensioner concessions and the $900 senior supplement.
Senator Wong, the question made assertions about referral to reports that were beyond a statement of fact, yes—that were political assertions. The question asked was, 'Will the Prime Minister be telling pensioners something else?', and then the question was asked about Cowper. We've all had the opportunity to remind the minister of the terms of the question, which was very broadly drafted.
On the issue of the age pension, we have fewer and fewer Australians paying tax for more and more ageing Australians. Our dependency ratio is being affected and, of course, we have to make some tough decisions to ensure that the age pension remains sustainable and supports those most in need. The pension assets test taper rate has been rebalanced to make the system better targeted and more sustainable into the future. The amount of assets, excluding the family home, that pensioners can hold without it impacting on their pension was increased. In relation to pensioners, let me go back to what I was saying before; that is, the $60 billion tax grab that Labor is taking from pensioners— (Time expired)
Order on my right! Order, Senator Wong and the various coalition colleagues on my right, so I can hear Senator Moore.
Senator Wong interjecting—
That's why I said 'various on my right'. Senator Moore, I got to 'will the Prime Minister' in your question.
My only question is: will the Prime Minister also be telling pensioners that he wants to axe the energy supplement to two million Australians, including around 400,000 age pensioners?
As I have indicated to Senator Moore, in answer to her first question, we have fewer and fewer tax-paying Australians to pay for more and more ageing Australians. Therefore, we have made some very sensible changes in relation to the age pension, and that includes in relation to supplements.
I want to go to one of the things that the Prime Minister did talk about today—and those opposite do not want to hear this. Today Sally McManus was directly asked whether there would be relief for pensioners from your tax grab, and she rejected it—she rejected it. So we know what those opposite are going to do. If the unions tell you what to do, you will go ahead and do it. That is precisely what you will do. (Time expired)
Given this government's continued attacks on pensioners, planning to rip money out of their payments, effectively stealing their money by removing concessions and doing nothing to address the rising cost of living—again, quoting you, Minister—isn't it a bit rich for this minister and this government to pretend they are the best friends of pensioners?
That's a bit rich coming from you over there who have just committed to ripping $60 billion out of the pockets of self-funded retirees and pensioners—people who have worked very, very hard all their lives. And, of course, you're going to rip it out from the pensioners but you're going to exempt your union mates. Scoop: Shorten's tax secret. Let me read it to you:
The Daily Telegraph can reveal several bodies set up by the—
CFMEU and other bodies that support Labor would be able to continue receiving—
Opposition senators interjecting—
I asked for some semblance of order earlier. We've now had a complaint from a colleague who can't hear what's going on. Could senators please keep that in mind. While interjections can be witty, they can get too noisy. Senator Wong, a point of order?
The Daily Telegraph can reveal several bodies set up by the CFMEU and other bodies that support Labor would be able to continue receiving tax refunds for dividends, while 230,000 pensioners across the country have—
Opposition senators interjecting—