Wednesday, 9 May 2018
Questions without Notice
Pensions and Benefits
My question is to Senator Fierravanti-Wells, the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Can the minister explain why the Turnbull government is cutting payments to 400,000 age pensioners struggling with the spiralling costs of living while it's giving big banks a $17 billion tax cut?
I thank Senator Moore for the question. Since the coalition formed government in 2013, pensions have increased by more than $99 per fortnight for singles and by more than $149 per fortnight for couples. Pensions will continue to rise twice a year. The age pension is paid at the highest fortnightly rate of income support payments and has the most generous indexation arrangements in Australia's social security system.
In 2015, the government made a decision to rebalance the age pension asset test to make the system better targeted and more sustainable. As part of this change, we also raised the asset test threshold, making it more generous to people with modest levels of assets. From 1 January 2017, around 165,000 pensioners began receiving an average $25 more per fortnight as part of the government's decision, and this included around 47,000 part-pensioners who then qualified for the full pension. Ninety per cent of pensioners are either better off or have no change to their pension under the measures. Of course, those opposite have already banked the savings of this decision at the 2016 election. So I ask those opposite—
Mr President, I raise a point of order, on direct relevance. I thank the senator for the background information, but I'm wondering whether we can get to the issue of the cuts in my question.
Senator Moore, I note your question included the word 'why' when you asked how the government was undertaking the policy. I note the minister has 30 seconds to continue her answer, but at the moment I find that what she's saying is directly relevant to the question as asked.
As I was saying, those opposite conveniently forget that they banked the savings of this decision in the 2016 election. So I ask those opposite: have you changed your position? Senator Moore asked me about pensions. I would also like to touch on the pensioner concession card. The pensioner concession card was removed— (Time expired)
In last night's budget, the Turnbull government retained its unfair plan to increase Australia's pension age to 70. How is it fair that tradies, nurses and farmers in Australia will be forced to work to 70 while big business is getting an $80 billion handout?
Clearly Senator Moore wasn't listening when Senator Farrell asked the very same question yesterday, so let me repeat the answer that I gave yesterday. You, opposite, to ensure that the pension was sustainable—we supported your move to a higher pension age in 2009. In 2009 you were in government. You made the decision to increase the pension age, and we supported you. So, while it is not yet legislated, raising the age pension qualification age to 70 by 2035 remains government policy. You started the process by increasing the pension age from 67. We are following through what you started.
And we'll keep following on. Given that last night's budget firmly places the real burden of the Turnbull government's $80 billion tax handout to the banks and big business squarely on the shoulders of Australian pensions, isn't it clear that the Turnbull government has again failed the fairness test?
It's really laughable that those opposite, who extended the pension age because it was responsible reform, now do not want to keep the pension sustainable. Let me take you back to 2009, when the member for Jagajaga and the member for Lilley said:
Increasing the age pension age is a responsible reform to meet the challenge of an ageing population and the economic impact it will have for all Australians.
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Australia must move towards a higher pension age over the next decade.
An op-ed by the member for Fenner, entitled 'You're only as old as they feel' suggested:
A better approach would be to index upper age limits in all laws …
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How might age indexation operate in—