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Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Page: 8460

Mrs HULL (4:42 PM) —It is quite extraordinary to witness the evolving narrative that has been attached to Labor’s plans for pensioners. It almost beggars belief that we hear a certain speech from the Labor members on a continual basis. The alcopops tax was all about solving teenage binge drinking, and now the narrative is all about blowing a $6 billion hole in a budget surplus. Where has the concern gone for the teenage binge drinking? It has gone to the same place the concern has gone for the age, service and widowed pensioners. I will tell you where the concern is: it is nowhere, because they had the opportunity to change this and they chose not to.

I will explain why they have chosen not to. I had a media release come into my electorate from Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. In that press release the minister talks about how many pensioners in the Riverina are being ignored by me. She says: ‘By contrast, this fortnight the Australian government will pay all age pensioners, carers, veterans and disability pensioners’—and she goes on to say she delivers coalition policy. Then she says: ‘On top of the regular pension, the indexation increase will mean this’—coalition policy, Minister. Then she goes on with a prize statement. She says: ‘That’s because Mr Turnbull and Mrs Hull are more interested in a political quick fix which will exclude two million pensioners around Australia from a pension increase.’ Surprise, surprise, Minister. The minister has denied more than three million people an increase. She has denied everybody an increase.

In fact, I have sitting right here beside me the member for Gippsland. When the member for Gippsland was running for election, Labor actually decided to show up. They did not show up for Lyons and they did not show up for Mayo, but they did show up for Gippsland. The candidate ran a very strong campaign on pensioners’ issues. It was a very caring and strong campaign because he cares about the pensioners, the disability benefit recipients and all of those people in the electorate of Gippsland. Yet there was a six percent swing against the Labor Party on this very strong issue. So let us say that the Labor Party have most certainly let down pensioners right across Australia.

The minister’s press release says, ‘By contrast, the government understand that all pensioners in Riverina are under financial pressure.’ They understand it but will do nothing to help. This minister, Jenny Macklin, has failed dismally in two cases. She failed when Treasury put the documents before the cabinet of which she was a part—which costed exactly the same proposal and policy that the coalition has put in here. She failed to stand up for the pensioners and say, ‘Yes, give them $30 per week as single pensioners’—exactly the same policy. She failed once in her own cabinet. She failed a second time, in this House yesterday, when she failed every pensioner in Australia. She may accuse me of failing some of the pensioners in my electorate, but she has failed every pensioner in Australia.

We have seen the audacity of this media release, from a minister, delivering all coalition policy and quoting coalition policy. We had this little interlude here of ‘mean and tricky’. How mean and tricky can one get? Going to an election, like Mr Rudd did, saying, ‘We’re going to make life better for you all, we’re going to fix this problem and pensioners are going to be better off under the Rudd government’—that is mean and tricky. When you then skip over to the United States of America and announce millions and millions of dollars that could have gone into this pension increase to get people out of this problem in the short term, it has nothing to do with a strategy.

The previous member said, ‘The Labor strategy is this,’ and, ‘The Labor strategy is that,’ but Labor do not have a strategy. They have a review and then they will have another review and another committee and another consultation— (Time expired)