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Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Page: 5507


Senator ABETZ (3:11 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship (Senator Evans) to questions without notice asked by Senators Abetz and Bernardi today relating to the age pension.

The Australian people have had to tolerate for too long the disingenuous antics of Mr Rudd, Senator Evans and other Labor ministers over the plight of pensioners in our community. Firstly, they assert that we did nothing which, of course, is false. Secondly, based on this false assertion, Labor claim that they do not need to do anything. Even if their first assertion is true, which it clearly is not, it is no excuse for neglecting the plight of Australia’s pensioners.

The coalition has a relatively proud record on pensions. Which party indexed the age pension? It was the coalition. Which party increased the pension to link it to average weekly earnings? It was the coalition. That linkage means that the pension today is now $2,183 a year more than it would have been under Labor’s miserly CPI-only policy. At the last election we had a specific policy of increasing the pension in line with the cost of living as actually experienced by pensioners. We knew that something had to give.

Labor did not criticise our policy during the last election campaign. Now, as we seek to pursue our policy that we took to the last election campaign, Labor’s only defence—a pathetic defence and unsustainable defence—is to make the claim, the false claim, that we did nothing. The objective evidence simply does not match Labor’s false spin. Day after day, week after week, month after month Labor repeat their false mantra that the coalition did nothing. Labor monotonously repeat their falsehoods, hoping that mere repetition will obviate the need for evidence. Today the evidence from Labor’s own departments exposes the lie of those that assert that we did nothing.

If Labor actually believe their propaganda—if they believe that pensioners had been neglected for 11½ years during their time in opposition, as they assert—I would have thought they might have gone to last year’s election with a specific policy to address this neglect, but they did not. They only discovered the coalition’s alleged neglect after the election. After 11½ years you would have thought Labor, on coming into office, would have said, ‘One of our top priorities has to be dealing with this gross injustice of the coalition,’ allegedly not dealing with the pension appropriately. But no—they have no intention of dealing with it. We pass legislation through the Senate to increase the pension and Labor deliberately ignore it. So the implication of what Labor say is that Labor watched for 11½ years as pensioners were allegedly neglected but brought no policy to the table or to the last election.

This highlights the duplicity of the Labor Party. The simple fact is the coalition maintained the pension in real terms by introducing indexation. We then increased the pension in real terms by linking it to average weekly earnings, which of course rose more steadily than inflation under the Howard-Costello stewardship. The cost-of-living problems that are now being experienced have been experienced for roughly 18 to 24 months, and that is why 12 months ago we on this side, recognising that problem, took a specific policy to the last election to ensure that pensions were maintained on the basis of the cost of living.

The simple fact is Australian pensioners deserve, as a minimum, a $30 per week increase. Mr Rudd knows it. He says he could not live on the pension. Mr Swan knows it. He says he could not live on the pension. But before they grant an increase, guess what Labor need to do? After having witnessed 11½ years of neglect, they have to have an inquiry and then possibly do something in 18 months time. Pensioners deserve an increase now. (Time expired)