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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 3035


Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (12:04): The Central Coast enjoys a very well deserved reputation as a great place to retire. After spending a working life in Western Sydney, many people choose the more relaxed and scenic surrounds of the peninsula to call their home in their retirement. Because of this, my electorate has 29,600 pensioners, who rely on the Labor government to deliver the best support that they can have in their postwork life. For my locals, all too often, retirement does not mean that they stop working. Many contribute to our local community organisations, return to study at University of the Third Age or look after grandchildren for their own working children. Our surf-lifesaving clubs seem to be a great place of much engagement as well.

Australian pensioners deserve a fair share, to ensure that they are able to live a dignified and fulfilling retirement. When this government came to power five years ago, pensioners were earning $5,382 less than they are today. That is a substantial amount. That is a delivery by a Labor government looking after our pensioners. It is a lot of money for someone who earns an income already; what that means for a pensioner who does not earn an income makes it an even more significant number. This can be a transformative level of extra support for those who are living out their lives on the Central Coast.

Just this week it was announced that the new clean energy supplement, which is part of the Household Assistance Package, will now be paid fortnightly, along with the pension, at a rate of $13.50 per fortnight for singles and $20.40 a fortnight for couples combined. There is not one pensioner that I know who does not want this support. There is not one pensioner I know who does not need a Labor government to ensure they get the support they need.

This Labor government has delivered the single biggest boost to the pension in more than a century. We have changed the indexation system so that the pension goes up more quickly and equitably with the cost-of-living rises, and we have delivered a new seniors work bonus so that age pensioners can keep more of their income from work. We have also made sure that seniors can access public transport concessions when travelling interstate.

However, there is a significant threat to these important and fundamental living impact changes the Labor government have made to ensure that our pensioners have a fair life in their retirement. That threat is the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Party, who have promised to claw back every cent of support that Labor are delivering to pensioners under the Household Assistance Package.

When the Leader of the Opposition says he will cut the carbon tax, the first thing that will go is $350 from that pension. Labor gives and supports the pensioners, and the Liberal Party is set to take it away. This means every single pensioner on the coast would lose hundreds of dollars a year under an Abbott government. The Leader of the Opposition will claw back more than $350 from single pensioners and $530 from pensioner couples. Local pensioners absolutely rely on the extra support from the Gillard government. They cannot trust those opposite to provide it.

The impact of this is not only going to be on those individuals who are currently receiving the Household Assistance Package, the clean living package; it is also going to be on the businesses that they support locally. It is not too much for our local pensioners to have a few coins in their wallet, to be able to go to the local Michel's patisserie or the local shop and have a coffee with their friends. It is not too much to expect that, when they want to send a Christmas card or a birthday card to their grandchildren, they can afford to buy a gift card and send that in the mail. It is not too much for our pensioners to expect that there be just a little bit of space, with the income support that we give them, to be able to live the life that everybody who is out there working expects to be able to live—a little bit of breathing space.

What we have with the proposition of a Liberal-National party government is the very first clawing-back. And look who is targeted: those who are on fixed incomes, vulnerable pensioners. The first hand from a federal Liberal government would go straight into the pockets of pensioners, taking $350 out for singles. It is a completely untenable position. (Time expired)

Federation Chamber adjourned 12:09