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Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Page: 858


Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (21:00): Shortland electorate is one of the oldest electorates in Australia. It has over 19.8 per cent of people over the age of 65 years and an overwhelming majority of these people receive the age pension. Labor understands that pensioners need and deserve a decent income, one that allows them to buy food, visit the doctor, pay their electricity bills, their gas bills and their water bills. On this side of the parliament we do not believe that just because you are a pensioner you should live in poverty. That is why the Rudd government delivered the biggest increase to pensioners since its introduction. Labor is committed to ensuring pensioners continue to receive a decent income. We on this side of the House do not believe that pensioners should be targeted by the Abbott government cuts.

Minister Kevin Andrews and Treasurer Hockey have been manufacturing a crisis and creating widespread fear amongst pensioners—Treasurer Hockey with his 'age of entitlement' and softening up the Australian people in order to wreak cuts upon them, and Minister Andrews with his misinformation about a welfare crisis with his statements that 'Australia is at risk of becoming a welfare state like "nations in Europe"'. Welfare spending is actually well below other countries. Welfare spending in Australia accounted for 8.6 per cent of GDP in 2013 compared to the OECD average of 13 per cent. Madam Deputy Speaker, it is hardly a crisis—

The SPEAKER: The deputy is not in the chair.

Ms HALL: Madam Speaker, my apologies. The spending on welfare has not increased. In the UK 12.2 per cent of GDP is spent on welfare and in the US 9.7 per cent is spent on welfare, in comparison with the 8.6 per cent in Australia. So the ABC's Fact Check has confirmed that social service Minister Kevin Andrews' claims are false. Madam Deputy Speaker—

The SPEAKER: I repeat, the deputy is not in the chair.

Ms HALL: Madam Speaker, the other aspect of this matter is that the Prime Minister has constantly refused to rule out cuts to the pension. Labor is committed to ensuring pensioners continue to receive a decent income. We on this side of the House do not believe that pensioners should be targeted by these Abbott government cuts, as I have already mentioned. That is why we were so disappointed and so upset when yesterday in question time the Prime Minister stood here and refused to rule out cuts to the pension. It is also why we were so disappointed when we heard the former leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party John Brogden calling on the Abbott government to cut the pension.

I think that pensioners deserve to know that the income they receive for the pension is safe. They deserve to know that the government will ensure they continue to receive a decent income. The pensioners that I represent in this parliament rely on the government and the significant number of people who are over 65 years of age—that 19.8 per cent of the population in Shortland—rely on the pension. Over 80 per cent of those people in the Shortland electorate receive the pension.

Pensioners are frightened. They feel very vulnerable and the Abbott government is feeding on this vulnerability. I have had pensioner after pensioner ringing my office concerned about the proposals of this government to cut the pension. I give a guarantee to the pensioners of Shortland, and for that matter the pensioners of Australia, that I will fight the Abbott government cuts and make sure that they continue to receive a decent level of income. They have worked hard for Australia in the past and now it is our turn to make sure that they have a decent living.