Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Page: 2417

Pensions and Benefits


Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (14:59): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, Senator Fifield. I refer the minister to the Prime Minister's pre-election promise that there would be no change to pensions. I also refer the minister to the Treasurer's announcement that the age pension age will rise to 70. Why is the government breaking the Prime Minister's promise to millions of Australian pensioners?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (14:59): The government has made it clear that there will not be a change without going to an election first. That is the same principle that was adopted in relation to some other significant measures under previous—

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator FIFIELD: I am referring to the question from Senator Polley in relation to pensions. The government has made clear that it will not make a change to the pension without first taking that to an election. I want to nail this idea that the government will be seeking to target in the budget particular sections of the community. Far from it. We recognise that the task of repairing the budget requires a contribution from across the community. Part of the reason for that approach is to make sure that we can provide appropriate support to people on low and middle incomes. That is the whole purpose. That is the whole idea: to make sure that we continue to have the capacity to provide a social safety net, which everyone in this chamber agrees is important. We know that if spending were to continue government wide on the trajectory established under the previous government, it would compromise the capacity of future governments to provide the supports that everyone in the community believes should be in place. We are seeking to make sure that governments have the capacity. That is something that would have been compromised if the previous government had been re-elected.



Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (15:02): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to the Prime Minister's pre-election promise that there would be no changes to pensions. I also refer the minister to media reports that the disability support pension will be cut with new indexation arrangements. Why is the government breaking the Prime Minister's promise to the Australian people?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (15:02): I am glad that the disability support pension was mentioned by Senator Polley. The objective of this government is to help people who are on the disability support pension, who have their hands up and who have the capacity to work, to work. We recognise that there are many people on the disability support pension whose impairment is manifest, who will never be in a position where they can work, and we all agree that there should be support for those people. But we want to focus on the people who have their hands up and say, 'I want to work. I've got the capacity to work but I need some assistance to work.' We will be putting in place measures to help those people into the workforce. More than that, we will be helping to create an economic environment which creates more jobs so that there is a greater capacity for those people to find work.


Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (15:03): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer the minister to the Prime Minister's pre-election promise that 'We will do what we've said we will do.' Why should elderly Australians who have worked hard all their working lives have to pay for the Prime Minister's broken promises?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (15:03): I am a little speechless on occasion by the attitude of those opposite, because the situation that we have inherited is not of our making—

Senator Wong: You lie!

Senator FIFIELD: yet we are determined to fix it.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Wong, you will need to withdraw that.

Senator Wong: Mr President, what the Prime Minister said before the election was untrue. He said there would be no changes to the pension. It was untrue.

The PRESIDENT: I just asked you to withdraw.

Senator Wong: I withdraw.

Senator FIFIELD: Mr President, Kevin Rudd said before he became Prime Minister that the reckless spending would stop. Kevin Rudd exacerbated the reckless spending. Those opposite are like arsonists who set fire to a building and then they stand in the way and try to stop the fire brigade getting there. We did not create the situation; we are determined to fix it. Tonight in the budget we will lay out an economic action strategy to repair your budget damage, to create an economy that will grow, to create an economy that will see new jobs created. You should study our economic action plan carefully tonight, because it is the path to undo the damage you have done.

Senator Abetz: Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.