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Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Page: 131


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (6:26 PM) —I ask the minister to respond to a couple of points made by Senator Greig in moving his amendment. I am interested in the minister's response to one of his key concerns: why is the utilities supplement only payable to pensioners of age pension age? I want to understand the government's rationale as to why other pensioners have not been included—disability carers, sole parents et cetera. I want to understand the government's rationale. It seems, on the face of it, that the utilities costs are equal for each of those groups.

I am interested in a response not only to what the government's rationale is for that but also to the question that Senator Greig posed about why the $100 utilities payment is not payable to both members of an age pensioner couple. There seems to be a difference between the way the government deals with payment to self-funded retirees and couples and the way it deals with the utilities supplement for pensioners. I want to understand the rationale. These are issues raised by Senator Greig's request for amendments. I want a response to why the utilities supplement is payable to only pensioners of age pension age. Why was the decision made not to make the full $100 utilities payment to both members of an age pensioner couple?