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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 5199


Senator SIEWERT (1:58 PM) —Once again we have the coalition introducing a bill to do something about something for which they have suddenly found their conscience, after an injustice that has been happening in Australia for quite a significant period of time. For the whole time that they were in government, certainly for the last few years, it has not been a secret that the pensioners of Australia have been doing it tough. That is why we had the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs inquiry into the cost of living for older Australians, which produced a report titled A decent quality of life. The inquiry was initiated during the now opposition’s watch in government because it was recognised that there were increasing costs of living pressures on those living on a pension, in particular older Australians. I will get to some of the issues facing some of our other pensioners in Australia shortly. One of the conclusions of the committee inquiry into the impact of the cost of living was:

It is clear to the committee that many and possibly even a large majority of older people experience a good quality of life in retirement. However, the inquiry highlighted that for a number of older people cost pressures are increasingly curtailing their participation in social and community activities. In turn, this is leading to a diminished quality of living. In particular, some sections of the pensioner population are on tight budgets with no capacity to absorb cost of living rises that outstrip pension entitlements. Further, the committee remains concerned about the possible under-reporting of financial stress by older people. Many in this demographic have a higher propensity to experience difficult financial circumstances without complaint.

They have been doing that for years and years and years, but now they have reached the point where they cannot bear the cost of living increases anymore and they have actually started to be outspoken about it. We have finally seen the pressure valve go off.

Debate interrupted.