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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 976

Pensions and Benefits


Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (14:12): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Has the Liberal Party explained to its preferred partner, One Nation, that its omnibus bill will see new single pensioners $365 a year worse off and couple pensioners $550 a year worse off?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:12): What we are trying to explain to all senators and to all of the Australian people is that unless we get the budget under control it is not in the national interest, because they will be not enough money for future generations to fund decent social welfare provisions and all of the other things that the nation needs. Senator, you have consistently voted in this chamber against budget savings. Through you, Mr President, you, Senator Brown, and those who sit behind you, have consistently voted in this chamber against budget savings, including budget savings that you yourself had booked in the 2016 election. So, Senator Carol Brown, we know what the Labor Party's attitude is to budget savings. To promise them in the election campaign and then vote against them in the chamber and prevent the government from taking the measures that are necessary to bring the budget back into balance, that is your approach.

Well, Senator Brown, on our side of the chamber we take a very different approach. We do not spend money that we cannot offset with savings—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Pause the clock. Senator Gallagher, a point of order?

Senator Gallagher: On relevance—the question was around whether the Liberal Party has explained to its preferred partner, One Nation, about the cuts to pensions.

The PRESIDENT: The minister commenced his answer by indicating that he not only has explained to those senators but to all senators, and then he went on to explain, as we heard the minister say. So the minister has been relevant. Minister, you have the call.

Senator BRANDIS: So that is what we have explained to every senator in the chamber, including you, Senator Brown, though you do not seem to want to listen to the fact that this country, which inherited a worse financial position from the previous Labor government than any incoming government had ever inherited in Australian history, has had to take measures in order to get the budget under control, and that includes the savings measures that we have brought before the Senate—$13 billion worth of savings measures, which you have consistently blocked. So it does not lie to you, Senator Brown, or to those who sit behind you, to criticise the government's visions— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brown, a supplementary question.







Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (14:15): Has the Liberal Party explained to its preferred partner, One Nation, that the government's plan will see over 665,000 single parent families lose $354 per year when this government scraps their family tax benefit B end-of-year supplement?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:15): I have to set you straight, Senator Brown, because what you have just said to the chamber is wrong. In fact, under the changes introduced from 1 January 2017, nine out of 10 pensioners will either be better off or have no changes made to their pension.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Pause the clock. Senator Wong, a point of order?

Senator Wong: On direct relevance: the supplementary question was about a different aspect of the omnibus bill which was referred to in the primary question. It was not about pensioners at all—I know Senator Brandis has just found the brief—it was about single parent families.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Wong. I will remind the minister of the question.

Senator BRANDIS: The government is currently spending around $42 billion a year, so we have acted to make the age pension fairer and more sustainable to provide more help to pensioners with modest needs. As a result of the changes, more than 170,000 pensioners with modest needs will have their pensions increased this year.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Pause the clock. Senator Wong, a point of order?

Senator Wong: On direct relevance—I will speak slowly so perhaps he can find a different part of his brief: the question is about single parent families and cuts to the family tax benefit; it is not about pensions.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, on the point of order?

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, that was an awful insult to you. The Leader of the Opposition said she would speak slowly—she is obviously referring to you, as she must—so you could understand her. I ask you to bring the Leader of the Opposition into some form of courtesy and respect for the standing orders.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Macdonald. I did not take the senator's comments the way you have interpreted them, although every time senators make remarks they are addressed to the chair and not to individual senators. So you are technically correct, Senator Macdonald, but I did not take the point of order from Senator Wong to be directed towards me, although technically it could be interpreted that way. I remind the Attorney-General that he has 15 seconds left in which to answer the question.

Senator BRANDIS: I am trying to explain to Senator Brown the way in which the government is meeting the fiscal challenge which we inherited from those who went before us. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brown, a final supplementary question.













Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (14:18): Has the Liberal Party explained to its preferred partner, One Nation, that the government's plan will leave 1.5 million Australian families worse off?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:18): Senator Brown, that is simply not the truth. We have not said that to anyone, because it is not the truth. Senator Brown, rather than mislead the chamber, as you just did, with an erroneous question asserting a falsehood, what you ought to do—as I said in response to your primary question—is back the government in trying to find the budget measures which you yourself, in the 2016 election, booked as Labor Party savings measures. Yet, having promised to make those savings were you to be elected last year, Senator Brown, you now come into the chamber and vote against them. Whether we are talking about the age pension, whether we are talking about payments to single parents or whether we are talking about other aspects of the welfare system, there will not be enough money for any of those beneficial social provisions of the future unless we repair the budget now. (Time expired)