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Monday, 26 March 2018
Page: 2102

Pensions and Benefits


Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (14:29): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, Senator Fierravanti-Wells. How is it fair that the Turnbull government wants to make Australians work until they're 70 while giving a $65 billion handout to big business?


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:30): Thank you, Senator O'Neill, for that question. I will just start off by saying that Australia's population is ageing, and the government has had to make some tough decisions to ensure the age pension remains sustainable and supports those most in need. The 2015Intergenerational report identified that, for every person aged 65 and over, the number of people of traditional working age—being 16 to 64 years old—had fallen from 7.3 people in 1974-75 to an estimated 4.5 people today. By 2054-55, this is projected to nearly halve again to only 2.7 people. Since the coalition formed government in 2013, pensions have increased by $86 a fortnight for singles and about $130 a fortnight for couples.

The PRESIDENT: Order. Senator Fierravanti-Wells, please resume your seat. Senator O'Neill on a point of order.

Senator O'Neill: The question went to the fairness of the Turnbull government wanting to make Australians work until they're 70 while they're giving a $65 billion handout. We haven't heard anything about the Turnbull government's decision to raise the age of retirement to 70.

The PRESIDENT: The senator was dealing with material that I consider to be directly relevant to at least part of the question you asked. I cannot instruct the minister how to answer a question.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: The hypocrisy of those opposite! Can I just refer you, Senator O'Neill, to a media release issued by Wayne Swan and Jenny Macklin in 2009:

Increasing the age pension age is a responsible reform to meet the challenge of an ageing population and the economic impact it will have for all Australians.

…   …   …

Australia must move towards a higher pension age over the next decade.

While not legislated, increasing the pension qualification age to 70 by 2035 remains government policy. Can I also refer those opposite to an opinion piece written by the member for Fenner, Andrew Leigh, who seems to provide us with gems all the time. (Time expired)






Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (14:33): How is it fair that the Turnbull government wants to make it even harder for pensioners who are struggling with their power bills by cutting the energy supplement of $14 a fortnight to pay for his $65 billion handout to big business?


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:33): As I was saying, the member for Fenner provided us with this little gem. In an opinion piece entitled 'You're only as old as they feel', he suggested that:

A better approach would be to index upper age limits in all laws …

…   …   …

How might age indexation operate in practice? One approach would be to mandate that all elderly age limits should increase by 3 months every year …

So it's rather hypocritical—

The PRESIDENT: Order. Senator Fierravanti-Wells, please resume your seat. Senator O'Neill is on her feet.

Senator O'Neill: I know that Minister Fierravanti-Wells ran out of time in the last question, but this question was nothing to do with that. It was about cutting the energy supplement by $14 a fortnight to pay for $65 billion worth of tax cuts.

The PRESIDENT: You've made your point on relevance. Senator Fierravanti-Wells, I remind you of the terms of the supplementary question.





Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:34): In relation to the pension supplement, it is a payment designed to assist income support recipients with the cost of living in Australia. There is no economic reason to continue to compensate recipients for the impact of GST for any time longer than a short absence. The pension supplement will be aligned with the portability arrangements of most other income support payments, which cease at six weeks— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left. Senator O'Neill, a final supplementary question.



Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (14:35): I hope we can get an answer that is relevant this time. Given the coalition government has cut the pension indexation, cut $1 billion from pensioner concessions, axed the $900 senior supplement and cut the pension to around 370,000 pensioners, why won't the Turnbull government end its attacks on pensioners before it gives big business a $65 billion tax cut?


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:35): The Turnbull government is committed to ensuring that Australia's welfare system provides appropriate support to those in need while remaining sustainable for future generations. This is a very simple measure. We repealed the carbon tax and so we repealed the compensation that went with it. It is simply not sustainable to continue to compensate people who have not yet even entered the welfare system for a tax that no longer exists. Had the carbon tax not been repealed in 2014, it would have caused long-term increases in electricity prices. When the carbon tax was repealed on 1 July 2014, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission estimated annual savings of up to $263 in residential electricity costs alone. The Turnbull government is taking decisive action to reduce energy prices for Australian families and businesses. We have taken action— (Time expired)