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Election 2007: Prime Minister pledges utility allowance for seniors and carers.

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Friday 23 October 2007

Election 2007: Prime Minister pledges utility allowance for seniors and carers


MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister tried to shrug off a bad opinion poll today with a major announcement to help older Australians, carers and people with disabilities. 


There'll be more help for people on pensions to pay household bills, in a package that's worth $4-billion over four years, all up. 


Campaigning in Adelaide, Mr Howard conceded that while the economy had been performing well, not everyone was finding it easy to meet the rising costs of living. 


Peta Donald filed this report from the campaign trail. 


PETA DONALD: There was a warm welcome for the Prime Minister at the Morphett Vale Memorial Bowling Club in the highly marginal Liberal seat of Kingston, in Adelaide. 


A group of older Liberal supporters were there waiting and Mr Howard turned up with an announcement to make. 


JOHN HOWARD: There is no group in the community that is feeling a greater degree of financial pressure than many pensioners and retired people. We have therefore decided to commit ourselves to a number of very significant changes that recognise these cost of living pressures. 


PETA DONALD: Significant they are - worth $4-billion over four years. Two million aged pensioners would receive $500 a year, to pay bills like power and gas. 


The utilities allowance would also become available for 700,000 Australians on the disability support pension and be extended to 120,000 carers, regardless of their age. 




JOHN HOWARD: This recognises the extraordinary role that carers play in our society, the very heavy emotional, physical, as well as financial burdens that are carried by carers in our community. 


PETA DONALD: A quarter of a million self funded retirees wouldn't miss out - there'd be a doubling of the seniors' concession allowance to $500. And that's not all. If the cost of living for pensioners goes up faster than inflation, pensions would be topped up. 


JOHN HOWARD: From now on, if that index shows a higher rate than the CPI, the pension will go up by a correspondingly higher amount. Now that adds a third very, very important limb. 






PETA DONALD: It went down well with the local Liberal supporters along with some who happened to be at the bowling club to play bowls rather than see the Prime Minister. 


BOWLING CLUB MEMBER: Well it is going to help me because I am on a mature benefit. My husband is on a disablement benefit. So it will definitely help us. 


PETA DONALD: Do you find it hard to pay the bills at the moment? 


BOWLING CLUB MEMBER: Well, it is a struggle. You know, but we manage. 


PETA DONALD: Labor has been campaigning hard on the cost of living, promising a raft of inquiries into the cost of everyday things like petrol and groceries. It's accused Mr Howard of being out of touch. 


The Coalition is hoping to counter that attack with this announcement. It'll also hoping to drown out the results of a Newspoll published today, putting support for the Coalition back down at 42 per cent, on a two party preferred basis.  


Mr Howard shrugged it off. 


JOHN HOWARD: I don't have any comment to make about the polls. I think what we have seen properly in the first week of this campaign is a focus on what is still the most important question people should ask themselves. And that is who is better able to manage our $1.1 trillion economy years into the future. 




PETA DONALD: The electorate of Kingston was won by the Liberals at the last election by only a 119 votes. Local Liberal supporters like Leighton Smith are sounding philosophical about the chances this time round. 


LEIGHTON SMITH: The polls don't always tell the full story. And there is always hope. Where there is life there is hope, I think. So we'll just have to get there. 


PETA DONALD: What do you think the chances are of Kym Richardson in this seat, realistically? 


LEIGHTON SMITH: On paper, he has got no chance at all. But it doesn't always work out that way and a lot can happen between now and polling day. So you know, we may get there. 


MARK COLVIN: Liberal supporter Leighton Smith ending that report from Peta Donald on the campaign trail.