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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8187

Ms HALL (6:59 PM) —I must say that I have never heard such hypocrisy in my entire life. The member for Tangney stands up, wrings his hands and makes the statements that he has just made, and yet he was in a government that was in power in Australia from 1996 to 2007 and that sat on its hands and did absolutely nothing. When during that time did he stand up and make a speech like this for the pensioners of his area? And he does not even stay to listen to the whole of the debate; he is leaving. Most members who move a private member’s motion will stay to hear what contributions are made by the other members.

Like the opposition’s proposal to lift the rate of the single age pension, this motion ignores carers, people on the disability support pension and widows of veterans. All of these pensions are subject to taper rates. Once again, the member is selectively choosing what to discuss. He must have had some sort of brain explosion the other day when a constituent came to see him and raised this issue. Prior to that, it seems to me that he was totally unaware of it. We on this side of the House are aware of these types of issues. We were aware of them when the opposition was in government. They are not something new.

There are now 732,000 DSP recipients, 133,000 carer payment recipients, 35,000 wife and widow pensioners, 120,000 DVA service pensioners and 96,000 DVA partners. Where were these mentioned in the member for Tangney’s contribution to the debate? Increasing the taper rate will mean that more people will get access to concessions such as the utility allowance, the telephone allowance and pensioner transport and other concessions. However, increasing the taper rate for age pensioners will only discriminate against those groups of people that I have already mentioned as they miss out on these concessions. That shows the very narrow focus of the member for Tangney. Does the opposition think that carers, DSP recipients and widows are doing it less tough than age pensioners? Do they think that it is easy for them? Do they think that they should be ignored? We on this side do not believe in discriminating against people who are on the same sorts of benefits. But the member for Tangney had a constituent come to see him and for the first time in his life he decided that he would stand up for the pensioners in his area—in a way that he did not when he was in government.

Like the proposal to lift the single age pension, this is badly thought through. The Liberals had 12 long years to fix the pensions system, including by increasing the taper rate on all pensions, but they did nothing. Twelve long years of sitting on their hands, and all of a sudden they have discovered that pensioners are doing it hard. My mum is a pensioner, and I know that she does it hard. I know that her friends do it hard. It is not something that I have discovered just recently. That is why we are conducting a review to make sure that all pensioners, not just the ones those on the other side seek to favour, have their pensions looked at properly.

It is motions such as this that prove why it is necessary to fix the pensions system at the grassroots. It is imperative that you do not approach it in an ad hoc way. The government is determined to do this to make sure that nobody misses out. Hundreds of submissions are being made to the government’s review about how the system should be improved. Those views need to be given the attention that they deserve. When the review is complete, the government will act swiftly to fix the pensions system—unlike the previous government, which sat on their hands for 12 long years. As you well know, Acting Deputy Speaker Kelvin Thomson, this ad hoc approach, this political grandstanding, is not an answer for pensioners in Australia. We need a real solution and the Rudd government will deliver that. (Time expired)