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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8192

Mr RAGUSE (7:20 PM) —It is a real pleasure for me to speak on this particular motion tonight. It is interesting that about a month ago in this chamber I presented a petition about pensions and a whole range of issues around them. A number of the members have mentioned tonight that we hear every day about the concerns raised by pensioners, and for us to debate about this tonight across this chamber is certainly of interest. I think the member for Tangney is well intentioned in his motion but what some of the speakers, certainly on the opposition side, have spoken about tonight does not really get to the heart of what I understand his motion to be. As speakers on this side of the chamber have stated, unfortunately a lot of it is misinformed. A lot of the concern about what this motion is about and what pensioners can and cannot do is not explained.

About two weeks ago there was a whole lot of media coverage around some statements that I made and there was certainly a move by the opposition and others to drive a wedge by saying that I somehow was going against the statements of my own government or Prime Minister. I am here tonight to say that is just not true. If you look at the statements that I made they were very similar to the statements that we are making here tonight about the need to understand and consider pensioners generally.

This particular motion is a very important one when we are talking about those who have the ability to earn further income, particularly those who have got to the stage of being able to retire, take on a pension at 65 and continue to work. The problem is that I do not believe that it goes far enough. Again, my statements of only a couple of weeks ago that led people to suggest that there was some dissension within our government were essentially what we are saying on both sides of this chamber tonight. There is not enough information for us right now to make any definitive statements about what we should or should not do with pensioners. Even in the debate tonight people are coming up with different understandings about this motion and the concerns that pensioners have. I want to speak about a particular pensioner in my electorate who is certainly of a senior age but still has the capacity to work. In South-East Queensland and Queensland generally we have a major skill shortage. There are many people who have appropriate and professional skills and who are able to re-enter the workforce but many of those have come to me and said: ‘The rules around pensions are really tough. We can’t earn more money simply because of the rules.’

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr RAGUSE —I recognise the agreement of those on the other side of the chamber. It is something that we all understand as members but, unfortunately, it was the previous government that did not change the rules. That is something that I am bringing forward tonight—my understanding of where we need to go. The concerns raised in the media two weeks ago and my petition of four weeks ago were essentially saying that we need to make some decisions very quickly about how we are going to resolve this. It does not mean that we are looking at one-off payments, the $30 increase. I think we all understand that economically and financially it is just not the right way to go. We must understand what we need to do to better service pensions.

We have announced the Harmer review, the Henry review and ways of looking at the overall taxation system and how payments can be made not only to pensioners but also to other people in need in our society. That review has to go ahead. I know that the new Leader of the Opposition is talking about his own review. Understandably, he wants to be able to come up with some definitive statements as well about what we need to do for pensioners, but the reality is, as a government, we have committed to making some change. We have committed to understanding more about the overall pension and taxation system. No decisions can be made until we really understand the money that comes in and the money that needs to go out in payments. The constituent I mentioned previously came to me and said he was willing to work, to come back into the workforce, but the incentives were not there. We do need to recognise that. We need to understand how much we might be seen to be advantaging certain people who can work over people who are taking benefit in other forms of payments who may be able to do some work or none at all. It is simply about understanding our overall position.

In summary, I commend the member for Tangney for bringing this to our attention. I think there probably needs to be a lot more thought go into what this motion is all about. What we are saying on this side of the House is: stand by our review and please support us in it. The review will certainly tell us a lot about the system of taxation, the excise and all the other payments that come into our funds and how we then redistribute those. Pensions are certainly right at the core of our support for those people in our community.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr KJ Thomson)—Order! The allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.