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Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Page: 8461


Ms ANNETTE ELLIS (4:47 PM) —Earlier this year, the member for McPherson said on a radio program that there should be an immediate increase to the pension. An hour later on the same radio program the then shadow Treasurer, who is now the Leader of the Opposition, contradicted her, saying that it was not in fact the opposition’s policy at all. I have the transcript here and I could quote from it, but I think others have already quoted from it, and time is short. I want to move on.

Earlier this month the former Leader of the Opposition announced the proposal for the increase to the single pension in a speech in Queensland. Less than two weeks after this—last Monday—the private member’s bill was tabled. On the same day, they suggested raising the taper rates on single pensions. On the Sunday before this, the Leader of the Opposition proposed to include single service and widow B pensioners, during a television interview—in fact, I think that was when that announcement was made.

So we have the situation where one day it is an increase to the single aged pension, the next it is an adjustment to taper rates and on another day it is an increase in the single service pension and for widow B pensioners. I ask: what could possibly be next? It is inconsistent, it is policy on the run and, sadly, it is playing with pensioners’ expectations. It is playing with people’s lives out there as this crazy debate being run by the opposition is continued.

Like previous opposition policy in this area, this MPI is bringing us to the point where we can discuss the inadequacies and anomalies that are created by this opposition’s mad policy. And I will say why I call it mad: it is mad because, as other speakers have said, it is ignoring those 700,000-plus people on disability support pension. It is ignoring those 133,000-plus people who are on carer payment. But it has carefully included 700 widow B pensioners. You should include them, but why include 700 widow B pensioners and exclude nearly a million recipients of DSP or carer payment, not to mention the many couple pensioners that will be missing out on this? The opposition have also used a figure from the DVA website of 70,000 to 71,000 people that they want to include in their proposal. But that figure is wrong because it does not represent accurately what their bill describes.

I have to say that I am getting a little bit angry about this. I have sat here day in and day out—and again today through this MPI and question time—being accused of things as a member of this government. We are being told that we do not care. We are being told that we are doing nothing. We are being told that we voted against a $30 increase and therefore we are immoral members of the parliament. We are being told that we are refusing to help pensioners. Let us look at a little bit of the reality before all this excitement gets us carried away. We have an income support system in this country that has evolved over decades and decades. It is very complicated. The interactions and interconnections between all of those different payments are very relevant to this debate. We are sincerely concerned with the level of income that many of these people are asked to live on day to day—the carer payment, the disability pensioners, the elderly single pensioners, the elderly couple pensioners and all of the connotations that are contained in there. We are concerned about it. To say we are doing nothing is just such an outright untruth that it is disgraceful politics.

I notice that the member for Greenway, the member for McPherson and the member for Riverina are, sadly, now not in here. They are probably out there writing their misleading, spinning press releases and again maligning this government and what the truth of this debate really is. The truth of it is that a pensioner who is paying government rent would lose 25 per cent of that $30 straightaway on their rent. A person on an age pension, and who happens to be in a nursing home, would lose 85 per cent of that $30 immediately, because that is the structure for paying rent or living costs if you are in a facility care situation. I have not heard anyone from the opposition explain how that will work. I have not heard one person opposite explain to me how any of the people I am referring to actually get $30. They do not get it; they lose a proportion of it. The opposition are playing a game of ignorance against the reality of the situation. They are accusing us of untruths. Sadly, and I think worst of all, they are playing with people and their lives purely to make a political point, and I condemn them for it. (Time expired)


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—Order! The discussion is now concluded.