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Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Page: 8507

Mr HAWKE (9:42 AM) —I rise this morning to add my voice to the chorus of voices coming from the National and Liberal parties this week on behalf of pensioners, particularly the pensioners in my electorate of Mitchell. There are 3,000 single age pensioners in the electorate of Mitchell, and I can record in this House today that they are doing it tough. They are doing it tough because of inflation and its effects on prices. In my community, which is sometimes referred to as an affluent community, the rental market in particular, because of state government policy, is causing enormous pain to pensioners, as are housing affordability and prices in general. Indeed, it is the case that since the election of the Rudd government the cost of living has soared. Basic commodities such as milk, jam and honey have gone up 3.6 per cent and the cost of fuel is up 14.5 per cent. This hits hardest the people who can least afford it.

We have heard a lot of rhetoric this week from the Labor Party. Indeed, they say they are hundred-year advocates for pensioners—a 100-year record of service. Yesterday, those 100 years went out the window. It is heartless bureaucracy and mindless machinery to oppose our sensible and decent plan to increase the rate of the single age pension by $30 a week. Arguments that suggest that two million people will miss out ignore the fact that this will provide important and immediate relief for a million single age pensioners, single age service pensioners and widow B pensioners. Thirty dollars a week is a meaningful and important measure for them, and they need it now. They especially need it now in my community of Mitchell, where they are facing rentals shifts. In one building alone in my community of Castle Hill, rents for the entire block of units were lifted by $150 in one hit—for every person. That kind of rental pressure is causing the biggest problem to pensioners.

I do not think it is an appropriate response to say we are going to have a review, a report, a committee and an inquiry, and then we are going to have a review and a report and a committee on the inquiry. We really need to do something on behalf of pensioners now. We need to work very hard in this place to ensure that those who can afford it least do receive the benefits of a strong economy and a $22 billion surplus.

The party of justice and compassion has abandoned those key qualities, and the coalition’s sensible proposal of $30 a week needs to be really seriously looked at. One year from now a $30 increase will make no or little difference to pensioners in my electorate. Indeed, if you look at the record of the last coalition government it is the case that, when the circumstances warranted it, we acted. We acted to tie the single age pension to 25 per cent of male average weekly earnings; we acted when there were pressures. The pressures are coming; they are real in my electorate—those pressures are prices, rents and inflation. The government has failed to address those cost-of-living pressures. They need to address the matter of pensions. (Time expired)