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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5651

Ms KING (4:18 PM) —I want to take the opportunity, given that I have not had the chance to do that, to congratulate the minister on the Paid Parental Leave scheme. This scheme has been a very, very long time coming. There have been a number of us who have been in this space battling away for a long time and I know the minister has certainly been one of those. I want to put on record my thanks for such a terrific effort. I know that many families, and predominantly women, will take up the opportunity of the scheme. It will make a significant difference for working women in this country and will be one of the lasting legacies, certainly, of this minister.

I also wanted to comment that this is the second budget that contains our changes to the pension. A significant step that this government and this minister have taken is to increase the base rate of the pension. Those of us who have been in this place for a while know that, each budget night, we used to have this awful circumstance where pensioners and carers were faced with wondering whether the former Treasurer would put some money into their pensions. Each year they went, cap in hand, almost begging to get some extra money, and the then Treasurer would announce another one-off bonus, saying how terrific that was. But we knew that carers and pensioners were absolutely struggling from day to day. Those on single pensions in particular were in real trouble; single pensioners who did not own their own homes were in terrible trouble. What this government and this minister have done in increasing the base rate of the pension is a significant achievement in fundamental social justice for those who are reliant on our social security scheme. I certainly commend her for that. Both last year’s and this year’s budgets included funding for these pension reforms, but I am also aware that some elements of the government’s pension reforms are yet to take effect. What I would like the minister to tell the chamber is: how will the government’s changes to pension advance payments and pension supplements change this financial year?

I also want to take the opportunity to ask the minister to pass on to her counterpart who covers human services and Centrelink my personal thanks, not only for the terrific work that the financial information officers at Centrelink have done in assisting people to make decisions around the changes to the pension, but also for providing significant information through pensioner forums. In my electorate we had two forums. More than 500 people, for two hours, hammered away at the financial information officers for all sorts of quite complex details. They did a fantastic job, and I know they had a lot of follow-up appointments. I want the minister to also pass on my thanks to those Centrelink staff who had to implement the pension reforms.