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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4996

Mr GEORGANAS (HindmarshSecond Deputy Speaker) (19:36): It gives me great pleasure to rise tonight in support of this motion before the House. I do so because—and I know I have said it many times in this place—the electorate that I represent is one of the oldest electorates in terms of demographics in the country, with 20 per cent of the residents of Hindmarsh being over the age of 65. As I have said before and will say again, I like to call it the wisest electorate in the country, not so much the oldest electorate, because with age and with all those years of experience comes wisdom. So it gives me great pleasure to rise tonight and to speak in support of this motion.

This Labor government has demonstrated a very positive reform agenda for older Australians across our community and across our nation. Our reforms to the pension, for example, are the most significant changes since its introduction more than 100 years ago. The improvements to the indexation system mean that, when the cost of living goes up for pensioners, the pension goes up with it. Under Labor, the pension will keep going up. Since 2009, the maximum rate of the pension has increased by $207 a fortnight for singles and $236 a fortnight for couples combined. Annually, this means that Labor has delivered $5,380 more each year for single pensioners on the maximum rate of the age pension and more than $6,130 each year for pensioner couples on the maximum rate.

We also know that, as people get older and their lives or circumstances change, they may want to downsize their home to something that better suits their needs, but many have been very concerned that they will lose some of their pension, if not all of their pension, with the extra money left aside if they do downsize and sell their family home. For pensioners downsizing their home, it may mean that they have, as I said, excess sale proceeds which may affect that level of pension that they receive after it is counted under the pensions income assets test, which many will know as the pensions means test. For some, the potential loss of that pension may force them to reconsider, and many have reconsidered a move to a smaller home that would have been more suited to their needs.

But there was a trial announcement by the government in the budget which will ensure that pensioners who wish to downsize the family home to a less expensive home can do so now without their pension being affected by the sale proceeds of their home. This is a very, very good thing which will allow older Australians to downsize as their needs change. This is all about giving our senior citizens and older Australians more choices and better options as they make important decisions about their lives, and I am very proud, as those of us on this side of the House are, to support these very good reforms.

Yet another substantial program supporting older Australians is the very successful Broadband for Seniors program. Under this program, the government has established around 2,000 internet kiosks for seniors around the country and I have had the pleasure of going to the openings of a few of them in my electorate. These kiosks provide free access to broadband internet and more vital access to training that will enable seniors to learn new computer skills and feel confident online and be connected to the world—and, most importantly, to their grandchildren who sometimes might not live close by and the only way they have access to them is through emails and the internet. More than 250,000 seniors have already benefited from this seniors broadband program.

Thanks to the new Keeping Seniors Connected budget measure, each kiosk will be able to receive a new computer terminal with a touchscreen as well as the latest software, and a $2,000 grant to boost training and information sessions. These information and training sessions will be particularly focused on cybersecurity and personal online safety. All of these reforms, including indexation of pensions, are under threat from an Abbott-led opposition. It is the same opposition that supports cuts to superannuation and the same opposition that wants to rip the GST revenue out of the hands of South Australians, for example, while simultaneously increasing the rate and base of the GST. And we heard that Mr Abbott will finish the job of the Henry review, and we know that many of the recommendations, including using the family home as part of the assets test for the pension, were in that Henry review.