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Monday, 11 May 2015
Page: 2746


Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (15:15): That was a remarkable contribution. The speaker was talking about managing the Prime Minister's destiny, because he is about removing him from being Prime Minister of this country. The budget that will be brought down tomorrow is a budget that is all about saving Tony Abbott's job. It is not about doing the right thing. If Senator Sinodinos was honest with the Australian community, he would now acknowledge that changing the indexation of the pension in this country was about cutting pensioners' benefits. There is not a pensioner in this country who believes Tony Abbott and this government. They know that he cannot be trusted.

In answer to my question in relation to cuts to the pension, Senator Fifield said, 'We haven't made any cuts that were going to have effect in this term.' That is not what Tony Abbott said as Leader of the Opposition when he went out the night before the election and promised that there would be no change to the pension, no cuts to education and no cuts to health. We know that he has failed that test, because there have been cuts to education and there certainly have been cuts to the health budget. We know that they were about changing the indexation of the pension, which meant—

Senator Conroy: Cutting them!

Senator POLLEY: It was a cut. You are quite right, Senator Conroy: it was a cut. Eighty dollars a week was going to be the real impact for Australian pensioners.

As we know—and, yes, one could be forgiven for thinking that Mr Morrison was actually the Treasurer—the Treasurer, Mr Hockey, has been sidelined.

Senator Conroy: That's generous!

Senator POLLEY: That's just me; I am a generous person. This government is all about saving the Prime Minister's job and trying to keep people like Senator Sinodinos at bay. But the Australian community are the ones who are left wanting. Australia's pensioners do not trust this government. They do not trust them. We will wait and see what the detail is in this budget, but my theory is that cuts to the pension have not been shelved; they have just been put in the bottom drawer, because this budget is all about saving Tony's job.

Cuts of $1.3 billion from pensioners' concessions—concessions which have helped to pay their rates, transport costs, electricity costs and water bills—have been a big blow. The government has said that the states should really cover those costs while, at the same time, they are cutting the funding to the state governments—as part of their grand plan to put the pressure on the states to increase the GST. That is what it is all about.

But the Australian community are much smarter than that. They are onto this government. They do not trust Tony Abbott, they do not trust Malcolm Turnbull—

Senator Abetz: Mr Abbott. Mr Turnbull.

Senator POLLEY: and they do not trust Ms Bishop. It does not matter who leads this government. I think August is when they are thinking about rolling the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. But it will not matter who the Prime Minister is of this government, because the Australian community have lost faith in it, because quite clearly they were lied to. There are no ifs and buts. They were not just misled; it was a lie to say that there would be no change to the pension in this country and no cuts to health and education.

In my home state of Tasmania, we have the notorious 'three amigos': Mr Nikolic, Mr Whiteley and Mr Hutchinson. They have all denied that there was going to be any change. In fact, they have come out and accused other senators and me of misleading the Tasmanian community.

Senator CONROY: No!

Senator POLLEY: They have.

Senator LINES: What have you been doing?

Senator POLLEY: I have actually been out talking to the pensioners and listening to their concerns and telling them the truth, and that is that this government cannot be trusted and this change to the indexation of pensions—which the government have now finally put in the bottom drawer—was all about reducing their benefits.

Mr Hockey—I think he is still the Treasurer today and at least for a few more weeks—has been described by a cabinet colleague as a 'hole in the heart of the government.' I would have to say that I do not believe this government has a heart, because last year's budget was a totally unfair budget. It was unfair, and I have no doubt tomorrow's budget will be nothing different. (Time expired)