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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 1985

Senator McINTOSH —I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security to recent media reports that the Government is considering discounting indexation rises for age and other pensions as well as unemployment benefit. Would the Minister concede that most recipients of such benefits are those in the community with the least ability to absorb such cuts? Can the Government assure pensioners and others that there will be no further deferments of indexation such as were announced in the 1986 Budget? Can the Government also assure pensioners that there will be no discounting of indexation increases and that the Government will in fact continue to advance towards the goal of pensions reaching 25 per cent of average weekly earnings?

Senator TATE —I am unable to assist Senator McIntosh in assessing the speculative reports in the media to which he has adverted and which have expressed some misgivings about what the Government might be considering as to age and other pensions as well as unemployment benefit. I concede, almost as a matter of definition, that recipients of benefits are less well placed to absorb cuts than others in the community who are in receipt of income from employment or accumulated wealth. I think that that stands to reason. Nevertheless, I cannot give the assurances sought in anticipation of the statement to be made on 13 May except to say that the general principle of a fair sharing of burdens will, I am confident, be observed. I will refer the question to the Minister for Social Security and inform Senator McIntosh should he have anything further to add.