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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1923

Mrs DARLING(7.48) —I am pretty angry at the way in which pensioners in Australia have been put into a state of fear by members of the Opposition time and time again for the purposes of party politics. This first came strongly to my attention before the 1984 election when in my electorate the assets test, which was being introduced by this Government to bring greater equity to pensioners, was misrepresented to the extent that hundreds of pensioners who were to retain their whole pension-and who now know that this is so-were convinced that they would lose some of their pension through the assets test. One result which really concerns me is that a group of pensioners, who were within the limits of the assets test, who could have retained the money they had in a bank and who could have retained a full pension, were led into thinking that they would lose their pensions if they kept the money. They withdrew the money from the bank. A group of pensioners, one of them from my electorate, put money into a scheme which turned out to be a bodgie scheme. It collapsed and they lost their money. I am greatly concerned about this and I am trying to assist these people. This is just another instance of the criminal manner in which our policies have been misrepresented.

The Liberal Party secretariat has now drawn up a draft policy document, which was leaked, showing precisely what the Opposition members themselves would do were they in government. The draft called for savage cuts in the welfare area, including the scrapping of indexation of pensions-in effect, cutting pensions in real terms. The community employment program and other projects are also to be abolished. This Opposition, if in government, would lift the eligibility age for women getting the age pension to 65. That is how concerned these people are about the aged and disadvantaged in the community. The Liberal's draft policy recommended freezing pensions to save $1.3 billion. The Opposition would abolish the community employment program and Jobstart. The document says that it would cut the Medicare rebate from 85 per cent to 75 per cent. It will tighten up pensions and benefits for widows, supporting parents and unemployed 15 to 18-year-olds and it will abolish the Commonwealth Schools Commission, Department of Education and the participation and equity program. I believe people should be aware of that.

The Hawke Government meanwhile has been working for greater equity for pensioners and people on low incomes. Assistance for pensioners renting privately has been increased by 50 per cent under the Hawke Government-$10 to $15 a week. The Government has introduced a carers' pension paid to a person providing constant care and attention for a severely handicapped or infirm relative. This will help people caring full time for an aged parent. The amount pensioners can receive without any loss of pension has been increased from $30 to $40 a week for single pensioners and from $50 to $70 a week for married couple pensioners. The change to the income test means that by July this year a single pensioner who rents will be able to receive a part pension until income from other sources reaches $295 a week, compared with $185 when Labor took office. Thus, while pensions have increased by 45 per cent-I repeat that, under this Government pensions have increased by 45 per cent-the cutoff income for receipt of a pension will have been raised by almost 60 per cent in addition to that other increase.

These reforms will leave more money in the pockets of thousands of people on social security while providing an incentive for people to care for themselves either through part time work or investments. For example, a pensioner couple with $100 a week in private income will receive an increase in pension of $10 a week, plus a further $15 if renting privately. This is one of the many different moves which the Hawke Government has taken to improve conditions. Despite the budgetary restraints which we inherited, we had still moved to improve these conditions. It is the facts that tell--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.