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Wednesday, 17 September 2008
Page: 7710

Mr TURNBULL (2:15 PM) —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I draw the Prime Minister’s attention to comments by the Chairman of the Catholic Social Justice Council, Bishop Christopher Saunders, who said on ABC radio this morning:

It seems to me that, if somebody is at your door and they’re in dire straits and they need help, it is better to help them there and then rather than say, ‘Listen, come next week when I’ve had time to write a letter about it.’

Prime Minister, why won’t you support the coalition’s plan to provide urgent relief to single age pensioners?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —The one glaring omission on the part of those opposite in the measure which they propose is the two-million-plus pensioners they exclude from their proposal. I say to those opposite, in their newfound concern and compassion: what about all those people who are also in couple pensioner arrangements, all those pensioners who are widows, all those who are carers, and all those who are in receipt of the disability support pension? The point I would make to those opposite is: if we are engaged in the business of long-term reform of pensions and the retirement income system, then it must be across the board, not selectively picking out one element in order to demonstrate that there is a headline. That is the first point.

The second point is this: the honourable member who is now the Leader of the Opposition barely a year ago sat in the cabinet when the then member for Longman brought forward a proposal to increase the base rate of the pension by $30—and it is reported in the national daily. My question back to the Leader of the Opposition, in his newfound interest in compassion, is: why did he not act then? Why did he not put his hand up, why did the member for Curtin not put her hand up and why did the member for Higgins not put his hand up to act on the matter when they had the opportunity to do so?