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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 5248

Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (4:49 PM) —I will just speak generally. There are amendments by Family First. It was a little sad that no other voices voted yes on the amendment moved by Family First in the second reading debate.

Senator Bob Brown —Mr Temporary Chairman, I rise on a point of order. Just to prevent Senator Fielding from misrepresenting the Greens, we supported that amendment.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Forshaw)—There is no point of order, Senator Brown.

Senator Bob Brown interjecting—

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —Excuse me. If you are going to address the chair, you will rise from your seat. There is no point of order.

Senator Bob Brown —Mr Temporary Chairman, on a point of order, I ask that the Greens support for that amendment be recorded.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —It is on the record now, Senator Brown.

Senator FIELDING —I think that the whole idea of a pension increase that suggests that people on a couples pension are not worthy of an increase is mistaken. When you think about it, they are all doing it very tough. When you hear stories of people with skin problems and feeling weak and unsteady on their legs—people who obviously are not eating correctly—you wonder where our priorities lie. These are stories that have been in the papers. There are pensioners even having to borrow money to get medical help and then not knowing how to pay it back. We are seeing these stories of real-life pensioners every day. ‘There have been weeks when all I have eaten is rice,’ and, ‘Living off toast and baked beans is common for pensioners.’ These are some of the stories that we hear. These are real-life stories. ‘Mince and sausages are a luxury you have to put off and do without.’ These are the sorts of stories that you are hearing.

When you hear these stories, certainly the urgency is there for single pensioners, but it is also there for people on disability support pensions, carers payments and wives pensions and for couples on the age pension. It just seems sad that we cannot use this urgency today to cover all those people on pensions who are doing it really tough. That is why Family First will later be moving amendments to apply these changes across the board to those 3.4 million Australians on a pension. The coalition’s bill provides for an urgent increase of $30 a week for those on a single pension and some others, but that is only one million pensioners. There are 3.4 million pensioners in Australia, so 2.4 million will miss out. Family First thinks that is not fair and will continue to campaign for a fair go for all those people on pensions.