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Thursday, 10 March 1977
Page: 168

Mr BAUME (Macarthur) - I wish to congratulate the Government for this week's news of an 8.2 per cent rise in pensions. This rise demonstrates the major benefits that the Fraser Government has brought to pensioners by introducing automatic indexation of pensions. The effect of the pension rise to be paid out in 2 months ' time is that pensioners will really receive $1.50 a week more than their cost of living has risen. As a result pensions will increase as a proportion of the average wage, provided of course that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission does not allow the full indexation of workers' wages to destroy our economy. The pension rise going to 1.5 million Australians puts together the 2.2 per cent and the 6 per cent cost of living rises in the last 2 quarters as measured by the consumer price index, but 3.2 per cent of this was entirely due to Medibank and more than 80 per cent of pensioners receive Medibank absolutely free. They will receive the full cost of living rise for the December quarter nonetheless.

This means that for most pensioners the cost of living has really risen over the last 6 months by only about 5 per cent but they will be receiving an 8.2 per cent pension rise. This is solely because the Fraser Government introduced a law providing for the automatic indexation of pensions. Some pensioner groups were foolish enough to criticise the law. The proof of this pudding is well and truly in the eating. Nothing that the Australian Labor Party did in office was guaranteed to preserve the living standards of pensioners in the way in which the Fraser Government's automatic indexation has done and will continue to do.

Details of the rise are that single pensions will increase by $3.60 a week and pensions for married couples will rise by $6 a week lifting the maximum standard rate single pension to $47.10 a week and the maximum combined married rate to $78.50 a week. This will mean an annual extra cost to the taxpayers of $335m a year. It also means that in the 15 months since the Fraser Government took office single pensions will have increased by $8.35 a week or more than 20 per cent, and married pensions by $12 a week, a record of which any government would be proud. This represents a rise in real incomes for pensioners, not just paper money incomes as was the case under Labor. There has been some criticism to the effect that the social service pension rises will also flow on to people on the dole. There is no doubt that if the dole keeps moving up automatically there will be an increasing need for the Government to make certain that taxpayers' money is not being wasted on people who are unemployed by choice rather than by force of circumstance. To this extent there seems huie doubt that the rules should be strictly applied. But it also seems clear that the great bulk of the unemployed who genuinely cannot find work should be entitled to at least the maintenance of their benefit in real terms, and indexation does no more than that.

In the past people on pensions have had to carry most of the burden of inflation, yet they are the very people least able to do so. The Fraser Government by indexing pensions has brought a major improvement in justice to pensioners. Of course, it is not only the social security pensioners who will benefit from the automatic rises. Repatriation pensions will also rise, with the totally and permanently incapacitated rate increasing by $6.90 a week to $90.15 and the general rate pension rising by $2.60 to $34.05. Pensions for war and defence widows will increase by $3.60 to $47.10 and standard Service pensions will have a similar increase, all to be paid on 5 May and having an annual cost of $53.2m. The facts clearly show the degree of effective and real concern that this Government has for pensioners. The facts are shown by the amount of money paid out, not by the empty words nor by the nonsense coming from the Opposition.

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