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Thursday, 21 August 1980
Page: 584

Mr BOURCHIER (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) - Will the Prime Minister advise the House of what it would cost to lift pensions and related benefits to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings?

Mr MALCOLM FRASER -The total cost of lifting pensions and related benefits to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings would be something over $500m in a full year. Under the policies of this Government, whereby pensions have been indexed on a twice-yearly basis, pensions as a percentage of average weekly earnings are at nearly the highest proportion of average weekly earnings that they have been for a very long while. On average, they are significantly higher than the kind of percentage that prevailed during the period of the previous Labor Administration.

I mentioned yesterday that there had been an additional commitment by the Australian Labor Party to lift pensions and, one would assume, related benefits to 30 per cent over time - I indicated that it was to be over time; obviously it was not meant as an immediate commitment - as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition on AM yesterday. The costings that were originally worked out were on the basis of earlier levels of average weekly earnings. The total cost of that would now be a little over $2,000m. But, of course, part of that AM commitment was to lift pensions and, again 1 would assume, related benefits- if not, I suppose we could be advised - to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings as the high priority task. That would therefore add an additional $500m, or probably a little more than that, to the already known commitment of the Australian Labor Party of $2,000m. Presumably, if one can take the policy-making of the Leader of the Opposition on AM as a firm commitment of the triumvirate, the firm commitments of the Australian Labor Party now are $2,500m in addition to the present levels of expenditure. In addition to that, of course, there is a large number - well over 100- of other uncosted commitments to which the honourable gentleman and his various shadow Ministers have been committing themselves over recent months as they have wandered around the country. Quite plainly, levels of that kind are just not on in terms of any kind of financial responsibility. It is interesting to note that AM has become one of the principal policy-making vehicles of the Leader of the Opposition.

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