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Thursday, 29 November 2018
Page: 12064

Mr BROAD (MalleeAssistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) (15:48): It is important to talk about age pensions and it is important to talk about our senior Australians. It was said to me once that when you get to about 50 years of age you start to think about what your financial plan is. There are many Australians who are concerned about their financial plan as they prepare for their senior years, and also for age pensioners who are receiving benefits from the Commonwealth.

The government doesn't have any money; it has your money. It administers the money of Australians. We will be handing down a balanced budget next year at the next budget in April. What that simply means is that the money that we collect equals the money we spend. That is called responsible government. If you spend more money than you collect, you accumulate debt. As a result of that debt, what you are doing, effectively, is borrowing from our children and our grandchildren. Instead, if we're proud Australians, we should be investing in our children and grandchildren and not leaving them with a legacy of debt because we haven't lived within our own means. People on age pensions in Australia are fortunate that we have sound, responsible government that enables them to receive an age pension.

Not only do our senior Australians receive an age pension; they also receive the benefits of our health budget. To remind Australian people who might be listening just how fortunate we are, living in a country with a population of 25 million and with the 15th biggest economy in the world, if you added up the total gross domestic product of the 40 poorest countries in the world and you put all that money into one bucket, that would be the same amount of money as Australia spends on our health budget for 25 million people. Just think about that for a moment. We invest in the health of Australians substantially.

We also invest in the welfare of Australians substantially. Australians spend $115 billion a year on health—$70 billion from the federal government and $45 billion from the states—largely for our senior Australians. On welfare, Australians spend $174 billion—a third of our total expenditure as a country. That is for five million Australians. If the criticism here today is that somehow we're a little slower than we should be at paying out that welfare, because we want to make sure that when someone applies that we do our due diligence and we administer it properly, then that is a criticism I'm prepared to take. Because I want to know—if we're going to run a balanced budget and not borrow from our children and our future children—that the people who are applying for benefits are bringing the right documentation to us and are legitimate in their claims. We say to Australians, 'If you are going to receive an age pension, you know when that date is coming.' It's not like an unemployment benefit. If you're unemployed, you might be working one day, you turn up to work, and the next day you're out of work. In that instance, you do need payment instantly. But if you know that you're coming towards the time that you'll be eligible for your pension, you have time to plan to get your paperwork in, and it is appropriate that there is integrity in our welfare system. We are very fortunate to have such an essential welfare system.

If you talk to people in my electorate, our retirees and our pensioners, they want the capacity to be able to earn a little bit of money as well as receive their pensions. We have just made changes that allow them to go from earning $250 a fortnight to $300 a fortnight. And another benefit in this is that they can earn that in a lump sum. Because of the seasonal nature of my electorate—which has almonds, olives, table grapes—we are now seeing more and more of our senior Australians coming in, working, and earning up to $6,500 in a lump sum. This does not affect their pension eligibility, and they then go off and spend that as they travel around regional Australia. Our government is delivering for pensioners. Our government is delivering a solid budget, a stable budget, so pensioners can have confidence that their pension is going to be paid. They can have confidence that they're not living at the expense of their children and grandchildren. That is what good government is about it. That is why we're a great country. It is not just an accident; it's because we manage the economy well. Our senior Australians know that. They trust us, and that's why they're going to vote for us at the next election.