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Thursday, 29 November 2018
Page: 12069

Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (16:09): It's great to rise in this place today to talk about pensioners and older Australians in my electorate. I want to thank all the pensioners in my electorate, almost 20,000 of them, for their contribution to Australia. I often speak in schools, and I'll go and talk to the young people. We know that we have the best country in the world, and that's because of those older Australians: the legacy that they've left us, the work that they've done and the contribution that they've made to Australia. That's why it's so important that we continue to run a strong economy. We know that in April next year the budget will be in surplus for the first time since the Howard government some 12 years ago. That's great news, not just for older Australians who rely on essential services but also for our children, the younger people in our electorates right around the nation, because they won't be hit with higher taxes and debt because of this current generation. So a surplus will be great.

Mr Deputy Speaker Hogan, did you know that the unemployment rate nationally is down to about five per cent? Listening to those opposite, you wouldn't know that over a million jobs have been created in Australia over the last few years, and so many more in just this year alone. Every fortnight, there are five million Australians who receive a pension.

Mr Husic: What about pensioners digging into their savings?

Mr HOWARTH: If you listen, I'll explain. Every fortnight, five million Australians receive a pension. I want to thank those Centrelink staff in Deception Bay and in Redcliffe who help out constituents in my electorate. Five million Australians is a lot of people who receive the pension every fortnight. Every week, the federal government invests some $3.3 billion in pensions. That works out to $174 billion a year, which is well over a third of our budget. The best way that we can provide certainty to older Australians is to continue to run a strong economy. When over a third of your budget goes on social services and on pensions, when healthcare costs continue to go up and the government's increasing funding, when education costs are going up and the government's increasing funding and when defence costs are going up and the government's increasing funding, it's all because of a strong economy.

Last year there were nearly 3½ million claims for income support payments and concessions, including the age pension. I want to say to people in my electorate that, if you are going to claim the pension, it is best to claim before you hit that age pension age. We know that the member for Chifley and others increased the age pension age to 67. That's what it is at the moment. So the government recommends that you apply up to 13 weeks beforehand so that we can properly assess the application. For most applications, the wait time is often because of documents that are needed. The application doesn't progress until all documents have been lodged, so it's very important that you give plenty of time.

For those listening, I want you to know that, if you do have to wait, of course it's back paid. All of the pension is back paid. If you listen to those opposite—

Ms Burney interjecting

Mr HOWARTH: No, you've had your turn. I'll speak now, thank you. It is back paid if you're waiting. The government is managing millions and millions of dollars every week—billions of dollars every fortnight—and these applications have to be properly assessed. I've been able to help a few people in my electorate, such as: Caroline from Mango Hill, whose application was granted and back paid; Wayne from Burpengary East, whose application was granted; and Thomas from Margate, who brought in a chocolate bar to the staff to say thank you. Thank you, Thomas, but my job as the federal member is to help you. There was Sandra from Deception Bay, who was applying for the age pension and got back paid $6,000, and she was very happy with that; John from Mango Hill, who was applying for the age pension and got $6,000 back paid; and Janice from Redcliffe, who I helped last week. She met with me in the front of my office, and she came in with a bottle of wine for my staff because she also got her age pension. That's my job. I'm very happy to do it.

The pension has never been stronger, our economy has never been stronger and everything is at risk with those opposite, who want to put higher taxes on housing, income, business and electricity bills. When the member for Herbert gets up, she might like to talk about those pensioners who she's about to flog with higher electricity bills because of increased taxes— (Time expired)