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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 4376

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) (5:29 PM) —I will deal with the last bit first, in relation to people on DSP not entitled to the work bonus. Firstly, they have access to the working credit arrangements and, secondly—as the senator knows, and we have had this debate in other contexts—the Harmer review and the responses to it were focused on people at retirement age. The review by Mr Henry was dealing with the working age persons issue, so those issues will be addressed as part of that review. That is why there is a distinction between those who are on DSP who are working age versus those who are on age pensions.

Senator Siewert, you refer to the sorts of answers you have had previously about supporting mature age workers, training and reskilling et cetera. I can repeat all of those to you, but your point is well made. The women who work around Parliament House are good examples of women doing very heavy work—with those floor polishers and other things. Many of them are mature women who work very hard and no doubt find that very taxing work, as we all would. But I guess my main response to you is that all the problems you point to are problems whether you retire at 60, 65 or 67. These are issues we confront and we have to respond to—

Senator Siewert —Why don’t you fix them now then, instead of changing the pension age?

Senator CHRIS EVANS —Senator, in 18 months we have not solved all the problems of the world, but I know Ms Macklin is working on it. I think if you give her another 18 months then she may have done that. I guess what I am saying is that there are a range of problems in social policy, if you like, and response to demographics et cetera. What you are highlighting are serious social issues that need to be confronted—that is right. But that was true before we changed the date of access to the pension and it will be true afterwards. Can we fix all of that in this legislation? No. But they are live issues. They are issues that we are attempting to deal with in some of these measures that we have been talking about in terms of retraining, reskilling and support for mature age workers. These are challenges that will be with us whether the retirement age is 60, 65, 67 or 75. We need to attack them, but clearly we cannot solve those as part of this legislation.