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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10156

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (18:52): In relation to the cessation of the wife pension—Labor opposes this schedule. The wife pension is paid to female partners of age pension or disability support pension recipients who are not eligible for a pension in their own right. It's not activity tested, and it has been closed to new applicants since 1 July 1995. The wife pension was granted to women solely on the basis of their partner's eligibility for the age pension or the disability support pension. This schedule would cease the wife pension from 20 March 2020, at which time it's estimated there will be around 7,750 recipients. Of these, 2,250 will transfer onto the age pension and 2,400 onto carer payment. These women will be no worse off. Labor is concerned, however, about the 3,100 women who will be worse off. A total of 2,900 women will transfer onto the jobseeker payment. While they would continue to receive the pension rate of payment rather than the lower jobseeker payment rate, its indexation would be ceased, meaning that they would be worse off in real terms over time.

Our view is that it would not take a lot of money to look after 3,100 women. Labor is particularly concerned about the 200 women living overseas who will no longer be able to access any income support. Overnight they will be $670 worse off per fortnight. These recipients are under age-pension age and would not be eligible for either another payment under an international agreement or a portable payment. This group of low-income women will be suddenly left with nothing to live on other than their partner's pension, perhaps having been out of the workforce for many years. They have been receiving the wife pension for a minimum of 22 years. It would seem reasonable that this group should be grandfathered to avoid them facing financial crisis, particularly given the small number and the minimal cost of doing so.

Our view is that this is a cruel and unnecessary cut. Minister, we just can't understand how, as Minister for Women, you could support this. It's a minimal cost to the government's budget. It would mean a significant continuation of income for some of our vulnerable women. I'd just like to ask again—I see there have been some people talking to you—whether you do have the cost of this and what it would cost to maintain the indexation.