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Thursday, 15 October 2015
Page: 7789

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (13:20): I support this bill and I commend the government for moving this bill, because the cost-of-living concessions were quite contentious in my home state of South Australia when the federal government announced its decision to terminate the national partnership agreement on certain concessions for pensioners and seniors cardholders in last year's budget. Hundreds of thousands of pensioners were left worse off. Under the national partnership agreement, states and territories used to receive payments from the Commonwealth. In South Australia, the state government used this funding to provide concessions on local council rates to pensioners and low-income earners. When the NPA was terminated, the South Australian government stopped funding these concessions and this left low-income earners and pensioners $190 a year worse off as they were forced to cover the entire amount of council rates themselves.

I want to acknowledge my state colleague in the South Australian Legislative Council the Hon. John Darley MLC, who has been a very strong advocate in relation to the issue of pensioner concessions. The South Australian government realised that the policy measures they put in place could not go on. In May this year, the South Australian government announced it would introduce a cost-of-living concession payment. From September, those who are eligible for this new payment will receive between $100 and $200 a year to help cover essential living costs. It is a much more flexible payment than the previous concession provided. This payment is not only more flexible but also available to more people.

I welcome the South Australian government introducing this new payment. It shows the government has been listening to feedback and responding to the needs of constituents, and I congratulate South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis. This bill excludes the South Australian cost-of-living concession payment from being assessed as income under the social security and veterans' affairs income tests. It is a sensible measure and I indicate my full support for this bill.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a third time.