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Costello flops pension test.

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In trying to justify the hikes in essential medicines for pensioners, Peter Costello today repeated an embarrassing gaffe made by Larry Anthony just three months ago in relation to the level of the pension.

Grappling for some response to the fact that Labor fully compensated pensioners for PBS co-payments while the Coalition hasn’t, Peter Costello argued that basic pension adequacy is better under the Coalition.

Peter Costello asserted that the pension is now benchmarked to 25% of Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE) and wasn’t under Labor.

But the fact is it was.

Between June 1990 and March 1996 Labor ensured the pension didn’t fall below 25% of MTAWE - and a number of ad-hoc pension increases were made to achieve it.

The same cannot be said of the Coalition. Despite being forced to introduce benchmark legislation the pension fell below 25% on 9 occasions.

By March 2000 the pension had declined to 24.7% of the equivalent MTAWE figure1.

Ever since, the Howard Government has relied on the GST compensation supplement to bring the total pension above 25% - the ‘base’ pension has continued to fall short of the benchmark1.

The Coalition’s claimed commitment to the 25% benchmark is hollow.

It was so committed to it that when it introduced its benchmark legislation it had a built-in use by date of 21 September 2002 before Labor forced its removal.

Nothing the Treasurer said today deals with the fact that pensioners will be slugged up to $90 a year more for essential medicines under the Coalition.

ENDS Wed 19 June 02 Web:

Contact: Wayne Swan on 0418 795 329 Matt Linden on 0410 643 525

Wayne Swan MP Manager of Opposition Business Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services