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Labor refuses urgent relief for single pensioners.

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Senator the Hon Helen Coonan Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate

Last night the Rudd Government dashed the hopes of 930,000 single age pensioners by voting against the Coalition’s Urgent Relief for Single Age Pensioners Bill.

The Bill was sponsored by Senator Helen Coonan who said the case for urgent financial relief was compelling.

Single age pensioners expected relief this year from the increasing cost of living pressures after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd campaigned on the issue in the lead up to the 2007 Federal Election.

“Since the election of the Rudd Government, the cost of living has soared with the cost of milk, jam and honey up 3.6% and the cost of fuel up 14.5%,” Senator Coonan said.

“Australians are far worse off under the Rudd Labor Government than they were under the Coalition.”

Labor Minister Evans was yesterday struggling to justify why the Government refused to support the Bill.

“The Rudd Government is sitting on a $22 billion surplus - they have the funds to help older Australians, yet they are refusing to provide the immediate financial assistance so desperately needed by single age pensioners,” Senator Coonan said.

“Pending reviews are of cold comfort to elderly Australians straining to pay the bills.”

“We’ve got the Prime Minister swanning around the globe and we’ve got the neediest Australians looking to the Rudd Government to do something about the plight they are in.”

“We know that pensioners are struggling immensely with the rising cost of living, the Prime Minister and senior ministers of the Rudd Government have admitted that they couldn’t live on $273 a week and yet they refuse to act,” Senator Coonan said.

“The Government’s embarrassment was obvious in that the vote was carried by the voices with just a whimper of dissent, leaving a red faced Labor Government.”

“I call on the Rudd Government to not let the Bill die in the House of Representatives,” Senator Coonan said.