SOCIAL SERVICES AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT SENIOR SUPPLEMENTS CESSATION BILL 2014
SPEECH TO THE PARLIAMENT
THURSDAY, 2 OCTOBER 2014
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In rising to speak on this bill, I can advise the people of Australia of good news and bad news.
Let me turn to the good news first of all.
Nearly five months ago, in my Budget reply on behalf of the Labor Party and the people of Australia, I gave a solemn pledge to Australia’s pensioners.
At this very despatch box, I said:
Labor will not surrender the security of your retirement.
We will fight for a fair pension – and we will prevail.
Today, we have most certainly prevailed.
Today, Labor keeps faith with 3.7 million pensioners.
We’ve kept our promise to Australians who have worked hard all their lives, who’ve paid their taxes all their lives – who have made a contribution to our communities, to our nation, to their own families.
In the five months since the Hockey-Abbott Budget, my colleagues and I have travelled the nation talking with older Australians.
And they are worried.
They are deeply worried about the effect of this Government’s plan to cut up to $80 a week from their pension.
They know this Government lied to them before the last election. They promised, right up to the very end of the election period, there would be no cuts to pensions.
Now they are worried that because of Prime Minister Abbott and Treasurer Hockey and the gang who sit in government, they won’t be able to afford to cool their home in summer and heat their home in winter.
They’re worried that they won’t be able to buy their grandkids a treat, take their pet to the vet.
Let’s be clear, these Australians that Labor fights for don’t think that the world owes them a living.
They don’t seek a life in the lap of luxury.
They don’t live on a king’s ransom.
These Australians that Labor fights for have worked for everything that they have got – and it’s their hard work which has made our nation great.
They have stood up to the Abbott Government’s plan for cruel cuts to their security and to their dignity.
They have prevailed.
I say on behalf of Labor to the pensioners of Australia – this is your victory over Minister Kevin Andrews and Tony Abbott.
This is your victory – and this is the Government’s defeat.
Today the Government has finally faced up to the reality.
They have faced the facts – this Prime Minister has no mandate for his cruel cuts to pensions, and no amount of head shaking from the Minister can make black, white. There is no mandate.
Tony Abbott’s broken promises to Age Pensioners, Disability Support Pensioners, Carer Payment recipients and Veterans have been exposed and defeated.
And let me just say at this point, my congratulations to our Shadow Spokesperson for Pensions and Families, Jenny Macklin, Member for Jagajaga.
Every political party in Australia wishes they had one like her, but Labor does. Thank you and well done.
And what she and all my colleagues behind me have done, is expose the plot of the Abbott Government to take $23 billion away from the age pension over the next 10 years.
They have exposed this plot. Question Time after Question Time, the Opposition has asked the Prime Minister – why are you cutting the indexation rate of pensioners?
And all this mealy-mouthed mob opposite ever do is they say, ‘pensions go up’. What a cheap stunt this mob opposite are, they think the people are as stupid as they believe them to be.
We all know that by reducing the indexation rate of pensions, they are cutting the real pension up to $80 a week.
And no matter how often that rotten bunch of twisters opposite say these things, it doesn’t make it true.
And I love this mob opposite – they are always saluting the flag, they’re at every parade possible. They love our veterans, they say, except when it comes to the veterans’ pensions.
It is Labor who has stopped a $65 million cut to war pensioners.
There are 280,000 people receiving a pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs; 140,000 service pensioners; 84,000 war widow and widower pensioners.
These pensioners were going to be up to $80 per week worse off over the next 10 years but Labor has won the battle for them.
Just as they’ve represented this country, we’ve kept faith with the contract that we should be looking after them in their later years.
And we’ve stopped the plot to increase the age pension eligibility age to 70.
This mob opposite say ‘well, we’re all living longer, so everyone should work longer.’ What a bunch of rotten twisters.
The biggest injury this mob opposite will ever face will be a paper cut. And yet they ask every other Australian whose bodies may be weary and worn out to keep working.
To show the rottenness of increasing the minimum retirement age to 70, it will mean that we’ll have the highest pension age across the OECD.
Why is it that this is a Government who always asks the most vulnerable to do the hardest and heaviest lifting?
If we’d used this tortured analogy of that windbag Treasurer Hockey about ‘lifters and leaners’, the lifters are everyone in Australia, except the Liberal Party – they’re just the leaners, sitting opposite.
And when they talk about lifting the eligibility age to 70, they’re so incompetent that they can’t even work out that most workers compensation jurisdictions only go to the age of 65 or 67.
So they want people to work til 70, yet they’ve made no provision to lift workers comp, making it impossible to employ many people to the age of 70.
But that’s a mere detail for these dilettantes opposite – they would know how real people earn their money.
And then of course there’s the Family Tax Benefit B changes.
Because of Labor more than 700,000 single income and single parent families will not lose their Family Tax Benefit B over three years as a result of these savage cuts Tony Abbott tried to inflict upon families, merely because their youngest child is over 6 years old.
There are 700,00 single income and single parent families who are going to have their payments kept safe because of the Labor party.
And of course, one of the meanest dog-whistles, and this is again a Government addicted to dog-whistles – they’ve never seen an issue they can’t get the dog-whistle out on – their attack on young job seekers.
We know they love to demonise and stigmatise groups in this community. That’s a topic, I suppose, for a later time.
But what they’re doing with young job seekers under the age of 30, is they’re so enamoured with dividing this society they want young people to go six months without an income.
We saw people desert the sinking ship of this idea on the weekend. We don’t know if it was an elegant leap from the Minister Social Services, where he said it wasn’t him.
Well, who was it? Who was it? This is not a game of Cluedo Government.
We know who it was, we don’t need to have the guessing games.
It was the Treasurer and the Prime Minister.
I don’t know if they’ve sent the Minister for Social Services up as a patsy, if he’s their bunny, or if his their brain surgeon.
Whatever the description, the outcome’s the same.
They wanted to attack young job seekers.
So there’s 100,000 young people who will not have to face six months of poverty.
We know that their plan is not earn or learn – it’s earn or learn or starve.
They want to create a divided society where our young are sleeping over the grates to get warm, where they’re begging, where they’re forced to do even worse things to make ends meet.
They love families so much they want to privatise the cost of people back to families to the age of 30.
It is an absolute disgrace and Labor has stood them up.
What I said though is there is good news and there is bad news.
The good news is that Labor, being a strong opposition, has looked the Government in the face and we have not blinked.
We have seen the worst they can throw at Australian pensioners and we have prevailed on behalf of Australian pensioners.
But unfortunately there is one dirty deal that is still sneaking through because of the Liberal’s addiction to lecturing us on working with the Greens, but they can’t wait to slip out behind the bike shed and do a deal with the Greens.
And the dirty, dirty deal they’ve done with the Greens – and you don’t have to look too sad, Kevin, it’s probably not your brainchild either – but they’ve done a deal with the Greens, I’m afraid to say, to scrap the seniors supplement.
That’s anyone who has a Commonwealth Seniors card.
This is a Government who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
As of last month, annual payments for people who are eligible for Commonwealth seniors health card were worth $886.60 for singles and over $1,300 for couples.
Just so we clear up who these forensic detectives are chasing down the welfare burrow: to be eligible for this you have to earn less than $50,000 a year; you are not someone who is getting a pension, but people earning less than $50,000 a year in their older years who do not get a pension are not that well off, but they are obviously too rich for the taste of these Liberals opposite.
What a shame they don’t have $2 million in super, then they would get a kickback from this Government.
And what is happening is that the couples who earn less than $80,000 a year, do not get a pension.
There are 280,000 people – once upon a time this arrogant mob opposite might have said, 'These are the Liberal heartland.' Not any more, ladies and gentlemen, not any more.
The next payment was due on 20 December. This is a Government who has succeeded with the Greens – because the Greens do not necessarily understand how middle-income Australia lives; their voting base sometimes is the well-off too.
But what we see here is an unholy coalition of the extreme right and the Greens combining to mug 280,000 Australians.
Don't you love this silent Minister for Immigration at the table, head buried in his notes.
What a disgraceful deal, and no doubt there are people in your electorate, courtesy of your deal with the Greens, who are going to be losing money.
Well done, Scott; another good day at the office.
As I said, there is good news and there is bad news.
We have the dirty deal done with the Greens and the Liberals.
I know they do not do—of course, why did I know they would do a deal with the Greens? Because Tony Abbott promised they would not do it before the last election.
How do you know Tony Abbott is making a promise he is going to break? You watch his lips move.
What we say to pensioners in Australia is that unfortunately Joe Hockey, a bit like that Japanese lieutenant who was found in the mountains of the Philippines in 1974, he’s never going to give up the war.
He is never going to give up the war against the pensioners.
The Treasurer sees his Budget as a war on pensioners.
I am afraid to say that this morning this arrogant Government, this most arrogant, out of touch Government, this most arrogant and out of touch Government, has again tabled legislation seeking to resuscitate all of these dreadful cuts, which we have stopped this time.
They want to bring it on again. They are an arrogant Government.
They are refusing to accept the verdict of the Australian people.
If Labor were being selfish, we would say it is a good thing they have brought them on because it keeps reminding Australians what they are like.
But I actually wish this Government would stop torturing and hurting 3.7 million pensioners and making them unsure about their income security.
Now the Treasurer has said that he will not give up his war.
Give up his war? Who is this man to say he is at war with Australia's pensioners?
That is not why people voted for him.
The Prime Minister yesterday in Question Time—not once, not twice, but on eight different occasions—said he was committed to all of his broken promises.
He was committed to making sure that they would try this stunt of attacking ordinary people, average-income earning people, pensioners; he would keep trying it and trying it.
And of course the Finance Minister did not want to be left out of this farce. He stands by it too.
But when the Government unveiled their attacks on pensions, we said that if they wanted to rip away the pension they would have to come through the Labor Party.
You would have to come through the Labor Party, we said.
All Australians know that the Liberal Party and their country proxies, the Nationals, have tried their best to come through the Labor Party to attack 3.7 million pensioners.
But I can report to the Parliament and to Australia, they have failed on this occasion.
We have met them and we have defeated them.
And we will make clear again that this Government's retreat on this destroys the credibility of the Budget and it destroys the credibility of the Prime Minister.
It has taken the Prime Minister more than four months to realise that this unfair Budget was not going to wash with Australians.
It took Labor four minutes; it took Australians four minutes.
But make no mistake: these arrogant characters who sit opposite, who believe they have a born to rule mentality to make whatever decisions they can, inflicting pain and hurt on ordinary Australians, are introducing these measures again.
Tony Abbott wants to cut your pensions.
Tony Abbott wants to cut the funding to schools and the funding to hospitals.
He wants to cut billions from schools and hospitals.
He wants to increase your taxes.
He has not given up on his GP tax.
He wants to make you pay more for going to the doctor when you are sick.
The real solution to defeating these people and their rotten measures is not just defeating their legislation, as we have on this occasion, it is to defeat Tony Abbott.
As long as Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party occupy the benches of government and occupy the seat of the Prime Minister, Australians will always have to fear these people coming after their pensions.
We did not ask the Liberals to make pensions an election issue. We did not ask them to do that, but they have and so we will answer them and we will prevail.
Do not look at what this Prime Minister says, look at what he does.
He breaks his promises. He lied to people before the election.
They have their plans for Australia—their rotten, nation-dividing, impoverishing plans, picking on the vulnerable, unfair changes without a mandate—they have them in the top drawer.
They have not put them in the bin.
What Australia needs to do is put Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party in the bin of election politics, because that is the only way we will stop these people.
Look at the Minister for Immigration giving me one of his stares. Is it the 'Minister for Homeland Security' now—whatever your title. We had better check with the Foreign Minister, sunshine.
Returning to the topic, the current Prime Minister— we could call you the alternative Liberal Prime Minister—whatever you want to be called.
But what I say to you here is that we will fight these changes.
Today we have had a victory and pensioners have had a victory.
Today the Government has retreated in the face of public disapproval and the combined weight of outrage and the voice of ordinary people, and if we want to defeat these pension changes again—which they are so eager, so hungry to bring on—then we will defeat them at the election.
Make no mistake, Australia, this Government wants to cut the indexation rate of pensions.
They want to cut the rate of pension payments to veterans.
They want to change the payments which go to young people under the age of 30 looking for work.
They want to go after family tax benefit payments to hundreds of thousands of Australians.
This is a Government that has no plans for the future other than dividing this country, making the vulnerable pay more, and creating a lack of confidence in the high street of Australian small businesses, by their attacks on the pensions.
The good news is that we have won today, and the better news is that at the next election we will hold this Government to account and we shall succeed in our arguments there too.
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