Abbott's pension lies

16 June 2015

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:53):  To the pensioners of Australia, I say that there is a very simple way to tell if this Prime Minister is lying to you: his lips are moving. No more and no fewer than nine times in the last election campaign, the Prime Minister of Australia said to the pensioners of Australia, 'There will be no change to the pension.' Now we know, from day one, whether it is the former pensions minister or the current pensions minister, they have been working away behind the scenes to cut the pensions of Australians.

Were it not for the hard work of member for Jagajaga, for the hard work of my colleagues on this side of the House, that original cut to the pension would have gone through this place. We are proud that we stopped that first pension cut, and we pay tribute to the member for Jagajaga for that effort. That is the good news, that we stopped that. The bad news is that they are back.

Mr Butler:  They had a plan B.

Dr CHALMERS:  They had a plan B in their drawer, as the member for Port Adelaide has just reminded us. What the pensioners of Australia need to understand is that all the members over there are voting for the following: a cut to almost 330,000 low-income pensioner households, and more than 90,000 pensioners off the pension entirely.

Government members interjecting—

Dr CHALMERS:  All of them that are chirping up now are voting for that change. An independent analysis shows that these cuts will affect half of all new retirees within 20 years. In my community I have 11,803 pensioners who will be hit by these brutal cuts. One constituent, who contacts me frequently about the pension assets test, expects to lose $150 a week from his part pension. That is nearly $8,000 a year.

In question time we got a real sense of what those opposite really think about the pensioners of Australia. We got it from the Prime Minister and we got it from Minister Morrison. When the mask slipped, when cuddly Minister Morrison disappeared, we got from Morrison and from Abbott the same thing—that the pensioners of Australia are some kind of welfare bludgers. We got this sense that pensioners who worked all their life, retired workers, are somehow lying around as lazy bludgers in our community. We reject that characterisation. We reject this re-run of their lifters and leaners rhetoric that went so badly for them last time.

The Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Services describe Labor as the welfare party for standing up for pensioners in our community. We are the party who stand up for people who work all their lives. We are the party who stand up for people who put their kids through school and university, who paid their taxes, who deserve some dignity in retirement—the retirees and veterans in this community, the people who deserve our support in this place. They will get it from us. They will never ever get it from you.

On this side of the House, from the member for Jagajaga all the way down, every member understands one thing: if you attack the pensioners of Australia, you attack Middle Australia itself. We say to the government that if you are fair dinkum about improving the budget bottom line, if you are fair dinkum about making the retirement income system in this country better, then take the member for McMahon's advice—we have done the work for you. We have got a plan on superannuation; we have put it on the table, and we said 'take it'.

Mr Bowen:  We could put it through tomorrow.

Dr CHALMERS:  We could put it through this parliament tomorrow, as the member for McMahon says. If you are fair dinkum about fixing retirement incomes in this country then we have done the work for you. If you  are not, if you want to keep defending a small number of people with a huge amount of super over the interests of 330,000 pensioners in Middle Australia, write to them all. Write to everyone in Australia. Write to the people in your electorates and tell them that your preference is to cut the pensions of 330,000 people, rather than fix the superannuation of a small amount of people.

We have got a very simple message for those opposite: get your hands out of the trouser pockets of the pensioners of this country; get your hands out of their handbags. Do not pocket the pension. Make sensible changes to the retirement income system in this country so that a small number of the wealthiest super accounts are fixed and so that we do not smash the retirement incomes of 330,000 good people, who have done the right thing their whole lives. They have paid their taxes, they have raised their kids, they have put them through school and uni—they deserve, and they will get from us, the respect and the dignity that they have earned in this community.