May 05, 2015

SUBJECT/S:  Tony Abbott’s broken promises on pensions; Tony Abbott must unreservedly drop his cuts to pension indexation


JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND PAYMENTS: Thanks very much everyone for joining us here today. I’m really pleased to be here in Launceston with Senator Helen Polley. Thank you Helen very much for inviting us to have pensioner forum here in Launceston and we’ve had a terrific group of pensioners, very concerned about the Government's changes in last year's Budget to the pension and of course very worried about what the Government has in store for them this year.

Before the last election, Tony Abbott said that there would be no changes to pensions, no changes at all. He broke that promise in last year's Budget when he announced very significant changes to the indexation of the pension. That would lead to an $80 a week cut over 10 years to the pension. $80 a week less in pensioners' pockets. So pensioners are understandably very angry with Tony Abbott about his broken promise, about this cut to pension indexation.

Today, we call on Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey to take those cuts to pension indexation out of the Budget and out of the Parliament. There is also speculation that the Government may be seeking to change the pension again, this time by changing the assets test.

Once again, I say to Mr Abbott, you promised before the last election there would be no changes to pensions. Keep your promise to pensioners.

REPORTER: What are your fears if there are changes made to the pension for those Australians who will be affected?

MACKLIN: My biggest fear is that pensioners will be worse off. How many part pensioners will lose their pension? How many pensioners will have their pension cut? Of course many pensioners are very worried about what this will mean for them.

REPORTER: Some of the pensioners will be determined to have wealth enough to pay their own way. Surely that money could be better spent to others who are more needy?

MACKLIN: At the moment none of us know what the Government's proposing. The Minister this morning, in the media, refused to even say whether or not the indexation cuts would be removed from the Budget and removed from the Parliament. So we’ll have to wait and see.

REPORTER: Will Labor support tightening the assets test for the part pension?

MACKLIN: As I have just said, we haven't seen any of these proposals. I am not going to comment on anything that we haven't seen. The Minister wasn't even prepared to confirm it. I just say to Tony Abbott you promised there would be no cuts to pensions. No changes to pensions. He should keep his promise.

REPORTER: Do you think it would be fairer to lower the assets test threshold than to change indexation?

MACKLIN:Tony Abbott made a very serious promise to pensioners before the last election. He said there would be no changes to pensions, none at all. So Mr Abbott broke his promise to pensioners in last year's Budget and he seems set to break that promise again in this year's Budget.

REPORTER: What would Labor be doing instead?

MACKLIN:Labor's recently announced that we do want to have a sustainable retirement income system and we want the whole system, superannuation and the pension, to be there for people in their retirement, to make sure people can have a comfortable retirement as they age. We have recently announced that we think that the concessions that go to very high income earners who have large superannuation accounts should be reduced. We think those superannuation tax concessions should be reduced for those very high income earners. We certainly don't want to see the sort of cuts to pension indexation that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey announced in last year's Budget.

REPORTER: Would Labor consider supporting any changes to the pension in this term even if it didn't come until the next term?

MACKLIN:Labor is not going to respond to media speculation. What we know is that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey put, in last year's Budget, a very significant change to pension indexation. That change would lead to a cut of $80 a week over the next decade to pensioners. We don't support it. We have fought very hard against it. We have opposed it in the Parliament and we will continue to oppose it.

REPORTER: How tough are some pensioners doing it in today's situation?

MACKLIN: It is very hard for some pensioners, particularly if you're on the full pension, the maximum rate of the pension, you don't have any other income, it is especially hard if you're renting in the private rental market. The last thing we want to do is anything that would hurt those pensioners who are doing it very hard.

REPORTER:Wouldn’t it be better to cut the pension for the rich people and give it a little bit more to the ones you're talking about now?

MACKLIN: What Labor did when we were in Government was significantly increase the pension, particularly for maximum rate pensioners, for those who were doing it the hardest. That is Labor's approach. We want to balance it out at the other end of the retirement income system, is we want to have less generous tax concessions for those people with very large superannuation accounts, so that is what we think is the fairest approach. Thank you.