INTERVIEW, 936 ABC AM HOBART, 20 MAY 2014

May 20, 2014


SUBJECT/S: TONY ABBOTT’S BROKEN PROMISE TO PENSIONERS, TONY ABBOTT’S CUTS TO PENSIONS, YOUNG JOB SEEKERS, AND FAMILIES

MACKLIN: This [the National Partnership Agreement on Certain Concessions for Pensioner Concession Card and Seniors Card Holders] is a National Agreement - or it was until last Tuesday when Tony Abbott ripped it up - where the Federal Government gives the States help to meet the cost of concessions to pensioners and seniors card holders for things like concessions on public transport, paying rates, water bills, electricity bills. That’s just being ripped up, $1.3 billion taken off the States. That’s worth around $9 million a year in Tasmania.

LEON COMPTON: Well people might think that’s harsh on the face of it. But these are all costs that are all essentially levied on State or Local Government. Why should the Federal Government be paying for it?

MACKLIN: Well it’s a contribution to the costs that pensioners face. This is a way that Federal Government’s over many years have helped pensioners with their cost of living so this is a direct hit on pensioners, on top of the change that the Federal Government’s going to make to the indexation of pensions in the future, so that too will mean pensions are effectively cut.

LEON COMPTON: It may mean that but in the narrative of re-casting the relationship between State and Federal Government, can you understand a Federal Government that says States are essentially responsible for power, administration and charges they should be responsible for any concessions that go to pensioners?  Rates are the responsibility of Local Government, if they want to offer concessions they should do it. Registration back on the State level, the same thing.

MACKLIN: Well the real issue for pensioners, and that’s who I’m worried about, is who is going to pay this cut? Is it going to be the State Government or it going to be Local Government or are pensioners going to have to pay more for getting on a bus or paying more for their rates or paying more for their water or power bills? That’s the question.

The Federal Government has just unilaterally abolished this agreement. It was a signed agreement it was signed and agreed by many previous Federal Governments and this Federal Government, Tony Abbott has just ripped out any say to either State or Local Government you pay or to Pensioners you’ll have to pay more for all these essential services.

LEON COMPTON: And we’ll ask pensioners to call in this morning. Explain the significance of this money, that helps with power bills or rates or rego to you. Give us a call this morning I’ll be interested to hear from you and what you’ll miss if it’s gone.

Jenny Macklin, should the States step in and pick up this $9 million cost?

MACKLIN: Well I think the Federal Government should stick to the agreement. It was signed by the Federal Government the Federal Government said it would give this $9 million a year to Tasmania to help pensioners. The Federal Government said there would be no change to pensions, no cuts to pensions. That was the promise Mr Abbott made before the last election. He’s not only abolishing this agreement with the States that will hurt pensioners. He’s also cutting the method of indexation for all pensions, the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment and so on. And that of course will mean very significant cuts to pensions in the future.

LEON COMPTON: Jenny Macklin, the Federal Government have said that they will cut with some exceptions, cut unemployment benefit access for people under 30 in Australia, Tasmania has the highest rate of youth unemployment in the country. Do you accept this will be the sharp shock that many long-term unemployed need to push themselves into the workplace?

MACKLIN: I think this is the harshest measure of all in the Federal Budget. Saying to a young person who can’t find a job, you will be off Newstart for up to six months, for up to six months, then you’ll go on Work for the Dole, then if you still can’t get a job you’ll go off Newstart again for another six months, what on earth does Mr Abbott think these young people are going to live on?

LEON COMPTON: What do you think they’re going to live on?

MACKLIN: I think they’ll be on the street and relying on charity because the Federal Government is washing their hands of responsibility to make sure we do everything possible to make sure we help these young people to get a job.

LEON COMPTON: I believe you’re talking this morning about some NATSEM modelling that we touched on a little yesterday relating to how the budget will impact families.

MACKLIN: That’s right it’s not only young people and older Australians who will be hit hard by this Budget. Also families, especially single income families just to give you an example a couple family. Mum and dad with a single income of $65,000 and two school age children will stand to lose around $6000 a year by 2016. So that’s a lot of money for a family on a middle income of $65,000 – that’s the real money that Tony Abbott is taking out of the pockets of those families.

LEON COMPTON: Should Tasmanians accept that this is part of the price that we will need to pay to restore the Federal Budget to surplus?

MACKLIN: Certainly not, I think Mr Abbot has shown that he is prepared to hurt low and middle income Australians whether they’re pensioners, young people looking for a job, families, especially families with a single income earner, are going to be hard hit by Tony Abbott’s budget. While those at the top of the income scale will have hardly any impact at all.

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