Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

Age Pension

I too am pleased to rise today to speak to this very important matter of public interest and to join my whip colleagues today. Those in the chamber may not have noticed that all three whips from this side of the House are speaking on the MPI today. It is a collegiate affair because all three of us are really concerned about the impacts this government's cruel budget is having all the way across Australia.

We have heard a lot today in this MPI from those opposite about a scare campaign and a fear campaign. I have a fairly important observation to share on the notion of a fear campaign. The first thing I would say to those opposite is that I did not need to contact a pensioner in my electorate the day after the budget. The pensioners in my community, particularly those on the disability support pension, are not fools. They are very insulted by the impugning that they are somehow foolish, that they are somehow gullible, that they somehow cannot think for themselves, and that they cannot tell the difference between a policy that will choose the higher increase to the pension and one that is fixed and fixed to what, over time—given past experience—will prove to be the lesser of the two. Pensioners are by no means fools. As we on this side of the House rightly know, they will campaign. They will stand up. They will watch a budget speech. They will read a budget. They will find out where the cruel cuts are coming from, as they did in May last year.

This cruel budget lives on beyond anyone's memory of the life of a budget—to month 11. It is six weeks out from the second budget and we are still talking about the cruel cuts in this budget. Today we on this side are talking to what that budget has in store for pensioners across this country. It is not good news. It is not good news at all. Professor Peter Whiteford, an independent analyst, says that the value of pensions will drop from 28 per cent of average weekly earnings today to 16 per cent of average weekly earnings in 2055.

I know many pensioners in my electorate, and I do not know any of them who would be comfortable in thinking that they are going to be living on 16 per cent of average weekly earnings. Of course, weekly earnings impact on the cost of things as well, so we can imagine that as time goes on, and if we continue on the never-ending increase of the CPI—if it continues to go up the way that it has—that their spending capacity will be very reduced.

In my electorate I have over 11,000 aged pensioners and I have 5,000 disability support pensioners, and I want to spend a bit of time speaking about them today. I want to tell the House, again, about Ms Wen Jian, who approached me days after this cruel budget. She is 46 years of age and she has lived 30 years suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. This is not a leaner; this is someone who worked in our community for as long as she could work with this debilitating disease and she now volunteers three days a week.

I heard the member for Shortland mention the value of volunteers—our pensioners—in the community. I would like those opposite to stop and to think about the unpaid labour they do in our community, how valuable they are to the Australian population and how valued they should be.

Of course, we heard a lot: from the very beginning the Treasurer talked about the 'age of entitlement'. I think the agenda here is to wipe out the 'age of dignity' for our aged pensioners, for a disability support pensioners and for our carers. On this side, we would like to see a reverse of these cuts. We ask the minister, please: go home tonight and study, practice and learn to roll his eyes! He could then go back to that razor gang, see if he could do a really good eye roll and get this cut reversed.

The pensioners of Australia will campaign with us and we will campaign with them every day until the next election to avoid these cruel cuts. You cannot pull the wool over pensioners eyes and you cannot pull the wool over our eyes.


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