Federal Budget impact on aged pensioners - speech in parliament

Mr GILES (Scullin) (09:36): I have spoken often in this place, indeed, at every opportunity on the impacts of this government's budget on our economy and on our community. I have also been speaking with and listening to Scullin constituents about their thoughts and concerns in relation to this budget. So I take this opportunity to give voice of one constituent, one of many.

Yesterday the effects of this government's cruel cuts and budget broken promises were brought into stark relief as a constituent on an age pension, Silvana, told me her story. It deeply affected me. When government members talk about their priorities reflecting tough choices, I say this: how tough was it to make this choice? Silvana is 67 years old and lives in Lalor. Her husband is in a nursing home with dementia and has Alzheimer's. His entire pension goes to his nursing home for his care. Silvana gets $700 a fortnight; she has to use $140 a month for her husband's medication as well as other expenses like clothes and occasional haircuts. The rest she has to live on.

Silvana has been volunteering at Peter Lalor Secondary College for 28 years. She has worked all of her life, most of it in factories. In fact, Silvana started working at a factory in Richmond when she was less than 12 years old. She has done more than her fair share of lifting. Both of Silvana's children are struggling with debt, trying to save money to buy their own houses and are in no position to offer their parents money. Silvana says she finds it difficult to pay her water and energy bills. She has no money in the bank, no money saved for her or her husband's funeral. She only occasionally goes to the cinema. She makes tough choices. As the opposition leader, the now Prime Minister promised there would be no changes to pensions but now wants to cut the pension and increase the retirement age. Australia's 2.3 million pensioners have every right to feel betrayed by the Prime Minister.

The current indexation system introduced by Labor helps the pension keep pace with the cost of living to maintain decent standards of living and keeps faith with our societal obligation to pensioners, supporting in their old age people who have worked hard all their lives. CPI is not an accurate reflection of pensioners' cost of living and will mean pensioners like Silvana have to get by on less. Had this new indexation system been in place for the last four years, a single pensioner on the maximum rate would be around $1,500 a year worse off than they are today.

Silvana wanted me to ask a question of the Prime Minister on behalf not just of her but on behalf of all pensioners in Victoria—and I suspect Australia. What are pensioners like her supposed to do when the pension is cut? This is the ultimate test: to walk mile in someone else's shoes. I doubt our self-described 'best friend of pensioners' would get very far in this regard. So, Silvana, let me be clear: I and the Labor Party will fight for a fair go for you and other pensioners. For us, this is not a tough choice.

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