There are stories circulating today that the Prime Minister may put on the backburner his plan to raise the pension age to 70. Well, the backburner is not good enough. It should be clearly shelved altogether, scrapped. It is an attack on pensioners. It was always a bad idea, an offensive idea and Labor has opposed it from the get-go. A country like Australia should not have to keep its older Australians working to the age of 70, whilst giving a $50 billion tax cut to big business. Just think about it: working till 70. I know it might be okay if you are sitting around parliament, but, let me tell you, if you are working as a labourer, as a nurse, as a farmer, these jobs require substantial physical exertion.
Hardworking people in my electorate of Paterson keep saying to me: 'They must be joking. How are my knees going to keep going?' It is a slap in the face for Australians who have worked physically hard all their lives. They deserve respect; Labor think so. But an attack on older Australians is what we have come to expect, quite sadly, from the government. Every budget they try it on. It is very predictable.
Before the 2013 election, they promised no cuts to pensions. What a joke that was! Every single budget since, the Liberals have tried to cut the pension. They never miss a chance. To the Liberals, pensioners are second-class citizens. Pensioners in my electorate are still reeling from the changes to the assets test this year. They are furious at these farcical deeming rates. Tell me: who is getting the percentages that the government claim they are? No-one. They are still furious that the government will not do something about this, even though we keep hammering the point home.
I held a forum for seniors in Nelson Bay. I would have been happy if I got perhaps 100 people. Five-hundred people turned up that morning, and they covered a range of issues. They were busting to talk to me about what was on their mind. What would happen to their pension? What could they expect next? Did anyone in Canberra have the faintest idea of what it was like to try to make ends meet on the pension? Why was there no-one in Centrelink who could help them? Why could they never get through on the phone? Why does it take 10 weeks to get a Medicare refund? Why does it cost so much to go to the doctor? Now the government are preparing to throw pensioners under the bus to get their dubious childcare reforms passed. Only a Liberal government would try to sell cuts to family payments as a positive. Enough is enough. The government must start respecting our pensioners and stop treating them as they have.