Speech - Private Members Business (Pension Deeming Rates)









I would like to say a few words about this important motion. I would like to compliment the contributions from the members for Lindsay and Macquarie, who clearly understand the importance of cost of living pressures, not only on full pensioners, but on part pensioners and of course on self-funded retirees. It does not matter where you look over the period of the Abbott-Turnbull government, there has been one common theme: a concerted attack on the living standards of pensioners and self-funded retirees, and a failure to recognise the importance of dignity in retirement for people who have worked hard all of their lives to make our country great.

Today I want to talk on behalf of the 17,000 full and part pensioners in my electorate that are being short-changed and attacked, year in, year out by the Liberals in this parliament. Of course Labor has historically been the party that has stood up for pensioners. We put in place the biggest single increase in the age pension in its history. We did that so that people on the single pension did not have to live in dire poverty. We put in place a scheme of compulsory superannuation, which has produced a savings pool of $2 trillion, because we understand the importance of a self-funded system, as well. What we understand, and those opposite do not understand, is the intersection between superannuation savings on one hand and the importance of being able to access the aged pension, either in full or in part, on the other.

What we have seen under the Liberal government has been an attack on the full age pension: an attempt to cut the indexation on the age pension by up to $80 a week over a decade—a massive attack on the living standards of many full pensioners as well as part pensioners with superannuation in savings. We have seen them attack indexation of the age pension and we have seen them attack pensioner concessions to the tune of $1.3 billion, and now they are seeking to short-change pensioners by failing to lower the deeming rate to reflect lower interest rates overall. The failure to do that shows how sneaky those opposite are. They want to crib away at the incomes of people who are on part pensions. That is why they want to make this sneaky, under-the-radar attempt to once again cut the income of full pensioners and part pensioners who have a modest level of savings. Remember this: in this low-interest-rate environment, income from a given level of savings is now far less than it was five years ago and a decade ago. Many people on what may appear to be substantial assets are receiving little income, and this government is out there ripping away the little income they are receiving from those assets. That is why the deeming rate is so important.

For a single age pensioner on a full pension of around $20,000 and with modest assets, failure to adjust the deeming rate means they could lose around $1,000 a year—$1,000 a year!—in pension income. Meanwhile, the government sits there and waves through massive tax avoidance by so-called respectable companies such as BHP. Under this government, millions of pensioners and part pensioners get their income cut while multinational companies get a tax cut. That is the priority of those opposite: attacking the incomes of those who have worked hard all of their lives by sneaky measures like this through their failure to adjust the deeming rates. That is why this motion today is so important.

Those opposite could not even martial a speakers list on something that is so important to the living standards of millions of Australians. They could not even get a speakers list together. There are a lot of people who are a lot worse off as a result of the refusal of the Minister for Social Services to adjust the deeming rate. This is not a mistake. He is not that stupid and he knows exactly what he is doing: by stealth, reducing the private income of people on some of the lowest incomes in our community. And this comes on top of the attempt to cut the base rate of the pension by $80. This is a government that is strong in attacking the weak and very, very weak in supporting the sorts of measures that need to be taken against multinational tax evaders and all of those who deserve to pay.