Parliament is set to break on Thursday, and Federal Labor MPs have been instructed to use the time away to lobby against cuts to the Age Pension, campaigning on behalf of pensioners Australia-wide with the slogan: ‘Don’t Pocket Our Pension’.
And whilst Treasurer Joe Hockey claims, “We will get the budget back to surplus as soon as possible” he has not committed to a specific date when the budget will be closer to the black. Instead, Hockey says the focus of the next budget would be “to build a stronger Australian economy” with initiatives “focused on jobs, growth and opportunity”, which would include a small business package, childcare reform, infrastructure investment, free trade agreements, and integrity in the tax and welfare systems.
But what of the proposed cuts to the Age Pension?
The pension package is still regarded as core budget policy. The government believes it can save money by lifting the eligibility age to 70 and linking age pension increases to the consumer price index (CPI) from 2017 – as opposed to the existing arrangement of matching CPI or wages growth, depending on which is higher.
The Coalition has accused Mr Shorten of frightening pensioners about the government’s proposals to change the indexation rate. Yet Mr Shorten maintains that rather than his party being negative, it has simply spoken on behalf of the community, saying: “The failure of the last budget was not only because we said ‘no’; it was also because we won the argument in the community.”
“We’ve supported nearly $20 billion, or about $20 billion worth of their cuts – but there are some proposals which simply don’t deserve support…Imagine if Labor had been the rubber stamp that some in the Liberals want us to be? We’d have a GP tax now.”
Mr Shorten then challenged the government to rule out proposed cuts to the pension in the next budget: “We say on behalf of the pensioners of Australia, if the Liberal government can rule out cuts to foreign aid, why won’t they rule out cuts to the pension in the upcoming budget? We need to explain to pensioners that Tony Abbott is seeking to pocket their pension.”
The opposition declared on Tuesday that Abbott had deceived Australians, reminding the PM of his election eve promise of “no change to pensions”. Labor has put forward an ultimatum to the Coalition: “abandon these cuts, or Labor will take this fight right across Australia between now and the next election. We will remind Australia’s 3.7 million pensioners that Tony Abbott wants to leave them as much as $80 a week worse off within a decade.”
According to the Intergenerational Report released earlier this month, spending on age pensions and related services are projected to rise from 2.9 per cent of GDP in 2014–15 to 3.6 per cent in 2054–55. In the government’s 2014 budget ambitions, spending would decrease from 2.9 per cent to 2.7 per cent over the same time.
While the government is saying that this new budget will be ‘fairer’ and less exciting than the last one, it is still pushing its mandate to make pensions ‘more sustainable’, despite public outcry from older Australians against such changes and the patently unfair and inequitable consequences if they became law.
YourLifeChoices has joined forces with GetUp in a campaign to ‘Protect the Age Pension’, and stop the Abbott Government’s attacks on the living standard of older Australians. Why not get on board and sign the petition?
Read more about this at The Guardian.