Age pensioners had cause for concern over the weekend, after a News Corp article incorrectly claimed that the Government would cut Age Pensions in the next Budget.
Malcolm Turnbull quickly took to Twitter to deny the claims and reject the report “outright”.
“A report today that the government is cutting the aged pension is false and we outright reject it,” he tweeted.
“We assured the journalist too, but she insisted on writing the story.”
“I can assure all aged pensioners the measure reported will NOT be in the Budget.”
Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the article was “citing a departmental document, in regards to minimum payments in the welfare system” and that the leaked document was “no more than a suggestion put forward by a department and immediately rejected by the Government, as the journalist responsible for the article was advised.”
“A minimum payment floor will not be applied and there will be no change to current rules that provide pensioners on the taper rate with a minimum payment of approximately $50 per fortnight,” said Mr Porter.
The article, written by Annika Smethurst, National Political Editor of The Sunday Telegraph, claimed that a leaked document revealed that the Government was considering cutting welfare for those earning less than $20.02 a fortnight.
The proposal to cut all welfare payments below $20.02 would mainly affect pensioners who had reorganised their finances in order to receive a pensioner concession card.
If the move were to go ahead, many pensioners would lose concessions on expenses such as motor vehicle registration, drivers’ licences and council rates.
The article also started another spat between Mr Turnbull and Labor leader Bill Shorten.
“And sadly, I can also assure you that you can always rely on Bill Shorten to lie,” tweeted Mr Turnbull.
To which Mr Shorten replied in a tweet of his own: “Your government. Your costing. Your cuts. Stop blaming everyone else.”
Mr Shorten called Mr Turnbull’s attack on him a “tweet meltdown” and said it seemed that was the way the PM ended every public conversation.
“Mr Turnbull is showing, I think, signs of pressure. If you can’t cope with the pressure, you shouldn’t blame Labor. Instead, he should focus on the needs of everyday Australians. That’s my focus.”
Read more at The Australian
The writer of this story may have jumped the gun a little, but the fact remains that talks of cutting the Age Pension were on the table, revealing that the Government still has its sights set on reducing or removing financial support from those who can least afford it.
Why the Government is still trying to milk what it can from pensioners is beyond comprehension.
There is speculation that, this week, the Government will announce the scrapping of the Energy Supplement, which will mean $14.10 less per fortnight to single pensioners or $365 a year, or $21.20 less per fortnight for couples (around $550 a year).
The Government is prepared to offer corporate tax cuts worth tens of billions, but it’s still looking at the idea of removing financial support from the lowest-income earners in the nation.
It’s more proof of a Government focused on looking after big business at the expense of everyday Australians.
Mr Turnbull should be commended for immediately setting the record straight. This not only set pensioners’ minds at ease, but was also a savvy political move that limits Labor’s ammunition as they head into the last two weeks of Parliament prior to the May Budget.
However, using a costing made by his Government as a launching pad for a personal assault on Bill Shorten seems unnecessary and illogical. Why is it that Liberal Party mistakes are somehow consistently blamed on Labor?
Regardless of the outcome, the Government still seems to be aiming at the little guy, instead of targeting the big end of town. The proposal to cut the Age Pension may have been knocked back, but it should be a cause for concern that it was even discussed.
Do you wonder why a proposal to cut the Age Pension is even on the table? Is the Liberal Party becoming more a ‘party of pension cuts’? Should Twitter be used as a medium for communication by our nation’s leaders?