Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Pensions, Prime Minister’s travel


JENNY MACKLIN: This morning Malcolm Turnbull, the new Leader of the Opposition, has demonstrated yet again that he is out of touch with the needs of Australian pensioners and he doesn’t even understand his own policy. When he was being interviewed by Laurie Oakes on Channel 9 this morning Mr Turnbull said that his pensions policy applied to all single pensioners. But when you look at the notice of motion that the Liberals are moving in the Senate tomorrow, in fact it only applies to single age pensioners and veterans. It does not apply to carers, it does not apply to people on the disability support pension, it doesn’t apply to widows, and it doesn’t apply to the millions of couples who are on pensions, who are dependant on pensions. Mr Turnbull is leaving out and ignoring the needs of 2 million pensioners in Australia and he doesn’t even understand that that’s his policy. It’s time Mr Turnbull recognised that this is a very complex matter. The government intends to get it right. We have already delivered a significant increase in the Utilities Allowance, an increase from $107 to $500. The third quarterly payment of that Utilities Allowance is being paid this week, that’ll be around $128 that pensioners will receive. And for the first time this government has extended that increased Utilities Allowance to carers and people on the disability support pension, as well as age pensioners.

JOURNALIST: It is a worthy idea to include veterans in the policy?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s very important that the needs of veterans are included, but why is Mr Turnbull ignoring the needs of carers? Is he saying that a carer doesn’t need the support of an increase in the pension? Is Mr Turnbull saying that somebody on the disability support pension doesn’t need an increase in the pension? The government understands that each of these different groups, whether they are single age pensioners, couples, carers, people on the disability support pension, veterans, they are all needing attention. That’s why we have made sure that each of them has received a significant increase in the Utilities Allowance. The third quarter of that increase will be paid this week and pensioners will also receive the increased fortnightly payment this week that comes from indexation. For single pensioners that is equivalent to $15.30 a fortnight.

JOURNALIST: The non-inclusion of carers, is it a demonstration of policy on the run maybe?

JENNY MACKLIN: This really is yet another demonstration of policy on the run. We can see from the Senate motion last week, the first motion the Liberals put in on 17 September was different from the motion that is now on the notice paper from 18 September. Goodness knows what they’ll put in tomorrow. This is policy on the run from the Liberal Party. Playing politics with pensioners is really about as low as you can go. So I’d call on Mr Turnbull to join with the government to make sure we get this right. He has said that he supports the major review that the government is undertaking into pensions, let’s make sure we do the right thing by pensioners, do this inquiry properly, and that way we’ll make sure that pensioners are better off.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

JENNY MACKLIN: Pensioners are receiving relief right now, and just this week they’ll receive the third quarterly increase in the Utilities Allowance. The government increased the Utilities Allowance earlier this year and we’re paying it in quarterly instalments, the third quarterly instalment comes this week. Pensioners can expect to receive around $128 in their pension packets this week and that will be extended, as the government decided, to carers and people on the disability support pension as well as veterans and age pensioners. It is very important that we provide this support while we do a major inquiry because we do recognise that pensioners are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister’s making another overseas trip this week. Why is it necessary for him to go overseas again?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is a critical time for the international economy. It is very important for the Prime Minister to be able to meet personally with some of the most senior people who are responsible for the economic management, particularly of the banking sector, in the United States. This is a very, very important time for the Australian economy, for the jobs of Australians, and the Prime Minister recognises how critical it is that he has face to face discussions with the people who are making decisions that affect so many people’s lives.