Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (12:21): Yesterday, the Prime Minister told the House that this was the budget that the people of Australia voted for. How can this be? How can this be when before the election pensioners, over 50,000 of them in regions like the Illawarra and Southern Highlands, were told that there would be no changes to pensions—
A government member: There isn't!
Mr STEPHEN JONES: and then we see the detail of the budget. For the honourable members who interject, they might like to do what Mr John Tardiff has done—a pensioner from my electorate—and peel through the details of the budget papers. He contacted me a few weeks ago and he had this to say, 'An item in the budget has attracted little attention and will have a devastating effect on a great number of pensioners'. Not my words, but the words of a pensioner constituent.
John was talking about the Abbott government's covert plan to drastically alter our deeming rates. For singles, the threshold will be lowered from $46,600 to $30,000. For couples, it will be lowered from $77,400 to $50,000. These changes mean that more people will be deemed to have a higher rate of return, and significantly less pension will be paid to these part pensioners.
There was no press release from the government. I did not see a member from the government stand up in the House and say, 'This is a change that we are proud of'. Instead, they tried to sneak it through under the cover darkness, buried in hundreds of pages of budget papers, hoping the nobody would notice until it was too late. Well, pensioners are on to them. People can understand why the government would want to stay quiet on this because it is just one of many changes that they are seeking to push through which are going to betray 2.3 million Australian pensioners.
The Prime Minister will slash the current indexation system which keeps pensions in line with cost-of-living changes. If this change had been in place for the last four years, a single pensioner on the maximum rate would be about $1,500 a year worse off than they are today. Just imagine that. The Prime Minister wants to introduce a new GP tax and increase charges on pharmaceutical benefits, which will hit pensioners as well. On July 1 this year, the Prime Minister has also announced that he is going to abolish the national partnership agreement on certain concessions for pensioners and Seniors Card holders, putting more pressure on state governments, and local governments as well, who offer valuable concessions to thousands and thousands of pensioners in my electorate. Some premiers have said that they will be able to meet the debt over the short period of time but not over the long period of time. Pensioners are going to be whacked again. Pensioners in this country, in my electorate, have every reason to feel betrayed. There was not a word of it from the government before the election, but pensioners are on to it now.(Time expired)