Australia: Pensioners’ Plight & Fight


Extracts

Pensioners strip off over Budget

The pensioners were protesting against their treatment in the Federal Budget. (ABC News)

Angry pensioners stripped off in the heart of the Melbourne CBD today to protest against their treatment in the Federal Budget.

The aged pensioners were part of a group of about 150 people, who gathered at the intersection at Flinders and Swanston streets, to protest against their treatment in the Federal Budget.

They managed to disrupt traffic for about 15 minutes, before being moved by police to the steps of Flinders Street Station.

The pensioners want the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to increase their funding.

Patricia Reeve from the Fair Go for Pensioners Coalition says the pension rate should be increased from 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, to 35 per cent.

“We’re delighted they’ve announced a review of pensions, but people want to make the point that you can’t live well on the pension,” she said.

“The country’s doing well, we want a fair share.”

Among those taking off their shirts, was Family First Leader Steve Fielding.

“Australia’s 3.5-million pensioners are overlooked Australians, and are really struggling to make ends meet living off the pension,” Senator Fielding said.

“Pensioners have no voice and are left to survive on a meagre allowance each week that most people would never manage on,” he said.

“They are buckling under the pressure of higher petrol and grocery prices.”

“We’re struggling,” said pensioner, John.

“You have to stand up for your rights, pensioners are the silent majority,” he said.

“Two-hundred and 70 bucks a week, who can survive on that, this gentleman here, an ex builder, he has to sell all his possessions to make do, he worked all his life and he has to sell it to survive.”

Ms Reeve says people are fed up.

“We had great hopes of a new Government,” she said.

“We’re delighted they’ve announced a review of pensions, but people want to make the point, that you can’t live well on the pension.”

She says today’s protest is part of an ongoing campaign.

‘Policy review’

Meanwhile Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin says the Government has boosted support to more than 19,000 extra carers and the Opposition has promised nothing.

“No reference to doing anything for pensioners, no reference to doing anything for carers… no commitment from them to do anything about supported accommodation,” Ms Macklin said.

“These are all measures by the Government determined to deliver and Brendan Nelson was completely silent on them last night.”

Dr Nelson has told Fairfax radio he wants to make more announcements for pensioners before the next election.

“I can understand some of your listeners saying that for example I could have said or announced more last night in relation to pensioners,” he said.

“We’ve still got two and a half more years to go in this electoral cycle but I can assure you that when we go to the people for the next electoral cycle you will see policies in relation to pensioners which will bring more justice to them.”

Meanwhile the Federal Opposition’s Aged Care spokeswoman, Margaret May, has caused a problem for the Coalition leadership by announcing a push to increase the pension without telling Dr Nelson.

Ms May says the Opposition is now endorsing an increase in the base rate of the aged pension, but Dr Nelson did not mention it during his Budget reply speech.

The Opposition’s Treasury spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, has told Fairfax radio’s Steve Price he does not know about it either.

“She is proposing a new policy and she is the shadow minister for ageing and she’s obviously a very important member of the team, but I think – as she said to you herself – it wasn’t something that’s been agreed to by the leader,” Mr Turnbull said.

“She said it was policy, well, we are in Opposition and we are reviewing all of our policies.”