Pension cuts

Ms WELLS (Lilley) (10:19): Pensioners in my electorate of Lilley are sick of being disrespected and treated like a burden by the Morrison government. Over the last eight years, we've seen this government try to cut the pension again and again and again. In 2014, the LNP government of the day cut $80 from the pension with the removal of the indexation, cut $900 with the axing of the seniors' supplement for self-funded retirees and cut $1 billion from pensioner concessions. In 2015, the LNP government changed the assets test, cutting as much as $12,000 a year for some pensioners. In 2016, the LNP cut the pension for around 190,000 pensioners who wanted to enjoy their retirement by limiting the amount of time that they are allowed to travel. That same year, they cut the pension by scrapping the energy supplement for new pensioners. Then, in 2020, the Morrison government stopped pensioners from getting the support that they need during COVID by freezing their pensions.

When it comes to this government and the pension, the reality is that anything is possible. The Morrison government has a habit of telling retirees and pensioners one thing and then sneaking through changes that hurt them. Pensioners in my electorate of Lilley are extremely concerned about some very odd and carefully-chosen language being used by the Morrison government about the cashless debit card. They know that the minister wants to roll it out nationally. Pensioners in Lilley know that making the cashless debit card the cashless pension card—mainstream—will mean that pensioners will lose freedom of choice about where they can spend their money and what they can spend their money on. The rollout of a cashless pension card in my community means pensioners might not be able to buy a meal at the Kedron-Wavell RSL or the Edinburgh Castle Hotel or the Geebung RSL or the Sandgate RSL because RSLs also sell beer and some of them have pokies. Retirees and pensioners have worked hard their whole lives and have helped build this country. They do not deserve to be treated like welfare cheats by this government.

The federal government had three key responsibilities to protect the health and safety of Australians through COVID: aged care, international border quarantine and vaccines. Yet, somehow, they have managed to either shift their responsibilities to the state governments or completely bungle what they'd allocated to themselves.

Healthcare workers at the Prince Charles Hospital in my electorate have had to take on the responsibility of vaccinating aged-care workers because the Morrison government refused to vaccinate them in their own workplaces at the time when the residents were being vaccinated. Sydney is now on the precipice of going into a lockdown. The responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the Prime Minister, and he should not attempt to shrug it off.

Australians have looked after each other, stood together and kept each other safe. And they expect more from this government, which continues to be incompetent, at best, on the essential work of the vaccine rollout.