Question without notice - Senior Australians
Mr PITT: My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services. Will the minister update the House on how the government is supporting retirement incomes for pensioners and elderly Australians and helping those who want to stay in the workforce keep more of their income? Is the minister aware of any alternative ideas that would not protect the incomes of pensioners and retirees in this way?
Mr FLETCHER (Minister for Families and Social Services): I thank the member for Hinkler, who is a very strong champion of older Australians. In fact, there are 28,000 age pensioners in Hinkler. He stands up for them. He's determined to support them. On this side of the House we are supporting retirees. That's why we passed legislation just last week. The pension work bonus, the amount you can earn each fortnight before it reduces your pension, increased from $250 to $300 a fortnight—promised, delivered, done. There is the pension loans scheme, giving people the option to borrow against their home and to draw down a fortnightly amount paid through Centrelink. There are more options. We are supporting people in retirement, supporting retirees. This side of the House supports retirees.
I'm asked if there are any other approaches. It turns out that there is a very strong contrast, because the other side of the House, for some reason, is determined to drag down retirees rather than support retirees, as we on this side of the House are doing. If you have worked hard to accumulate a little bit of wealth to support yourself in retirement, Labor wants to hit you hard. In fact, 900,000 Australians will be affected by Labor's retiree tax. They'll lose $2,200 a year on average. That's not the only way that Labor will hit hard those who are working to provide for themselves in retirement. Labor is also attacking negative gearing. That is an attack particularly on middle-income Australians who use negative gearing to help them buy an investment property to prepare for their retirement years and to provide for themselves in retirement. Indeed, more than 40 per cent of people who claim deductions for rental properties are aged 45 to 59. They are squarely in Labor's sights.
There will be a very clear contrast at the next election. One side of the parliament, mysteriously, does not want to encourage middle-income Australians to work hard and accumulate some assets to help provide for themselves in retirement. If you own shares, Labor's franking credit changes are coming after you. If you own property, Labor's negative gearing changes are coming after you. If you've worked hard to build assets and provide for yourself in retirement, Labor wants to hit you. On this side we know that, if you do that, you're reducing the burden on the taxpayer of the age pension, and we want to thank you.