Independent Senator Andrew Wilkie and I met yesterday to discuss the many problems over sixty’s have in this country. As usual, I went to this meeting with eyes wide open and expecting, once again, to be disappointed. Not so.
Mr Wilkie was, to say the least a refreshing surprise. I had been trying to ‘gain an audience’ with him for some time but mix ups prevented it and he was the first politician I have spoken to this year that actually knew how to say sorry. For over an hour we sat and talked while his assistant Kate took notes and commented on issues. She was obviously well informed on over sixty issues.
To my surprise, before I had addressed the 12 questions I earlier this year sent to the Prime Minister, Andrew Wilkie initiated the conversation with his concerns over some of the issues I had mentioned in those questions. He had major concerns with housing, the problems at Centrelink and the poverty which is fast consuming many Australians, particularly pensioners with single pensioners as a priority.
Mr Wilkie believes that for the government to expect the majority of over sixties to work till they are seventy is unrealistic. Apart from anything else, people over fifty in this country find it difficult to gain employment, was his argument.
Mr Wilkie is of the opinion that Australia is a wealthy country, contrary to what we hear from the PM. He believes that we could have a health system through Medicare as good, if not better than the very successful UK system. He says our country could afford it without bodies like pensioners being targeted. He believes the pension is almost impossible to live on and believes Australia could raise it to acceptable levels.
Recently the Senator has taken to the media to express his concerns for pensioners. He heads to Parliament shortly where he has voiced some of these concerns with the Mr Turnbull and stated my visit was timely as he will continue with these concerns at his next sitting.
Mr Wilkie is a member of Parliament closer to the age of pensioners than many. He has spent many years in politics and served many years in the Australian Armed Forces. He never wavered or looked away when he was conversing with me. He was sure of his responses to me and listened intently.
My mission was to discuss the over sixty population but I had the impression that Andrew Wilkie was a man of the people of this country no matter what gender or age. He has also assured me that he would be looking into the assault accusations being raised at universities.
I came away from this meeting with a personal liking of this politician and a strong belief that he was committed to the issues I had questioned him about. As he said, he cannot promise to magically fix these problems but he promised to give it a good try to at least start righting these things. I have been assured he will start with the next session he attends in Canberra and he will not give up the fight.
By the way, I did receive a standard form letter from the office of the PM saying they would get back to me. They never did.
He left me with a handshake and a promise to keep me informed. Thank you Mr Wilkie.
Update: Fran received an email from Senator Wilkie’s office which included a the following drafted notice of motion:
MEMBER FOR DENISON: I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move that this House:
Acknowledges the need to boost the Age Pension as the current payment rates are inadequate;
further acknowledges that the Single rate of Age Pension is particularly inadequate as single people often have to deal with the entirety of household expenses, which are rapidly becoming more and more unaffordable;
according to recent research by the Australian Council of Social Service, and the Social Policy Research Centre, 13.9 per cent of Age Pension recipients are living below the poverty line; and
according to a recent poll by the Sunday Tasmanian, 74 per cent of Tasmanian pensioners run out of money each fortnight and 61 per cent go without necessities including fresh food; and
calls on the Government to immediately increase the Age Pension rate and specifically to address the unique challenges faced by single pensioners.