Opinion

‘I spoke to my local MP, and urge you to do the same’

Julie Collins, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health. Image: YouTube/Australian College of Nursing

On Tuesday I went to a community gathering organised by Julie Collins, the Federal Shadow Minister for Ageing. I asked her a few questions, as did many others there who were mostly over-60s. But rather than just ask the odd question, I decided to also send her a copy of the letter with questions I had sent the PM earlier this year – the letter that they advised me they would get back to me on and didn’t. Ms Collins was kind enough to send me back her answers today.

If you receive a letter from your local politician – federal or state – inviting you to one of these meetings, I would urge you to attend. The only way we will ever be counted is to be heard.

 

Hi Fran

It was great to meet with you and thanks for coming along to the event.

Regarding your letter to the Prime Minister, as I said I want to see a society that treats our older citizens with respect and dignity and that we provide information to citizens in a way that suits them so they are free to make informed choices about how they want to live their lives and the services they need to support them.

To answer your questions specifically:

Question 1: Why are we constantly made to look as though we are expecting handouts from the government? My understanding of our taxes way back then was to build an account to use for us in our senior years. Simplistic? Maybe, but you get the point.

I do not support the Turnbull Government calling people that rely on Government support payments ‘welfare recipients’. I repeatedly point out that the vast majority of people that receive these payments are older Australians that have contributed to our society.

Question 2:  Why when you are trying to cut the deficit do you target pensions while we constantly see the ‘entitlements’ government officials get?  Have you ever truly followed the life of a single or a married couple on a pension for a few weeks?

Labor has not supported the Turnbull Government’s attempts to cut the age pension, Newstart or the Disability Support Pension.

Question 3:  Do you and your ministers really understand that due to life, some of us have no choice but to live on a pension?

I certainly understand because I was a child whose parent relied on them for a time and several members of my immediate family have relied on government payments.  As a person who spent her early childhood in Bridgewater and Glenorchy I know it and I have lived it.

Question 4: Do you understand the toll it takes on a man’s body who has done physical work all his life? How do you expect him to keep working past 65?

I am concerned about the lack of understanding about how hard it is for people in manual work to continue working past 65 and I am concerned that the Turnbull Government wants to increase the age pension age to 70.  I am further concerned that someone may in the future try and increase the superannuation release age.

Question 5: Do you know what it is like to be out of work and nobody but an inept Centrelink department to turn to?

I have to admit to having been out of work for a short period of three months and found a job on my own. However I have had immediate family members unemployed for a substantial period of time relying on Newstart payments so I am aware of how tough it is.

Question 6: Have you ever gone without food to feed your children?

Thankfully no, but I have had food delivered to me by relatives when I was a single mum after a difficult separation.

Question 7: As a single female I would like to know do you understand that women over 60 face different hardships than men and married couples if you only have a pension to rely on.

I do understand and I have regular interactions with older Australians, female and male, my own relatives and have read various reports into the realities of individuals’ experiences.

Question 8: What are you going to do for those of us who don’t own our own home and find that rent is taking over half our income?

When last in Government Labor:

  • Produced “The Road Home”, a White Paper on homelessness and developed national strategies and targets to reducing homelessness
  • Committed to the Housing Help for Seniors Pilot
  • Invested $5.6 billion in the Social Housing Initiative which delivered around 20,000 new homes, funded repairs and maintenance to 80,000 more and sustained 9000 jobs through the Global Financial Crisis
  • Provided $6 billion to the states and territories for affordable housing
  • Negotiated the National Partnership on Homelessness which saw the Australian State and Territory Governments provided over $1 billion for reducing homelessness.
  • Established the National Rental Affordability Scheme which has provided 38,000 new affordable rental housing units. Labor’s NRAS was on track to deliver 50,000 new affordable rental dwellings and the level of demand was such that would have extended by a further 35,000.
  • Established the National Housing Supply Council
  • Appointed a dedicated Minister for Housing and Homelessness

In contrast the Abbott/Turnbull governments have:

  • Refused to address unfair distorting tax breaks for investors
  • Abolished the Housing Help for Seniors Pilot
  • Slashed homelessness funding under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness
  • Abolished the 1st Home Saver Account scheme
  • Closed the National Rental Affordability Scheme
  • Refused to act on advice about making the superannuation system and financial system more resilient
  • Defunded homelessness and community housing peak bodies
  • Failed to appoint a Housing Minister
  • Abolished the National Housing Supply Council

Labor’s plan to improve housing affordability, increase financial stability, reduce homelessness and boost jobs includes:

  • Reform negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions
  • Limit direct borrowing by self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) – there has been an 860% increase in limited recourse borrowing by SMSF’s in just 4 ½ years.
  • Facilitate COAG processes to introduce a uniform vacant property tax across all major cities
  • Establish a bond aggregator to increase investment in affordable housing
  • Boost homelessness support for vulnerable Australians by $88 million over 2 years
  • Achieve better results from the National Affordable Housing Agreement including planning reform, inclusionary zoning, and accelerated land release
  • Re-establish the National Housing Supply Council and reinstate a Minister for Housing.

Labor will develop further policy prior to the next election.

Question 9: What are you going to do to make sure as pensioners we get a fair go? Not in the future but now!

Holding the Turnbull Government to account and developing policies to address inequality in Australia as we head to the next election.

Question 10: When are you going to sit opposite me and people like me and give us the time to have these talks with you, to try and make you understand that we are still part of this community, we are older but not necessarily old or nearly dead?    

I try to do this as frequently as possible.

Question 11: When will you realise that appointing sometime to be Minister for the Aged who really has no idea what we go through won’t ever work?

I will try my very best to be a different Minister for Ageing  (NB: not Aged Care because Labor believes ageing should be seen in a more positive context)

Question 12: When will you stop putting us in the “too hard basket”?

I trust I don’t and I hope I won’t do this in the future.

Regards,

Julie

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Have you ever had a meeting or sent your local MP a letter? What do you think of these answers?

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