The Fix Pension Poverty team were excited to follow the debate in Commonwealth Parliament after the Member for Mayo in South Australia, Rebekha Sharkie, introduced a motion in support of the campaign and calling on the Government to introduce measures to support older Australians experiencing poverty.
Dr Kirsty Nowlan, of The Benevolent Society, said:
"It’s heartening to see our friends in Parliament support the campaign to address the poverty experienced by too many people living solely the Age Pension.
“Our 2016 research showed that older Australians are being forced to choose between mashing food or finding money to see dentist because they are struggling for funds. We heard from others who are turning the hot water off because they can’t afford their energy bills. This is an embarrassment in a rich country like Australia.
“The Benevolent Society thanks Rebekha Sharkie and commends her for bringing these issues to Parliament, supporting our initiatives and advocating for changes that would make a real difference to the lives of many older Australians. We hope to keep working with the Member for Mayo and other friends in Parliament to see the government implement these recommendations.”
Graham Perrett, Member for Moreton in Queensland and a representative of the Australian Labor Party, said during the debate that
"Labor understands the need... to ensure that pensioners have an adequate standard of living—that they can afford to have a shower, that they can afford to eat and survive."
Speaking to her motion, Rebekha Sharkie said:
“Unfortunately there are big changes underway in the Australian economy and this is eroding our ability to keep our elderly residents out of poverty, I’m particularly concerned about this issue because I have the oldest electorate in South Australia and the eighth oldest electorate in the country.
“The Government should be taking steps now. The number of people on the Age Pension is growing disproportionally larger than the number of people working.
“But what is even more worrying is the rapidly declining rate of home ownership in Australia. What we are seeing is more and more people moving onto the pension who no longer have the family home, or any home, and have been renting for much of their lives. Many of these are women without superannuation or other savings.
“Not owning your own home has a profound impact on an older person’s ability to survive on the Age Pension."
The Fix Pension Poverty campaign is calling for the Government to address these issues by introducing a range of policy measures. Having the debate in Parliament this week was a major milestone, and we'll continue to build the campaign until we see action to address the inadequacy of the Age Pension.