On Friday, around 60 pensioners joined the member for Jagajaga and me at a community forum to discuss the government's changes to pensions. Concerns about the government's plans to axe the energy supplement were top of the list for many in attendance.
If the Turnbull government had its way, on 20 September this year, the energy supplement would have been axed from 1.7 million Australians. Axing the energy supplement would hit more than 24,000 people right across the ACT. That's 24,000 people here in the ACT, and 1.7 million right across the country. Axing the energy supplement to new pensioners would mean a cut of $14.10 per fortnight to single pensioners, or $365 a year. Couple pensioners would be $21.20 a fortnight, or around $550 a year, worse off. That's a lot of money—$550. For many pensioners who are already living marginally above or below the poverty line, these small sums will make budgeting each week even more desperate.
The forum also discussed a range of issues, from the role of carers, pension indexation, age discrimination, the NDIS and Medicare to aged care and concerns about increasing the pension eligibility age to 70. But, as I said, the energy supplement was the main concern for those in attendance. Axing the energy supplement was first proposed in the 2016 budget, but, so far, it hasn't passed through the Senate. It's another unfair cut from the out-of-touch Turnbull government.