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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 October 2021) . . Page.. 2818 ..


MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (4.25): I rise to speak to Ms Lee’s motion and thank her for bringing it forward today. It touches on something that is very important to us all. It aims to recognise that the cost of living challenges that Canberra families are facing have only been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Lee has put her case very well, and some other great points have also been raised. What I would like to talk about specifically now is the impact of poverty and the pandemic on older Canberrans with regard to my role as shadow minister for seniors. I note that, in her ministerial statement this morning, Minister Davidson mentioned the alarming fact that one in four older Australians is living in poverty. Mr Deputy Speaker, if you take the numbers from ACTCOSS of about 38,000 Canberrans, that gives you about 9,500 older Canberrans—the same or very similar numbers to the number of children in the ACT living in poverty.

The thought of children living in poverty is deeply distressing, I am sure, to us all. The thought that, with respect to our older Canberrans—those who have built Canberra into what it is today, who have given their working lives and a lot of their volunteer and private time to making Canberra the city it is now—many of them, one in four of them, may be living in poverty, is also very disturbing.

We often hear that older people, older Canberrans, are asset rich and cash poor. I do not like to see older people, older Canberrans, forced to sell their family home. I have heard from older Canberrans who have told me how they moved into a family home, a marital home, after their wedding. They have lived there for their whole life. One of the partners may have died and they can no longer live there. They thought they would live there forever and die in that home—a home full of memories, joyous occasions and many family events. They thought they would be able to stay there and age in place, with the support of their families and a range of government programs.

Ageing in place is something that we talk about a lot these days. The fact that this is no longer possible for many Canberrans is something that I find to be really sad. They are forced out of their family home because of the high cost of living. Many of these older Canberrans may be on a pension; they may be self-funded retirees. We are also talking about ex-service people, for example, and I know Mr Hanson will have spoken to many of them. They are often on a fixed income, but their fees and charges and their cost of living are going up all the time, and they cannot sustain living in that family home.

Mr Rattenbury talked about federal assistance, but if you read Ms Lee’s motion, over the last five years there has been a 27.7 per cent increase in electricity costs. Over the last five years there has been a 26.2 per cent increase in gas costs, an 18.6 per cent increase in health costs over five years, an 18 per cent increase in education costs over five years, and a 15.7 per cent increase in housing costs over five years.

Recently, the federal government increased the pension rate, boosting the annual pension paid to a single pensioner to $25,155, and $37,923 for a couple. This is the largest single increase since 2014. We could call on the government to increase the pension even more, but does that help? If these costs are going up at far more than


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