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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2297 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

I suppose I cannot more graphically illustrate this than by reading comments by the president of the Association of Independent Retirees, Canberra branch, Mr Gosling, who wrote a letter to the minister, Mr Corbell, and was kind enough to send me a copy. He wrote:

On behalf of Members of the Association of Independent Retirees Canberra Branch, I wish to protest at the miserly attitude of your Government towards not providing concessions to fully or partially funded retirees in line with those that are received by pensioners.

You may be unaware that many self-funded retirees are income poor, their incomes during a lifetime of working have been largely invested in the acquisition of the family home and trying to do the best for their families. They rely entirely on income generated from savings and investment, and now struggle to maintain a dignified retirement, and deal with increasing costs for utilities and services ...

There are also people such as my late father, people who worked for the Commonwealth for forty years and are too proud to apply for a part pension when they are entitled to it. In that era, it was expected that a man provide for his family without asking for hand-outs. It is of interest also to note that in the winter appeal for St Vincent De Paul "Self Funded Retirees" are on the list of needy groups.

On the other hand less prudent people who squandered their money during their working years and have little assets apply for a pension. This gives them an income comparable to many retirees but also the advantage of concessions of rental rebates, vehicle registration and licences, reductions in electricity, rates, etc.

This house speaks a great deal about social justice in looking after the needy. It is time to put that social justice commitment into practice yet again and to overturn this mean and shabby decision. I would ask for members' support of my motion.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (5.31): Mr Speaker, the proposal by the Commonwealth to extend concessions eligibility to Commonwealth seniors health cardholders would appear, and this government believes it is, simply an attempt by the Commonwealth to get the states and territories to pay for its election promises. It is unreasonable for the Commonwealth to make announcements about initiatives that would benefit a certain group in our community and then pay for only half of them. If they are so strongly of the view that funding should be provided, they should be prepared to pay for their commitment in full.

The offer by the Commonwealth to the ACT in March this year was for $2.1 million in 2002-03 towards the cost of introducing this extension. It is important to note that they were prepared to fund part of the cost of implementing their election commitment. If this government announced that it would fund certain things and asked the Commonwealth to fund the other half, we would be laughed out of court by the Commonwealth government.

Since these figures were provided by the Commonwealth, the number of Commonwealth seniors health cardholders in the ACT has risen. The ACT government carefully considered the request and decided that it would not accept the offer to extend concessions to Commonwealth and seniors health cardholders.

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