The Fair Go For Pensioners coalition organised a rally on May 24 in response to the federal budget’s significant new restrictions for those on Centrelink payments, including older Australians.
Their main concerns are with the change to the pensioner assets test, attacks on Medicare, the threat to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and a reduction on the right to overseas travel. The rally also addressed issues faced by the unemployed on Newstart, those on disability support and single parents.
Pas Forgione from the Anti-Poverty Network of South Australia said the recent federal budget is "nasty" as its attacks are more subtle and targeted than in previous Coalition budgets. For example, people with disabilities resulting from substance abuse will not be eligible for the Disability Support Pension. Many will end up homeless.
Jenny Davidson from the Council of Single Mothers and their Children said penalties imposed on parents for missing appointments can lead to children going hungry.
Owen Bennett from the Australian Unemployed Workers Union said unemployed workers are vilified as dole bludgers, drug users and unable to manage money, to distract attention from the government's failure to create work.
George Zangalis from the Federation of Greek Elderly Citizens Clubs called on the Victorian government to use its budget surplus to help pensioners with gas and electricity bills and rent. He also called on the federal government to raise the age pension to 35% of average male weekly earnings.
Lew Wheeler, from Fair Go For Pensioners, said welfare should not be considered a dirty word. "Welfare is not the problem. Poverty is the problem," she said. She called for the Newstart allowance to be raised by $100 a week. Currently it is far below the poverty line.