... So that You may be kept informed

Fed: Govt must not fail pensioners after cash splash: Nelson

01 May 2009 6:08 PM

CANBERRA, May 1 AAP - It will be an "obscenity" if the Rudd government fails to deliver a minimum $30-a-week increase to single aged pensioners in the May 12 budget, Brendan Nelson says.

The former opposition leader and now coalition backbencher said the government may try to wriggle out of this obligation, having spent more than $66 billion in six months at a time when revenue was collapsing.

"My view is that Australia can't afford not to increase the payments to pensioners," Dr Nelson told Sky News on Friday.

"The very minimum that must be delivered is $30 a week for single aged pensions, and also for veterans."

He said this would cost some $2 billion a year, based on figuring he did last year when he was leading the Liberal Party.

Treasurer Wayne Swan says the budget has suffered a massive write-down in revenue due to the global recession, greater than the $115 billion forecast in February.

The government has previously said it is committed to pension reform, but is yet to announce any numbers.

"If (Prime Minister Kevin) Rudd does not deliver this in the budget because he says he hasn't got enough money or too much debt, he has only himself to blame," Dr Nelson said.

"What the government has done in the stimulus packages is take $23 billion on a cash advance on the national credit card, basically sent it out to people and told them to spend it, knowing that he has got obligations to meet for Australia's pensioners."

He said a $30-a-week increase would be spent and anyone who thought it would be saved had "no connection to the plight of these people".

He said pensioners were living hand to mouth, bought their bread after 5pm when it was cheaper and lived on the cheapest cuts of meat.

"It would be an obscenity to be living in a country where the government just throws money away, borrows money, hands it out, tells people to go and spend it, and then turns around and doesn't do anything on a sustainable basis for Australia's pensioners."