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August 28, 2008

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has stepped up the campaign for an increase in pensions, raising the issue twice in Federal Parliament this week.

Speaking in Parliamentary question time, Mr Chester challenged the Prime Minister to explain why his government had “done nothing to help senior Australians meet the rising costs of groceries, housing and petrol” in the nine months since last year’s election.

Mr Chester also raised the issue during his inaugural speech on Tuesday where he said that single aged pensioners couldn’t afford to wait for an increase in the current pension of $273 per week.

“This is as much a health issue in Gippsland as it is an economic concern,” Mr Chester told Parliament.

“Older Gippslanders have told me that they are going without food because they cannot afford to eat healthily, or they are foregoing involvement in community and sporting activities because they cannot afford the transport costs.

“Further isolation caused by financial distress will have an impact on the physical and mental health of older Gippslanders.”

Speaking outside Parliament, Mr Chester said he was disappointed with the Prime Minister’s response to his question.

“The Prime Minister did admit that there had been a ‘spike’ in the cost of living in recent months and he acknowledged that older Australians needed to be placed on a more secure financial footing but he is not prepared to take any action,” Mr Chester said.

“The government is sitting on its hands and waiting for a review which won’t report back to the Parliament until February 2009. Then we can expect more months to slip by while our older Gippslanders are forced to go without.

“As I told Parliament this week, we are a wealthy country and we can afford to provide additional financial assistance to the men and women who helped to build the nation we enjoy today.

“I’m disappointed that the Prime Minister is refusing to take action immediately and is more interested in blaming the previous government than working with older Gippslanders to give them the decency of a reasonable standard of living in retirement.”