Pension cuts may deliver backlash in federal by-election, seniors warn

Four months after the Abbott Government announced pension cuts, official figures reveal a suburb in the Canning electorate, scene of next week’s federal by-election, has the highest proportion of people aged 65-plus in Western Australia.

According to the Bureau of Statistics, the Perth suburbs of Mandurah South and Mandurah East in the Canning electorate have the highest proportion of people aged 65 years in the state at 28% and 24% respectively.

Separately, the Electoral Commission also reveals the over-50s represent 49.1% of the 112,000 people enrolled to vote in Canning.

National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill, says the figures sound a warning in an historically safe Coalition seat.

“By cutting the pensions of mid to low income retirees in the 2015 budget, the Coalition has taken a gamble on its traditional support base,” says O’Neill.

“What the pension cuts mean in terms of voter loyalty for thousands of retirees who have gone without for decades only to see the rules change overnight remains to be seen.

“Canning will provide interesting insights into next year’s general election,” he said.

The pension changes announced in the May budget and rushed through federal parliament will see 325,000 existing pensioners lose all or part of their pension in 2017. Retirees with modest savings will then live off less than someone on a full Age Pension with no personal savings.

The cuts will also undermine the retirement plans of thousands of people yet to retire. ASFA figures show a couple now must save $130,000 more for a comfortable retirement following the changes.

According to the ANU’s Tax and Transfer Policy Institute the changes penalise savers outside of superannuation; create perverse incentives to spend; and leave the wealthiest retirees untouched.

Canning by-election candidates Andrew Hastie (Liberal) and Matt Keogh (Labor) will address older voters at a National Seniors election forum this Monday 14 September, 10.30am to noon, at the Thomson Street Netball Pavilion, Mandurah. Media are invited.

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