JENNY MACKLIN: Tony Abbott's call to increase the Age Pension age to 70 is yet another challenge to Malcolm Turnbull's leadership. We know the Liberal Party has been all over the place on pensions. For 12 years in government of course they did nothing to increase the pension, and now we have Tony Abbott out there saying that he wants to see the Age Pension age increased to 70.
Malcolm Turnbull needs to make it absolutely clear is this now Liberal Party policy to increase the Age Pension age to 70? Is he agreeing with Tony Abbott, or is Malcolm Turnbull agreeing with one of his South Australian colleagues, Simon Birmingham, who is, in his own newsletter, saying that increasing the Aged Pension age is mean and tricky? Or is Malcolm Turnbull going to agree with the Labor Government's sensible policy of gradually increasing the Age Pension age to 67 in line with international best practice.
Malcolm Turnbull now needs to make absolutely clear is it Liberal Party policy to increase the Age Pension age to 70.
QUESTION: If the Government is lifting the age to 67 anyway, isn't that a recognition of an ageing population, and isn't Tony Abbott's call a recognition of that?
JENNY MACKLIN: Tony Abbott's call demonstrates that the Liberal Party is all over the place on pensions. What we need from Malcolm Turnbull today is a clear position: is Malcolm Turnbull now saying it's Liberal Party policy to increase the Age Pension age to 70?
The Labor Government's position is very clear: we do understand that we face pressures from the ageing of the population, that's why we've made the tough decision to increase the Age Pension age to 67 but to do it gradually and in line with international best practice.
The Labor Government is also delivering a very, very significant increase to the single rate of the base pension. We know that the Liberal Party refused to increase the base pension when they are in government, and now we see they're all over the place on the Age Pension age.
QUESTION: If I could, could I just ask you a couple of questions about what's happening in the Northern Territory?
JENNY MACKLIN: Sure.
QUESTION: What's your response to the legal action launched yesterday opposing the compulsory takeover of town camps in Alice Springs?
JENNY MACKLIN: I've just had those legal papers received by the Federal Government and, of course, we're seeking legal advice on that matter. But if I can just make absolutely clear: there's been extensive consultation on the whole question of reform to housing and living conditions for the Alice Springs town camp residence.
I am absolutely determined to see an improvement in what can only be described as appalling living conditions for the many, many people - adults and children - who are living in these town camps.
We've got a very significant amount of money to spend on new houses, on improving infrastructure, on making sure that children have a safe place to grow up so that they're well and happy, and not facing these tragic living conditions.
QUESTION: So what happens to the process from here?
JENNY MACKLIN: I'm seeking legal advice, I'll let you know. But, I'm indicating to you that I am absolutely determined to make sure that we improve the living conditions on these town camps.
QUESTION: Why is an increase to 67 a good thing but 70, why isn't that a better recognition of the change in the aged profile over the past century? Two years doesn't sound like a great recognition given the...
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, it's three, actually. [Laughs]
What we've done is indicate that we will gradually increase the Age Pension age to 67. The Liberal Party actually voted for this change in legislation just a month or so ago; that was their position a month ago. Now, today, Tony Abbott is putting out a different position. Today, Tony Abbott is saying that he thinks the Liberal Party should increase the Age Pension age to 70.
So my challenge to Malcolm Turnbull is: is this now Liberal Party policy? Can they sort out a policy on pensions or are they just going to demonstrate that they're just all over the shop when it comes to the Age Pension age?
QUESTION: Did you rule out the increases in the pension age [indistinct] what you've already planned?
JENNY MACKLIN: We've just put legislation through the parliament to gradually increase the Age Pension age to 67. That won't happen until 2023, and I don't think I'll be in politics after that, so...
JENNY MACKLIN: We've got the tape, so...
QUESTION: That's right. This one, is this Tony Abbott's musings or is this what Liberal Party - or he wants the Liberal Party to enact as policy?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well that's why this is a challenge to Malcolm Turnbull, a challenge to Malcolm Turnbull's leadership, yet another challenge to his leadership to get him to make clear is this now Liberal Party policy or is it another one of Tony Abbott's musings. Who'd know? What we need to have clear today, and what particularly older Australians need to understand is, is it now Liberal Party policy that they want to increase the Age Pension age to 70 years of age?
Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Is Tony Abbott speaking - do you believe that Tony Abbott would be speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party [indistinct]?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, it's just not clear at all. That's why we do have to get a clear answer from Malcolm Turnbull.
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