More than a hundred age pensioners gathered in Melbourne’s Federation on 11 April, to protest on Square, to protest the way they were treated in this year’s Federal budget.
One after another, speakers told of the neglect. Age pensions have remained stagnant for years, Medicare is being dismantled piece by piece, health costs are increasing. Then there are the disgraceful conditions of Australia’s nursing homes and the cost of keeping a roof over one’s head.
It is a great disrespect for a group of people who have worked and contributed so much to the building of Australia. Older people should be rewarded and not treated as a burden. to live in decent conditions and with respect are fundamental rights that everyone is entitled to.
Behind the protest was Fair Go For Pensioners, an alliance of community organisations and retired unionists.
Recognition was given to the similar experiences suffered by people on disability benefits, single parents, and the unemployed, who are being treated worst of all.
Nowadays, to be on a Centrelink benefit means to be treated as someone doing something wrong.
Organisers of the protest and speakers stressed the moral bankruptcy of a government that squeezes the vulnerable, and at the same time, hands over billions to the richest and mega corporations, calling it a disgrace that must be overturned.
Acknowledgment was made of the reality that many Australians, who on the books have a job, are still living in poverty. This is what the casualisation of work has done.
There has been an explosion of people living in the street and the number of beggars in recent years.
Several speakers pointed out to the fact that older Australians, if they want to do anything about it, have to be louder, get together and act. Otherwise, the wrongs are going to be swept under the carpet.
They stressed the importance of linking up with other vulnerable sections of the community. In this way, a powerful movement can be guilt. Older people can contribute their experience. Life has taught them that you must stand up for yourself or be pushed down.
A call was made for an immediate and substantial rise in pensions and other social security payments and concessions. Enough to raise people over the poverty line. Cheaper electricity and gas were called for. It was insisted that Medicare must cover dental, optical and hearing costs. There must be more public housing to combat housing unaffordability. The retirement age must be brought back to 65. Governments must stop feeding billions to the rich and the banks.
This is only the beginning of an ongoing campaign to ensure justice and an end to the discrimination carried out against vulnerable Australians.