PUT UP OR SHUT UP NICK XENOPHON'S CHALLENGE TO BIG-SPENDING SA UNIONS' PHONY CAMPAIGN

14 August 2017

Senator Nick Xenophon is demanding SA Unions come clean on who is really behind their costly scaremongering and smear campaign against him and other NXT members.

Nick is outraged by a misleading full page ad in yesterday’s Sunday Mail, blaming him for pension cuts affecting “tens of thousands of Australians” and is challenging SA Unions’ State Secretary Joe Szakacs to a public debate.

“The SA Unions campaign against me is a bloody disgrace. They’re running a phony and misleading scare campaign that can no longer go unchallenged,” said Nick.

In June 2015, Nick supported changes to asset tests for pensioners to make pensions fairer and for the long-term sustainability of the pension system, a move which was also supported by the Greens leader, Senator Richard Di Natale, and their family and community services spokesperson, Rachel Siewert .

Under the measures which came into force this year, the Department of Social Security estimates that 83% of aged pensioners will not lose a cent of their payments with 170,000 actually better off because they can hold an extra $50,000 in assets before it impacts on their payment. Another 50,000 more will now be able to claim the full pension and be $30 a fortnight better off.

“These changes will negatively affect about six per cent of pensioners with a high asset base having their payments reduced,” Nick pointed out.

“Only two per cent had their pensions cancelled from the beginning of July. For instance, couples who own their home and have additional assets over $827,000 lost their entitlement, but could still be eligible for a part-pension should their assets fall below that figure.

“So battlers like the aged, the disabled, carers, widows and veterans pensioners have nothing to worry about, yet SA Unions conveniently won’t disclose that.

“Furthermore, those who do lose their pensions through the assets test changes can still access health care and other concessions.”

The move received overwhelming support from three key aged care and disadvantaged advocacy groups, Council of the Ageing (COTA), United Care and the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS).

“These groups are known for their fearless advocacy for the rights and welfare of battlers and they stated it was fair,” Nick said.

“So why this false and misleading campaign now? Why won’t SA Unions mention the Greens who were part of this sensible reform?”

Nick says he is being targeted because of his support for the reintroduction of the ABCC and a Building Code that will end bullying and bad practices on building sites.

SA Unions have also been funding totally misleading campaigns about the schools funding package for which the Nick Xenophon Team helped negotiate an extra $4.9 billion of funding as well as more accountability to ensure better outcomes for students.

“And this is on top of an extra $18.6 billion in funding which was welcomed by David Gonski and his panel,” said Nick.

“So who exactly is funding these ads and the campaign against me?

“SA Unions need to be up front about who is paying for these very expensive ads and billboards and they must disclose this to their members immediately.”

Nick says he regularly and constructively works with a whole range of unions on key issues, including boosting jobs in our manufacturing sector.

“Most recently I engaged with the AWU on their terrific work to secure steel jobs in Whyalla and I will continue to work with them and other unions on other issues such as government procurement and the dumping of inferior below-cost goods on our shores,” he said.

“So here is my challenge to Joe Szacaks whose name is attached to this disgraceful and misleading campaign: let’s have a public debate about pension changes and the school funding package now and let’s have it organised by an impartial group, like the SA Press Club.”

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