Greens leader Bob Brown says he could survive on the pension because he’d had to live cheaply in the past.
But he says many people, including Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan, admit they could not get by on the $546.80 fortnightly payment.
The Greens are renewing their call for an immediate $30 increase in the single aged pension as pressure builds on the government to act before a review is due.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the government is committed to addressing the strain on pensioners, but won’t be announcing how until its review of pensions and carers payments is finalised next year.
Senator Brown says it is cruel to make pensioners wait nine months to relieve their suffering.
He met with the Hobart pensioner activist Margot Wall, who told Rudd to immediately increase the pension by $30 in an unusual one-on-one in Launceston on Saturday.
She was invited to a private chat after Rudd initially rushed past her at a Tasmanian ALP conference.
Senator Brown wants Swan to meet him and Wall and take her petition plus a pile of hardship testimonies to the pension review.
Pressure is building on the government to immediately increase the pension after Gillard and Swan admitted they could not live on the payment.
Senator Brown today said he thought he could survive on the pension.
“It would be a very unhappy lot but I think I could,” he said.
“I think I’m a bit more used to living in frugal circumstances in the past. I’m not now, I’m a senator who is concerned about pensioners.
“But let me tell you, you do get to the state — and I’ve been at this — where you are looking behind cafes to see if you can get cheap food.”
Wall said on Tuesday she was looking forward to a trip to Canberra with Senator Brown.
“I will tell Mr Swan how the pensioners of Tasmania are suffering in the cold, unable to afford proper heating,” Wall said.
“I will tell him quite a few things. I want $30 per week plus the pension and I want it backdated to July 1.”
Senator Brown said he supported Wall’s call for the payment to be backdated.
“It is cruel to recognise that pensioners are in circumstances that ministers couldn’t live in and for ministers to then say the pensioners can wait another nine months,” he said.
“Kevin Rudd should act now,” the Tasmanian Senator said.
The pension will be adjusted for inflation on September 20.
Senator Brown said he would put a motion to the Senate next week calling on the government to explain its failure to act on the pension.
He said he would also table Wall’s petition for the $30 increase and a pile of hardship testimonies she has collected from pensioners.