Fears Tony Abbott will change disability support pensions hosed down

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has no plans to sign off on changes to the disability support pension even though the $15 billion-a-year payment has been targeted for cuts by two of his senior ministers.

The pension is being reviewed for Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, by the government's cost-cutting Commission of Audit, and for Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews by the former Mission Australia head Patrick McClure.

''The Prime Minister has always made it clear that all election promises will be honoured; the Prime Minister has said this many times,'' a spokeswoman said.

''There is a review currently under way but there are no recommendations before the government to make changes to the [disability support] pension at this time.

''When recommendations are made [by the reviewers] the government will respond to them … but it will be keeping all of its [election] commitments.''

Symonston resident Jacqui White, who has multiple sclerosis, has accused the government of planning to break a pre-election pledge not to make changes to pensions.


Speaking on the ABC's Insiders program on Sunday, September 1, just six days out from the poll, the Prime Minister promised the disability support pension would not be touched.

''I want to give people this absolute assurance: no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no changes to pensions and no changes to the GST,'' he told host Barrie Cassidy.

The Commission of Audit and McClure reviews into the pension are expected to be completed within the next month.

Mr McClure previously reviewed the disability support pension in 1999. His recommendations then formed the basis for a raft of Howard government reforms to it that were blocked in the Senate in 2002.

Mr McClure had been publicly critical of the Howard government's proposal to restrict the pension to people unable to work for 15 hours or more, not the 30-hour benchmark that remains in place to this day.

Mr Abbott's spokeswoman said that obviously there would be some changes to pension arrangements in the normal course of events.

''Some pensions will go up as from January 1,'' she said.

''Naturally there will be some changes.''

The spokeswoman concurred when it was put to her most people would take ''no change'' to mean no attempt to make the pension harder to access or to force people receiving the pension back on to the Newstart allowance.

Mr Abbott has supported both of these propositions until recently.

He was critical of the disability support pension's failure to move people with disabilities back into the workforce in an address to the Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry in March.