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Govt fighting for its pension changes

AAP logoAAP 28/12/2016

The federal government continues to insist last-ditch complaints about its January 1 pension changes are just a scare campaign backed by Labor.

Almost 330,000 Australians will find their pension cut from Sunday - 90,000 of them losing it entirely - once a tighter assets test comes into effect.

Some 170,000 pensioners will get about $15 a week extra.

The Turnbull government faces a fight from both the labour movement and One Nation over the changes, with ACTU president Ged Kearney telling The Australian unions are prepared to force the issue to an election showdown.

And One Nation senator Brian Burston says the key crossbench party views the move as a sleeper issue that could kill Malcolm Turnbull's leadership.

"I think the government's attacking older Australians rather than those who are ripping the system off,'" he told The Australian.

"I think there is a potential disincentive in the future to save for your retirement - similar to the superannuation changes. We're getting a lot of calls from pensioners who are scared shitless."

Cabinet minister Scott Ryan pointed out the changes were legislated 18 months ago, giving people time to prepare for them.

"Despite what (Labor leader) Bill Shorten and (shadow treasurer) Chris Bowen run around scaring people over the holidays saying, these were in the policies they took to the election," he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday, referring to Labor including the $2.4 billion saving in its election costings.

Mr Bowen said Mr Turnbull's new year's resolution should be: "If you don't want people to be scared, don't change the policy."

"(The cuts) wouldn't be the law today if we'd had a majority in the Senate or if the Liberals and Nationals and Greens hadn't voted for them," he told reporters in Sydney.

The row over pensions comes as an analysis of Newspoll results between October and December shows older voters deserting the government, with a seven-point drop in support for the coalition among over-50s.

Two-thirds of the lost vote has shifted to Labor and one-third to independents and minor parties.

Mr Bowen insisted Labor wasn't interested in kicking up a fuss because of how people might vote.

"I'm interested in that they have worked hard all their life and they have had this change made by Malcolm Turnbull and his government and they're very angry about it," he said.

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