Sat, May 17, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Australian pensioners strip down to protest budget

AFP , MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Two women take off their tops as hundreds of pensioners disrupt traffic in Melbourne’s city center yesterday in a protest against the government’s lack of support for seniors in the recently handed-down federal budget.

PHOTO: AFP

Protesting pensioners brought traffic to a stand still in Australia’s second-largest city yesterday when some stripped to demand more money from the government.

The scantily clad seniors braved the autumn weather in a 150-strong protest against this week’s federal budget, which offered them little despite a A$21.7 billion (US$20 billion) surplus.

Most at the “Fair Go for Pensioners” rally at the intersection of two major streets in downtown Melbourne kept their clothes on, but several threw convention to the wind and stripped to their underwear.

As bemused police looked on, a bespectacled man stripped to his briefs and socks, while a couple of lively ladies whipped off their tops and paraded in their bras.

Other women wore hot pink bras over their clothing.

The leader of the minority Family First party, Senator Steve Fielding, who took off his shirt in solidarity with the seniors, said the country’s 3.5 million pensioners were “overlooked Australians.”

“Pensioners have no voice and are left to survive on a meager allowance each week that most people would never manage on,” he said. “They are buckling under the pressure of higher petrol and grocery prices.”

Patricia Reeve from the Fair Go for Pensioners Coalition said people wanted to make the point that it was impossible to live well on the pension.

“The country’s doing well, we want a fair share,” she said.

But the antics failed to move Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who said while he understood it was difficult to make ends meet living on a pension, no increases would be considered until a review was completed.

Last month, hundreds of Melbourne cabbies succeeded in winning safety concessions from the state government after a lengthy sit-in at the same intersection during which dozens threw off their shirts.

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