Welfare groups have accused the Abbott government of dumping Australia’s sense of a fair go after targeting payments to unemployed young people, families, pensioners and people with disabilities in its first budget.
Northern Rivers Social Development Council CEO Tony Davies told local media it was an extra blow for people already struggling to make ends meet.
‘If you’re on Newstart and you’re earning $36 a day you’re going to struggle to get to see a GP if you’re unwell; you’re going to struggle to pay the extra $5 for prescription medication,’ he told ABC North Coast this morning.
‘If you’re lucky enough to own a car you’re going to struggle to drive some of the distances required to get to work.’
St Vincent de Paul Society chief John Falzon said, ‘There are measures in this budget that rip the guts out of what remains of a fair and egalitarian Australia’.
Richmond MP Justine Elliot has accused the government of delivering a ‘budget of broken promises’ that will ‘hurt pensioners and families already struggling to make ends meet’.
She added the measures were ‘cruel and unfair’.
The Greens say the budget has been ‘written for big business’ with the young. the sick. and the vulnerable hardest hit.
Even the Liberal state government has complained about the budget, accusing its federal counterparts of ‘cost-shifting’ by effectively abandoning its traditional funding of hospitals and schools.
‘Earn or learn’
Tough new work-for-the dole measures will force people aged 18–30 to ‘earn or learn’.
Those wanting government assistance will now have to wait six months before qualifying for support and will then have to undertake a six-month compulsory participation program.
‘This is the harshest cut of all,’ ACTU president Ged Kearney said.
Families are also in the firing line but parents receiving assistance towards the cost of raising their kids have won a small reprieve before budget pain begins for some from next year.
Payment rates for the Family Tax Benefit will remain at current levels until July 2016, but a year earlier the government wants families booted off part B when their youngest child turns six.
Also from mid-2015 there will be a new part B income test of $100,000, down from $150,000.
There’s some good news for single mothers hit by welfare cuts under the previous Labor government.
Tens of thousands of single mothers were left $60 to $100 a week worse off when they were pushed off parenting payments and onto the Newstart Allowance.
From July 2015 single parents receiving the maximum rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A will receive an extra $750 for each child aged between six and 12, once their youngest turns six.
Labor’s schoolkids’ bonus, worth $410 a year for primary school pupils and $820 a year for high school students, is for the chopping block.
The payment was linked to the minerals resource rent tax which the Abbott government wants to abolish.
Meanwhile, Gen X and Gen Y Australians on the disability support pension will be required to undertake work experience or some form of employment activity.
But people with severe impairments, terminal illnesses, or who have the capacity to work less than eight hours a week will be exempt.
From January 2015, recipients will only be able to travel abroad for four weeks – down from six – before their payments are cut off.
The government is on a collision course with seniors after revealing it won’t be so generous with future increases to the age pension.
The coalition is sticking to its pledge to do nothing in its first term but big changes are in the pipeline.
From late 2017, and after the next election, indexed increases to the age pension will be linked to the consumer price index instead of the highest rate available, generally male average earnings.
Seniors intend taking the change on notice.
‘I foresee them now sharpening their pencils as they go into the ballot box,’ National Seniors chief Michael O’Neill said.
As previously flagged, eligibility for the age pension will increase to 70 years by July 2035.
There was some good news for the disability sector in the budget.
The government has not moved to delay the rollout of the national disability insurance scheme.
Budget ‘for big business’
The Australian Greens say the federal budget has been written for big business, and young Australians, the sick and vulnerable are the hardest hit.
‘This is a divisive and brutal budget written in the boardrooms of big business,’ Greens leader Christine Milne said.
‘Tony Abbott’s rhetoric about sharing the burden is a lie.’
Serious challenges such as global warning and inequality were ignored and there was no plan for renewable-energy jobs, Senator Milne said.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie does not support the changes to the disability support pension, payments to the aged and families, and Newstart.
‘To suggest we have a budget emergency is plain wrong,’ he said.
To say the so-called budget emergency is justification for targeting disadvantaged members of the community was ‘diabolically cruel’.
Independent MP Clive Palmer says the government has handed Australians a ‘budget nightmare’ based on a ‘debt-crisis fairytale’, arguing there is no need to introduce a deficit levy or a Medicare co-payment.
‘Mr Hockey has delivered a heartless and cruel budget that will cause many Australians undue pain,’ the Palmer United Party leader said in a statement.
Mr Palmer said that Australia had one of the strongest low-debt profiles among OECD countries.
‘There is no debt crisis and therefore the excuse to impose a two per cent debt tax and introduce other harsh budgetary measures.’
Labor to vote against key measures
Labor is vowing to try to block key measures of the Abbott government’s unpopular first budget.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten has confirmed that Labor will vote against the coalition’s move to introduce a $7 Medicare co-payment, as well as plans to hike the fuel excise and change the pension age.
‘Putting up everyone’s petrol bill we think is a bad idea in the current circumstances,’ Mr Shorten told the Nine Network on Wednesday.
‘We will fight, and I don’t know if we’ll win the arguments against Tony Abbott and their bad budget, but we will fight and fight and fight for Medicare.
‘We get that you’ve got to improve the health system and make it more cost effective but you don’t do that by stopping people at the door of the doctor’s surgery.’
But Mr Shorten refused to confirm whether the party would support the deficit levy on high income earners.
‘What we think is it is a broken promise,’ Mr Shorten said when asked about the coalition’s plan to hike tax on people earning more than $180,000 a year.
‘We haven’t made a final position on that.’
Mr Shorten said the Abbott government was trying to return the budget to surplus with ‘broken promises and by slugging ordinary people’.
‘First of all Tony Abbott said no new taxes under a government he leads … he said no nation ever taxes its way to prosperity. It was a lie.’
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the Medical Research Future Fund was a great idea, but should not be funded by the Medicare co-payment.
‘It should not be funded by Australia’s sick and vulnerable people,’ he told Sky News.
‘It should not be funded by people who may be on low and middle incomes who need to go the doctor.’
He said Labor would oppose increasing the pension age to 70 because treasurer Joe Hockey had failed to justify the decision.
‘He says Australians should work longer than anybody else in the developed world,’ Mr Bowen said.
‘Not one country in the OECD has a pension age of 70.’
Mr Bowen later signalled that Labor would not stand in the way of the government’s deficit levy.
‘When this was first leaked it was going to apply to people [earning] over $80,000. Now that’s not a high-income earner,’ he told the Nine Network.
‘We still don’t like it, we still don’t think it’s a good idea, but it’s not now a priority for us.
‘Our priority is defending Medicare, defending pensions, defending family payments.’
It’s cost-shifting: NSW
NSW premier Mike Baird is not happy that the federal government is passing health and education services on to the states.
One of Joe Hockey’s budget announcements was that the Commonwealth would cut $80 billion from health and education funding to the states over the next decade.
‘What they did was pass a spending problem to the states – they didn’t provide the income solution,’ Mr Baird told ABC radio on Wednesday.
NSW treasurer Andrew Constance, who will unveil NSW’s budget on June 17, said the federal budget was really just ‘cost-shifting’.
He said Treasury estimates the state will have to find an additional $1.2 billion over four years.
In education, NSW was being short-changed by $240 million, Mr Constance said.
‘We have committed expenditure to these areas. What we’ve seen from the Commonwealth in this year’s budget is a cost shift in terms of their growth monies,’ he told ABC radio.
‘We want to see the agreements honoured. These are vital areas of service delivery at a state level.’
He said he was also concerned about the impact of a $7 co-payment to visit a GP, announced by Mr Hockey, and ‘its potential impact on overwhelming our emergency departments’.
NSW Opposition leader John Robertson says NSW taxpayers have been hit hard by the budget.
‘NSW taxpayers have been hit hard when it comes to cuts to our hospital system of $25 billion, when we see co-payments being forced on families when they visit the doctor, and increased fees for university.
‘These are all things that aren’t going to help NSW,’ he told ABC radio.
Roads minister Duncan Gay welcomed the federal government’s commitment to spend $1.5 billion on the first section of the WestConnex motorway.
‘That means we can start the M5’s stage of WestConnex at the same time as the M4 stage,’ he told ABC radio.
Mr Constance said that WestConnex would transform the way NSW commuters moved through and around Australia’s global city.
Health, education cuts
The NSW government is worried by cuts to health and education but has applauded the Commonwealth for investing in the state’s infrastructure projects.
‘NSW Treasury estimates the state is being asked to find an extra $1.2 billion over four years in our health budget,’ NSW treasurer Andrew Constance said on Tuesday night.
‘The NSW government has major concerns over the Commonwealth’s budget, with what appears to be cost shifting in health and education services.’
The state government wants to discuss the ‘potential impact on service delivery’ that the ‘tough blueprint’ outlined by federal Treasurer Joe Hockey will have on NSW.
Mr Constance is also concerned about the announced $7 co-payment for every visit to the doctor, saying it could overwhelm the state’s already stretched hospital emergency departments.
‘We need to have a long and detailed discussion with the Commonwealth about further details regarding this announcement,’ he said.
But he was happy with the $11.6 billion infrastructure package, which will fund projects including the second stage of WestConnex and Pacific Highway upgrades.
Comment is being sought from the state opposition.
Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon told AAP that lower-income earners would be hit the hardest.
‘They’re going to pay more for their petrol; they’re going to be paying more to take their families to the doctors; there’s going to be questions around their welfare,’ he said.
‘It’s going to make it all the more difficult to make ends meet.’
The budget, he said, was the first step towards the abolition of social safety nets, and Medicare was the government’s first target.
Broken promises says Elliot
Richmond MP Justine Elliot has accused the Abbott Liberal-National government of delivering a budget of broken promises that that will hurt pensioners and families already struggling to make ends meet.
‘The people of north coast have every right to feel betrayed by this budget of broken promises and twisted priorities,’ Mrs Elliot said.
‘Before the election the prime minister promised no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no changes to the pension,’ she said.
‘Before the election the prime minister promised no new taxes and no tax increases.
‘Tony Abbott’s budget means families will pay every time they see the doctor and pay more every time they fill up the family car.
‘Before the election the prime minister promised no change to pensions.
‘In his first budget, Tony Abbott will cut pensions and will force Australians to work longer.
‘Pensioners in our community are already doing it tough.
‘Pensioners and families on the north coast will pay for Tony Abbott’s budget of broken promises,’ Mrs Elliot said.
– with AAP
Community legal services across the north coast will cease providing vital support services in July following savage budget cuts from the federal government unless they are reverse in the upcoming May budget.
Colin Cook, Bangalow. Three of the four professors of economics on the ABC’s Q&A declared that Australia does not / did not have a budget emergency – and the fourth professor could not find a good word for the Hockey budget.
Garth Luke, Mullumbimby. Tim Harrington says that the previous government wasted hundreds of billions of dollars but doesn't provide any evidence for this statement. Just because Liberal supporters repeat this claim does not make it true.