In her latest Mamamia column, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek tells us why this year’s Budget is every bit as cruel as last year’s.
The parents I was talking to were excited about the way we’re proposing to prepare Australian kids for the jobs of the future.
But then someone said something that floored me: “You must be really pleased,” he said, “that you’ve won the fight with the Abbott Government, and they’ve dumped all that unfair stuff from last year’s Budget.”
Still in the 2015 Budget are measures that will leave an average family $6000 worse off; $80 billion in cuts to schools and hospitals; $100,000 uni degrees; a $5 increase to the costs of medicines; cuts to the ABC and SBS; cuts to Community Legal Services; cuts to homelessness and domestic violence programs – and so many more.
There are only two things that were proposed last year that have actually been reversed by the Government in this Budget.
The first is the change to the indexation rate of pensions. The Government has finally accepted that Labor will keep blocking these cuts to pensions. They’ve tried to pass them through the Parliament, but so far we’ve stopped them. That means the plan to make pensioners $80 a week worse off has been shelved – for now.
But the Government gives with one hand and takes away with the other. Pensioners still face an increase in the retirement age to 70, and Tony Abbott has stood by his $1.3 billion cut to pensioner concessions; funding for aged care has been slashed by $100 million, including a $20 million cut to dementia initiatives, building on the axing of the $16 a day dementia supplement in 2014. The Government is also still planning to cut the $900 a year seniors’ supplement.
The same goes for health care.
The second thing Labor has managed to block is the GP tax: the $7 co-payment you would have paid when going to see the doctor. Instead, the Government is freezing Medicare benefits for four years. That’s a four-year pay freeze to doctors’ salaries – unless they start to charge their patients. The Australian Medical Association says doctors may be forced to add an $8 charge to whatever you’re paying to see the doctor now. That is, a GP co-payment by stealth.