Kiama weighs in on the budget

THE 2014 federal budget has received a mixed reaction within Kiama, responses ranging from concerned young parents to self-funded retirees believing it will have little effect on their family.

Kiama resident William Reilly feels the federal budget won't overly affect him or his family.

Kiama resident William Reilly feels the federal budget won't overly affect him or his family.

Short-term pain for long-term gain was among the key messages of the often unpopular new budget.

It’s a sentiment that Kiama’s William Reilly, 77, largely agreed with.

The self-funded retiree didn’t believe the various announcements would affect him or his family much.

‘‘I think welfare has got a bit out of hand... A number of undeserving people are getting it,’’ he said.

‘‘The disability pension is rorted in some cases.’’

As of July next year, Australians will be charged a $7 co-payment for GP visits, including imaging such as X-rays and pathology such as blood tests.

Only concession card holders and children will escape the new co-payment, but then only after 10 visits, with their annual co-payments capped at $70.

From July next year those who now pay nothing to visit the doctor will fork out $7, with $5 going into the new Medical Research Future Fund.

Even those who aren’t bulk billed will pay $5 more, with cuts to their Medicare refund.

Mr Reilly wasn’t overly fazed by this move.

‘‘We pay that here in Kiama anyway; there’s no bulk-billing where I go,’’ he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has already confirmed that Labor would vote against the Coalition’s move to introduce the co-payment, as well as plans to hike the fuel excise and change the pension age.

The government announced in its 2014 budget that it will raise $2.2 billion in revenue by 2018 by indexing the fuel excise it collects against inflation.

Emma McIlquham, a mother of three young children (aged 10, seven and two) and casual administration staff member at Kiama Public School believed her household budget would be hit hard in more than one area.

The 32-year-old working mum said petrol prices even slightly increasing would have an adverse effect on their ‘‘medium income’’ family.

‘‘It worries my husband; he’s a builder and does a lot of driving around,’’ she said.

‘‘That affects us as a family.’’

Bulk-billing was also a concern, especially with colder weather on the horizon.

‘‘When you have three young children, you don’t want to hesitate to go to the doctors.’’

She also had concerns regarding her children’s future education.

‘‘It’s bad they’re deregulating uni fees.

‘‘When my children get older, we might not be able to afford to send them if they go through the roof.’’

According to Mrs McIlquham there were some pluses, such as the government providing almost a quarter of a billion dollars over the next four years to continue the school chaplains program.

Kiama retiree Ian Roufeil criticised what he viewed as ‘‘broken promises of no new taxes’’.

The 62-year-old father of two is separated and said due to rising petrol costs he would consider alternative forms of transport.

‘‘I’ll use my car less,’’ he said.

‘‘I have a seniors’ card, which helps, but I will be using the train more now.’’

Although having a medical condition which required him to visit a doctor three or four times a year, he wasn’t necessarily opposed to the new co-payment.

‘‘I think the medical budget is getting out of hand,’’ he said.

‘‘As technology improves, it seems to be that we must have it... The cost of medical care is going up way ahead of the cost of living.’’

Kiama resident Marlene Reid, 60, works as a casual midwife at Shoalhaven Hospital.

She felt in some ways the widely criticised budget was required.

‘‘I think it was necessary because of the debt we’ve got our country into,’’ she said.

‘‘I think we all have to play a part in that, and do what we can.

‘‘Being in the seniors’ age group, I was concerned about super, as I haven’t retired yet.’’

Residents aged less than 47 will need to work longer, the government confirming plans to change the pension age to 70 from 2035.

Mrs Reid said it was dependent on the profession whether individuals were able to work until the age of 70.

‘‘Some jobs, like midwives and shift work, if I had the choice I would not want to,’’ she said.

‘‘I would be a bit concerned for midwives in a few decades’ time.

‘‘But some people choose to work longer...I think to work is good for social contact, and I think social contact for people is important.’’

Mrs Reid was less critical of the new co-payment.

‘‘A lot of people do take advantage of free doctors’ visits,’’ she said.

‘‘Those in disadvantage, in some ways we need to help meet those needs.’’

Nicky Sloan, CEO of the Illawarra Forum said the most vulnerable in our society would be further disadvantaged as a result of some of the budget’s key initiatives.

“The tightening of eligibility criteria for welfare payments, the freezing of family payments for two years, and the shifting of young people from Newstart to Youth Allowance will force more people under the poverty line,” she said.

While the Illawarra Forum recognised some positive steps such as taking into account untaxed super payments when assessing eligibility for the Senior’s Health Card, and introducing the two per cent '”temporary budget repair levy'” for people earning more than $180,000, she said the real pain of this budget will be felt by those least able to contribute and their contribution will be more permanent.

She said this included the under-30s who face a six month wait for a reduced income support payment, unless exempted, and then being forced into work for the dole schemes. 

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