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Budget gives blessing to wealthy to make hay while economic sun shines

Catholic Welfare Australia has regretted that last night's Federal Budget requires welfare recipients to bear the burden of savings "while the well-off continue to make hay in the economic sun".

In a statement released in the wake of Treasurer Costello's Budget speech, the agency argues that the 40 year 'vision' outlined in tonight's Budget poses a frightening future for tomorrow's battlers.

"This Budget fails to deliver a social dividend" said Mr Toby O'Connor, National Director of Catholic Welfare Australia. "A focus on increased labour market participation for people with disabilities and the long-term unemployed is worthy enough. But the glaring omission of any strategy to create jobs for these pensioners and beneficiaries will see the compliance focus of welfare reform coming to the fore.

"The Treasurer has attempted to lessen the blow of cuts to the Disability Support Pension by announcing an increase in funding initiatives to the States and Territories. However, in reality, spending in 2002-03 is only a 2.8% increase over current levels," said Mr O'Connor.

Meanwhile Catholic Health Austrlia has welcomed the announcement of a pricing review for the health sector.

"The review should shift government funding to meet the real cost of care rather than have the sector survive on bureaucratic guesstimates," said CHA CEO Francis Sullivan. "The budget commitments of $330 million provide some short term relief in areas of growing demand pressures."

"Since 1998 CHA, along with the Productivity Commission, has called for a new funding formula," he said. "Minister Andrews, in announcing the pricing review, has, at last, recognised what we have all known for so long."

"A proper pricing review must calculate the real cost of wages, workers compensation, indemnity insurance and essential pharmaceutical and medical supplies. At least it is now formally on the agenda and the Government has kept faith with its commitment to an immediate injection of $200 million into the care subsidies over the next four years."

But Mr Sullivan was less enthusiastic about what he dubbed the new "consumer drug tax" announced in last night's Budget.

"Reducing the public subsidy for poorer, sicker people has the same effect as raising the rate of the GST on essential medicine," he said. "This measure wasn't mentioned prior to the election and undermines the positive elements of the budget for the elderly."

"For the poor and sick its pretty rough when the worst pain is felt in their hip pocket."


15 May 2002