by Alan Thornhill
Many pensioners will be hit hard by changes he Federal government is planning to the assets test Labor says.
In a statement today, The Shadow Minister for Families and Payments, Jenny Macklin,said new data, released today shows the true cost of Malcolm Turnbull’s changes to the pension assets test, which will cut the Age Pension for 330,000 elderly Australians.”
She recalled that the legislation to change the pension assets test and cut part-pensions passed the Parliament in June 2015 under what she called “a dirty deal between the Liberals and the Greens.”
“In total, about 330,000 part-pensioners across Australia will have their cost of living increased because of the Liberals’ pension cuts,” she said.
“We now know exactly where these cuts will hit hardest when the Turnbull Government’s changes to the assets test kick in from 1 January 2017,” Ms Macklin said.
“The data shows the electorates where the most people will lose part of their pension, and the electorates where the most people will lose their entire pension,” she added.
“Pensioners all across the country are going to have their household budgets cut by the Liberals”
“These cuts will be particularly felt in regional Australia and the suburbs of Melbourne and Adelaide. ”
“In total, about 330,000 part-pensioners across Australia will have their cost of living increased because of the Liberals’ pension cuts. “
“Tony Abbott may be gone for now, but Malcolm Turnbull has done absolutely nothing to change his unfair policies,” she said.
“ Tony Abbott’s pension cuts are now Malcolm Turnbull’s pension cuts.”
“Cutting the part-pension shows how out of touch the Liberals are,” Ms Macklin said.
“ They are hurting struggling pensioners while doing nothing to crack down on the outrageous tax avoidance by multinational companies making billions of dollars. “
“Mr Turnbull needs to explain why he thinks it’s fair for Australian pensioners to have their cost of living increased while some massive multinational companies pay little or no tax. “
“Under the Liberals, multinational companies get a free kick, and Australian pensioners get kicked in the guts. “
“The Abbott-Turnbull track record for pensioners is nothing short of dreadful,” Ms Macklin said.
“First they tried to cut pension indexation – a cut that would have meant pensioners would be forced to live on $80 a week less within ten years. “
“Then they cut $1.3 billion from concessions which help pensioners with the cost essential services like electricity, water and public transport.”
“Then they did a deal with the Greens to cut the pension for 330,000 part-pensioners by changing the assets test.
“The Liberals also want to increase the pension eligibility age to 70, meaning Australia would have the oldest retirement age in the developed world,” Ms Macklin said.
“…now Malcolm Turnbull wants to slug Australian pensioners with a 15 per cent GST, hitting households by up to $4,000 a year and reducing the living standards of Australian pensioners,” she added.
“Only Labor is standing up for Australian pensioners by opposing cuts to the pension and any increase to the GST,” Ms Macklin said.
The government has not yet replied to these charges, which Ms Macklin made in a statement today.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal Treasurer, Scott Morrison, insisted that he is taking Australians on “the safe road” to a balanced budget when he published his Mid Year Economic and Financial Outlook document today.
However he admitted that the nation will still face deficits of $37. 4billion in 2015-16, $33.7 billion in 2016-17, $23 billion in 2017-18, and $14.2b in 2018-19.
Mr Morrison said the journey to budget balance needed to be “safe and careful” with the expected date of a return to surplus pushed back another year to 2020-21.
Using the metaphor of the Christmas car trip, he said he expected a lot of Australians to ask “are we there yet?”.
“We need to take a safe and careful route and one (that) does not put at risk our jobs and growth,” he said.
The government has announced extra spending on its humanitarian program since its May budget.
Its decision to permanently accept an extra12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq , in particular, will cost $158 million in 2015-16, and $909 million over four years to 2018-19.
Offsetting savings were announced in today’s mini budget.
These will include removing bulk-billing for pathology services and reducing bulk-billing for diagnostic imaging services and MRI services.
This will reduce spending by $197 million in 2016-17 and by $639 million over four years to 2018-19.
There will also be cuts to childcare.
These will include reducing the childcare subsidy for families earning more than $250,000 a year.
by Alan Thornhill
Australia does not need the “tax secrecy” adopted by the Liberal Party and the Greens in the final session of Federal parliament this year, a senior Labor figure warned today.
Andrew Leigh, the Assistant Shadow Treasurer, said it is likely to curb growth and impede revenue collections.
He said:” The Government’s economic update tomorrow will likely fail both its own test for the economy and Labor’s test for the economy.
“ When they came to office, the Abbott-Turnbull Government said that they would pay down debt faster and make sure that Australia was running a surplus in the first year and every year after that
“ Well we’ve seen deficits blowing out; doubled over the course of the last year alone,” Mr Leigh said.
And he added:”….the mini-budget is also likely to fail Labor’s test and that of the Australian community.
Mr Leigh said:“ Australia now has a Prime Minister and a Treasurer that are looking to slash the best-targeted social safety net in the world.
“We know that this will not only hurt the most vulnerable but will also potentially impede growth because those in the middle and bottom of the distribution spend all of their pay packets.
“ So the cuts to family support that remain on the table are a signal threat to growth in the years to come. .
Speaking to reporters in Melbourne, where he was supporting a local ALP candidate, Mr Leigh said:”Labor believes that all Australians and companies should pay their fair share of tax.
“We’ve been leading the debate around multinational taxation.
“Earlier this year, Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen and I introduced our multinational tax plan which would close debt deduction loopholes and add more than $7 billion to the budget bottom line over the course of the next decade.
“And yet from the Government all we’ve seen is a multinational tax plan that has asterisks where revenue estimates should be.
Worse, at the close of parliamentary sittings we saw the Liberals and the Greens band together in favour of tax secrecy.
“That’s not what Australia needs.
“We need more transparency and we need a Government that is willing to do the right thing on multinational taxation,” Mr Leigh said.
by Alan Thornhill
Consensus on tax reform proved elusive when the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull met State premiers and Territory leaders in Sydney today.
The State and Territory leaders went into the meeting of the Council of Australian governments seeking reversal of the $80 billion cuts to their health and education spending that flowed, ultimately, from the unpopular 2014 Federal budget.
Mr Turnbull, for his part, was seeking more stable revenue flows, as the mining boom subsided.
That led to the Federal Treasurer, Scott Morrison, ordering the Federal Treasury to model the likely impact of possible changes, including several that would include a higher Goods and Services Tax.
Although the Opposition has been warning that Mr Turnbull wants to impose a 15 per cent GST on “everything” in place of the present 10 per cent, a 12.5 per cent rate is now starting to look more likely.
But the Coalition remains determined to curb the big Federal deficits it inherited from its Labor predecessor,
Mr Turnbull opened today’s meeting by thanking the Premiers and Territory leaders for what he called “very collaborative discussion we had last night.”
He said:“We all understand that Australia’s economy is transitioning from an enormous mining construction boom.”
And added:”We recognise that we’ve seen a high rise in our terms of trade and as was always going to happen that has now subsided.
I think we all recognise that to ensure our continued prosperity we do need to be more competitive, more productive and more innovative.
However the COAG leaders did agree to keep on examining options for tax reform.
They also accepted a March deadline on their discussions.
”Mr Turnbull said after today’s meeting “there are many different options.”
“There are many different approaches and… ultimately what we need is a tax system for the 21st century.”
The Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman, said he was looking forward to putting some concrete proposals on the table by the proposed deadline of March next year.
Mr Hodgman said his focus was not to increase the tax burden.
“We believe that the better and more appropriate approach is to ensure that we use this discussion, which also has a very important element of understanding the inefficiencies in our systems,” he said.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said there are still some fundamental issues in the tax system that need to be addressed ahead of the looming deadline.
“Importantly, out of today was recognition from states and territories as well as the Commonwealth that this is a shared challenge,” Mr Barr said.
“But it’s one that the clock is ticking on and we can’t have another meeting like today in March.
“We have to start making decisions.”
by Alan Thornhill
Speculation on tax reform has peaked ahead of a meeting between the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, and State premiers on Friday.
The Federal government has insisted, in the lead up to this meeting, that “everything will be on the table” as these talks progress.
Labor has responded by alleging that Malcolm Turnbull is secretly planning to increase the GST.
Opposition strategists know that an effective campaign on the GST will be their best chance of defeating the still popular Prime Minister, at the Federal elections expected next year.
Lingering divisions in the Liberal party – mostly flowing from the September coup in which Mr Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, might help.
Especially as Mr Abbott is finding it difficult to remain heroically silent, about his loss.
But Mr Turnbull knows, deep in his political heart, that his own scare campaign, on the carbon tax, is also the best card he has in his hand.
And – perhaps for that reason – he has been reluctant to say – flatly – that his government won’t increase the GST if it is re-elected next year.
There are several good reasons for not doing so.
After all, coalition governments don’t have a particularly good record, when it comes to keeping pre-election promises, particularly on tax.
Why draw attention to that?
Then there would be recalcitrant premiers to convince, if a Prime Minister did want to increase the GST.
Why give them time to organise, too?
Much better to keep mumbling about “everything being on the table” when it comes to tax reform.
There are risks, of course.
That was illustrated – all too well – today when Fairfax newspapers claimed to have a secret document showing not only that massive increases to the GST are likely, but that the Medicare Levy could rise as well.
There is an old game, in politics, called “frightening the horses.”
And our politicians – on all sides – are quite good at it.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government says its new child care package and related tax bills will encourage workforce participation and provide a more flexible, accessible child care system.
The Minister for Education and Training Simon Bimingham said the savings from the Family Tax Benefit bill would be used to fund the $3.2 billion Jobs for Families Child Care package.
Senator Birmingham said these measures would provide better support Australian children.
“Families using child care in 2017 on family incomes of between approximately $65,000 and $170,000 will save an average of $30 a week on their child care bills,” he said.
“The Jobs for Families Child Care package provides the highest rate of subsidy to those on the lowest income levels and more hours of subsidy to those who work the most,” he added.
“Our priority is to increase access to care for those families who need it most, particularly working parents.”
“We know the cost and accessibility of child care is a barrier for parents who want to work or work more.”
“Since the Jobs for Families Child Care package was announced in the Budget the Government has consulted widely with parents, child care providers and businesses,’ he added.
“We have modified the child care subsidy for two reasons.”
“The first being feedback that the previously announced subsidy rate was too generous for high income families and the second being the fact this package was to be funded through Family Tax Benefit reform, where savings have not been realised.”
“Accordingly we have reduced the subsidy rate for families on incomes of more than $250,000 and reduced the subsidy floor for higher income families from 50 per cent to 20 per cent.”
Senator Birmingham said the package represents the Government’s response to the recommendations from the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Child Care and Early Childhood Learning.
“The Commission found the current child care system with its numerous payments, is unnecessarily complex and that poorly targeted programs are failing to support families to be in jobs or provide additional support where it is needed.”
“The package includes a strong safety net that will provide additional learning opportunities for children in low income families or at risk or in the care of their grandparents.”
“The package will also support learning opportunities for all pre-school children,” he said.
Meanwhile the Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, said the Family Tax Benefit bill would put more money in family pockets each fortnight, through increases in the maximum rate of FTB Part A, Youth Allowance, and Youth Disability Support Pension
“These are real and sweeping reforms – but they need to be paid for,” Mr Porter said.
“That’s why we are restructuring family tax benefits and redirecting the funding.”
In addition, the FTB Part B standard rate will be increased by $1,000 each year for eligible families whose youngest child is aged under one year.
The Government also said it would ensure that single parents aged over 60 years and grandparent and great-grandparent carers with a youngest child aged 13–18 years will be eligible to receive FTB-B at the standard rate.
But it also said the end-of-year supplements would be phased out, given they are no longer fit for purpose.
“The supplements were introduced to fix a FTB debt problem that’s largely resolved,” Mr Porter said.
“It makes sense to redirect the money from the supplements back into families but in a way that allows parents to re-enter the workforce.
“He said research had shown that is the single best way to increase family wealth and prosperity.”
by Alan Thornhill
There has been a big improvement in Australia’s current account, but governments are still spending more than they raise and home building approvals are down.
These developments are all confirmed in figures the Bureau of Statistics published today.
The Bureau noted that the nation’s September quarter current account deficit – of $18.1 billion – was $2.4 billion smaller than that seen in the previous quarter.
It said that, in seasonally adjusted chain volume terms – the surplus on goods and services, increased by $6.1 billion from that chalked up for the June quarter.
Significantly, the Bureau said “this is expected to contribute 1.5 per centage points to growth in the September quarter 2015 volume measure of GDP.”
But the picture in the building industry, which has been one of the bright spots in the economy, was less encouraging.
The Bureau said private sector house approvals fell in October.
It recorded a fall of 0.6 per cent in the month and said that – in trend terms – approvals have now fallen for seven months.
The Bureau also noted that – despite all their talk of austerity and deficit reductions – Australia’s politicians – overall – are still spending more than they raise.
It said taxation revenue fell by 14.7 per cent, in the September quarter, to $101.3 billion.
However total expenses, for all levels of government, had risen by 0.1 per cent – in that time, to $149.8 billion.
by Alan Thornhill
The Federal government says a new child care package it will bring into parliament this week will help an estimated 3,900 grandparents who care for 6,300 children.
If passed, it would take effect from July 2017.
In a statement today, the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, said that grandparents on income support who provide primary care for their grandchildren would, themselves get subsidised child care under the new Child Care Safety Net.
“One of the greatest practical challenges for grandparents raising grandchildren are the costs associated with that care, which includes child care,” Senator Birmingham said.
He said families on incomes of between approximately $65,000 and $170,000 a year who use child care would be be around $30 a week or $1500 a year better off in 2017, under the proposed legislation which is to be introduced this week,
However the Shadow Minister for Education, Kate Ellis, said the new package would leave one family in four worse off.
She said too, that the package breaches the Coalition’s pre-election promise not to introduce income tests for child care rebates.
“Nothing in the Government’s announcements today changes the fact that as a direct result of their child care package, one in four Australian families will be worse off, “ she added.
“The inconvenient truth remains that this is a Government who is spending billions of dollars to make families go backwards when it comes to accessing affordable child care.”
“We know, through the only modelling that is available – conducted through NATSEM – that thousands of Australian families are going to lose child care subsidies as a result of the Government’s actions,” Ms Ellis said.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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