Budget slammed as an ‘incoherent mess’

Budget reviews by YourLifeChoices commentators range from an “incoherent mess” to an “opportunity missed”.

Australia Institute senior economist Matt Grudnoff was the most damning.

“In over a decade of covering budgets, I have never seen a budget so lacking in a plan for the future,” he said.

“This Budget is an incoherent mess.

“It is a transparent attempt to fill whatever hole the government thinks is most urgent in the lead-up to the election.

“This Budget’s lack of vision hurts older people in aged care the most.

“The aged care royal commission was a once-in-a-generation opportunity for a government to fix the glaring problems in aged care.

“Unfortunately, this opportunity for reform has come at a time when the government is unable to focus beyond the election.

“It means that there is not enough money nor enough bold thinking to solve the crisis in aged care.

“There is a cash splash for more home care packages, more money for aged care training and an increase in funding per bed for residential aged care, but it fails to follow the plan of long-term reform set out by the royal commission and it lacks any alternative plan.”

Read: Budget night ends up an election pitch packed with sugar hits

Personal finance guru Noel Whittaker was also underwhelmed.

“There is a $250 payment to welfare recipients which won’t do much to assist them, and will mean another $2 billion borrowed by the government,” he said.

“I wonder if $2 billion could be better spent on other benefits for older people.

“There is an increase in the Medicare levy low income threshold but I can’t see that affecting too many people and the government is lowering the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme threshold, but I’m not sure if that has too much effect either.”

Read: Weeks out from an election, Budget eases the pain

Retirement Essentials chair Jeremy Duffield said there was little substance to the Budget offerings.

“‘Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick,’ my late mother would have said,” Mr Duffield said.

“There was a bit of confectionery in the Budget for older Australians.  

“We welcome the additional $250 in support for age pensioners and concession card holders.

“The extension of the reduction in minimum withdrawal rates for account-based pensions is also welcome as it gives older Australians more flexibility in how to manage their retirement finances.

“But these are temporary measures, ‘sugar hits’, there wasn’t much ‘nourishment’ there. 

“We were disappointed to see there was nothing done to address the disincentives for older Australians to remain in, or rejoin, the workforce.

“These disincentives hurt us all. They deny older Australians much-needed income as well as the social connectedness of work and deny the rest of the nation the benefits of their skills and experience. 

“A further increase in the income thresholds for the Age Pension and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, a more generous Work Bonus and reducing the 50 cents of Age Pension lost for every dollar earned above the income threshold would all have encouraged greater participation in the workforce by older Australians.

“Given the forecast low unemployment, a real opportunity was missed here. 

“And unfortunately once again nothing was done to increase the meagre level of support provided to age pensioners that are forced to rent.”

Read: Retirees to benefit from superannuation changes

Aged Care Steps director Louise Biti said the Budget offered little for Australians in aged care.

After outlining a five-year plan for the reform of aged care in last year’s Federal Budget – with a spend of $18.8 billion – it was not surprising to see no major announcements for aged care this year,” Ms Biti said.

“A new funding model to reset the cost of care for residents is currently being trialled, with implementation set for later this year. This is expected to provide an extra $20.1 million in funding over the next three years.

“While this boost is welcomed, most industry commentators suggest it is still inadequate to lift standards to meet consumer expectations.

“It is likely that at some future point, consumer contributions will need to be increased to help cover costs, but this was not going to be announced in a Budget so close to an election.”

Read: Much to be happy about but pension indexation flaw ignored

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Written by Jan Fisher

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