Budget wishlist - 2011

Today Debbie and I are headed to Canberra to join other media representatives in the budget lockup. We are privileged to have the opportunity to read the details of Treasurer Wayne Swan’s fourth budget and to share the most relevant changes with our 50+ website visitors and enewsletter subscribers.
So in advance of the actual detail, here is what we believe the Treasurer should be delivering for older Australians. We’ve kept it simple by only asking for three changes – we don’t expect any of these will come through, but at the risk of becoming repetitive, we will keep advocating for such reforms.

Wish One – An Age Pension increase.
We know times are tight for individuals and governments. But we also know that the bare minimum needed for a very modest standard of living for a single Age Pensioner is $21,132 (as measured by the Westpac-ASFA Retirement Living standard).
Currently the payment is $18,961 per annum, including the maximum supplements available. This is more than $2000 short of the amount required.
We understand the ‘missing’ $2171 cannot be made up in one year, but we are suggesting the full Age Pension for singles is increased by $700 per budget for the next three years until it at least matches the most modest quoted lifestyle, with a commensurate increase in the pension for couples.

Wish two – Dental rebates
Anyone who has visited the dentist recently will know how gobsmackingly expensive even the most minor treatment or basic checkup can be. Try paying for this on a pension! So next on our wish list is access to Medicare benefits for dental treatment. Currently if you suffer from a chronic illness and have complex care needs you may qualify for dental care which is rebated by Medicare. This amount is currently a maximum of $4250 towards eligible dental services over two calendar years. But what of the rest of us who don’t suffer from chronic illness? Should those on Age Pensions simply have to fork out for expensive dental treatment if they cannot afford expensive private health insurance? We think not. There needs to be at least a minimum $500 per annum dental rebate paid by Medicare for those on an Age Pension.

Wish Three – Energy bills allowance increase
More than most other household expenses, our gas, electricity and water bills seem to be increasing at an alarming rate. For those living in straightened circumstances this can mean the difference between buying sufficiently nutritional food or not. We would like to see an increase in the maximum combined pension supplement (which currently covers Telephone Allowance, Utilities Allowance, the GST Supplement and Pharmaceutical Allowance) from $58.40 for singles $88.00 for couples per fortnight to $70 for singles and $98 for couples.

And how will this be paid for, I hear you ask? My answer is simple. By raising income taxes for those who can afford it. So those households earning $200,000 per annum could well afford to pay more in PAYG taxes to support those who are currently scraping out an existence on very little. This is not charity – this is a reasonable social service safety net for people who have already paid a lot in income tax.

What do you think?
Are these the type of initiatives you would like to see in Budget 2011? {encode=”[email protected]” title=”Send us your thoughts”} and the most innovative response (as judged by Debbie) will win a 5-DVD pack.

Have your say on the Meeting Place.