Kaye's Budget Blog - The taxman cometh…

In the lock-up this was described as a joyless budget and to a certain extent that is true…there are no major handouts, tax cuts or pension increases. I had jokingly said to Debbie, “I hope we’re not going all the way to Canberra to write one paragraph about a set top box”, and not even that made it on Treasurer Swan’s list of fiscal reforms.
So in one sense it is boring, but at another level it has some great initiatives and the big picture looks good, with Australian debt levels minute compared to other countries in the G7.
The big deal is, of course, the $2.2 billion being dedicated to improving those who suffer from less than optimal mental health. With nearly one third of Australians set to suffer from a mental illness at some stage in their lives, this health responsibility has been long overlooked by state and federal governments. No longer. Here comes the money – and largely in response, we believe to the continual highlighting of the plight of the mentally ill by former Australian of the Year, Professor Pat McGorry. Take a bow Professor Pat – only squeaky doors get the oil, so on behalf of the many, many families affected by this affliction, you’ve done a great job.
The next BIG THING in my opinion is of course a dedicated Age Discrimination Commissioner. This is sensational news – about time, of course, but so important that there will be someone whose primary role is to advocate on behalf of those who have suffered from Age Discrimination and feel powerless to counteract it. Who should it be?

Back to the Budget.
One thing which made us scratch our heads, in particular.
Considering the ageing of our population is one of the biggest issues which will transform our society over the next 10, 20 30 years – and we keep hearing how we will need people to work harder and create their own retirement incomes – absolutely nothing in this budget recognises this coming tsunami of older citizens nor encourages any of us to save harder or plan for our retirements. Why not? we ask the Gillard Government.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this Budget is that it seems to fail to make the very obvious connection between older Australians and skills shortages. There are programs galore to help younger people and apprentices and a stated intention to allow 16,300 more skilled migrants to apply for permanent citizenship. We are not against migration. But we wonder why we are not considering the wealth of skills held by older adults – the retired, the about-to-retire and the long-term unemployed – and creating programs for these 50, 60 and 70-somethings to continue to contribute in the workplace. Is it really THAT hard? Some $3.7 million will be used to fund career advice for single parents. Why is there no money for career advice for older Australians keen to keep working or to get back to work but unsure how to get that much desired job?
And yes, to return to our wishlist, we didn’t see an Age Pension increase, rebates for dental services or an increase in the supplement to cover higher energy costs. But never fear, like the good Professor McGorry, we will continue to advocate for these reforms week in, week out, until Budget 2012 hopefully delivers them.

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