FEDERAL BUDGET 2014: Reaction from Border residents

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FEDERAL BUDGET: A regional wrap

DISABILITY: Good news warms mum as disabilities funding goes ahead

West Albury mother Lynne Wheeler is happy with last night’s news that NDIS funding is on track to help support her daughter Kelly, 20, in coming years. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

West Albury mother Lynne Wheeler is happy with last night’s news that NDIS funding is on track to help support her daughter Kelly, 20, in coming years. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

- by CHLOE BOOKER

A WEST Albury mother has welcomed funding for the national disability insurance scheme that she says will benefit her daughter, who has cerebral palsy. 

Lynne Wheeler provides full-time care for Kelly, 20, who is confined to a wheelchair and has an intellectual disability.

Kelly can’t speak, is tube-fed and requires help with all her personal care.

Mrs Wheeler said she was “pleasantly surprised” the scheme was on track for a full roll- out in 2019.

“It’s good news to us,” she said.

“I was concerned something would be changed with it, that the money wouldn’t be forthcoming as planned.”

The budget provides $825 million for the DisabilityCare Australia Fund, a sum to grow 3.5 per cent a year.

The states and territories will be able to draw down on the fund when they meet key conditions, including signing an agreement to fully roll out the disability scheme and milestones relating to participation of people with disabilities. 

Mrs Wheeler hoped the scheme would deliver more flexibility when accessing services. 

“We want to care for her at home for as long as we can, but we need as much help as we can to do that,” she said.

Mrs Wheeler and her husband, David, have been booking three months in advance for required services, such as respite or personal care.

It means they are unable to take up many social invitations or do anything that comes up without notice.

Mrs Wheeler said she was also pleased with the news those under 35 years old on the disability support pension would now have to undertake work experience or some form of employment activity.

She said reassessing people who signed up between 2008 and 2011 meant the money could be better directed to people in need, such as Kelly.

BUSINESS: Good for big city, maybe not for us

- by NATALIE KOTSIOS

THE leaders of the Border’s commerce chambers have welcomed the federal government’s attempts to balance the books — but what it means for Albury-Wodonga business remains to be seen.

Of most interest to Wodonga Chamber of Commerce’s manger Bernie Squires is the $10,000 incentive for employers to hire people over 50 who have been unemployed for at least six months.

“With our ageing population it’s inevitable that that end of the spectrum is going to become an unemployment statistic,” he said.

“And with the push to increase the pension age there has to be some incentive to employ older Australians.”

But for the scheme to be successful, there would have to be a “cultural change” in business, he said.

“A cheaper employee is a younger employee but the incentive will offset some of those costs,” he said.

“In the past it would have been difficult to hire an older employee even if you wanted to.”

His Albury counterpart, Albury Northside Chamber of Commerce chairman Phil Clements, was less optimistic the scheme would work.

“I’m sure it will have some impact but I don’t see it as something that will be a mainstream thing unless it applies to all people over 50,” he said.

“It just depends on the strings that are attached to those businesses.”

Mr Clements said he believed the budget was “a genuine attempt to balance the books” and necessary to avoid more drastic measures in the future.

“All businesses know you can’t keep spending more than you earn,” he said.

Mr Clements said he could not comment on cuts to industry-assistance packages of about $800 million, until closer examination of the detail.

The government has stated it wants industry and business to be self-reliant.

Mr Clements also praised the $11.6 billion infrastructure package, which provides largely for metropolitan projects.

“When it improves the ability to move goods and services around, it always has a positive impact for the nation as a whole,” he said.

Mr Squires countered that he would have preferred to see more investment in regional Australia.

“When they talk about job creation, it’s all around construction in the CBD ... There needs to be job creation schemes for regional Australia ... and programs to encourage people to come to regional Australia,” he said.

Mr Squires said people tightening their belts because of less disposable income would be tough on local businesses.

BORDER RESIDENT: 'Wedges creates too many losers'

Mel Armstrong has described the federal budget as 'appalling'. Picture: KYLIE ESLER

Mel Armstrong has described the federal budget as 'appalling'. Picture: KYLIE ESLER

- By CHLOE BOOKER

A LAVINGTON woman has described the federal budget as “appalling”.

Mel Armstrong believes a $7 fee to see a doctor, slowed pension increases and changes to Centrelink payments will widen the gap between Australia’s wealthy and poor.

The 26-year-old homeowner said she didn’t mind being taxed personally, but low-income earners would be disadvantaged at a higher rate than the rest of the population.

She said cutting Newstart for six months for the unemployed under 30 and swapping those under 25 to youth allowance would put them at risk.

“The ramifications could be dire for some people,” Ms Armstrong said.

“Having pensions linked to inflation rates instead of wage increases means pensioners won’t have increases like the rest of us.

“But their cost of living is going to go up because it’s going to be driven by our wage increases.”

The Catholic College Wodonga teacher’s aide said the doctor fee and $5 increase in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme co-payment would be very costly for the elderly.

She said self-funded retirees on 15 to 20 medications could have hundreds of dollars slapped on their monthly budgets.

The measure will see $3.5 billion directed to the newly created Medical Research Future Fund.

Ms Armstrong said while she was for the creation of the medical fund, she couldn’t understand how university students contributing to research should be forced to pay increased fees at the same time.

She was also angered by the scrapping of the carbon tax and “not thrilled” with the increase in petrol excise, saying it wasn’t fair in regional areas where there was inadequate public transport.

MEDICARE: Hume chief says there could be hope for local workers

Hume Medicare Local chief David Dart says the centres can be part of the solution. Picture: KYLIE ESLER

Hume Medicare Local chief David Dart says the centres can be part of the solution. Picture: KYLIE ESLER

THE nation’s 61 Medicare Locals will be axed within a year — but the head of the Hume branch prefers to look at the glass half-full.

The budget confirmed the community health initiative the Labor government introduced two years ago would be replaced with “primary health networks”.

The government said these would be smaller, more closely aligned with state health networks and have stronger links with GPs.

It is in line with the leaked contents of a memo to Medicare Local chiefs last month.

Hume Medicare Local chief David Dart said there could be scope for “locals” to transition to the new system.

“You don’t have to be a Rhodes scholar to know if you’ve got the staff, the existing networks and corporate knowledge, it’s of value,” he said.

“I think it bodes well for us and I’m quietly confident we can be part of the solution.”

The government-commissioned review of Medicare Locals released on Monday was scathing, saying they had limited success.

But Mr Dary said that of the report’s 10 recommendations, Medicare Local had already ticked every box.

“I don’t think there’s anyone else in the space at the moment who can put their hand up and do the work that’s in those recommendations,” he said.

ENVIRONMENT: An 'anti-future' climate policy

Lauriston Muirhead says the Coalition climate policies are a double slug on taxpayers.

Lauriston Muirhead says the Coalition climate policies are a double slug on taxpayers.

- By CHLOE BOOKER

THE government’s climate-change policies will encourage extreme weather such as bushfires and floods, according to a Border environmental campaigner.

The government last night said it would cut the carbon tax and provide subsidies for fossil-fuel companies.

It is also axing the Australian Renewable Energy Agency that has funded clean-energy projects and driven research and investment.

Lauriston Muirhead, of Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health (WATCH), called it an “anti-future budget”.

“Mostly, it will increase taxpayers’ costs and reduce services in order to keep an unsustainable, globally damaging fossil fuel industry after its use-by date,” he said.

“Australia will become a less comfortable place with more extreme weather, more bushfires, more floods.”

Mr Muirhead said the government was giving up billions of dollars from big polluters.

It was replacing it with its direct-action plan that handed big polluters money to try to reduce pollution.

“The carbon tax is reducing carbon pollution, but we do not know whether Direct Action will work.”

Mr Muirhead, who is Albury Council’s environmental health officer, said axing the carbon tax meant reduced or delayed spending on health and education.

“The taxpayer is slugged twice to pay the big polluters — once through direct action and again through fossil fuel subsidies,” he said.

Mr Muirhead said the government was “looking after its mates” by giving fossil fuel companies subsidies at a time when there were cuts to renewable energy.

He said this would lead to thousands of job losses in the sector.

The government said the axing of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, set up in 2011, would save $1.3 billion over five years.

Over the next eight years, $1 billion would be used to support “priority projects” already started.

It can’t be abolished without legislation passing the Senate and Labor and the Greens have said they would oppose efforts to repeal the Gillard-era agency.

The government also announced $460 million in savings over three years by trimming the carbon capture and storage program.

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