BORDER welfare groups say the region’s elderly, unemployed and sick will carry the pain of the federal budget.
Agencies such as UnitingCare Wodonga and St Matthew’s Crisis Care in Albury expect an influx of people needing help once changes to Centrelink and Medicare take effect.
St Matthew’s Father Peter Macleod-Miller has even called on Farrer MP Sussan Ley to question her allegiance to the Liberal party, saying the budget was at odds with the values and needs of her electorate.
But Ms Ley confirmed her support for the budget.
“Our plan remains the same — fixing the budget means lower debt and lower interest costs with our interest bill projected at $16 billion lower in a decade,” she said.
“All this will mean more money flowing into job creation, health, education, roads and support for families and our seniors.”
Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie backed that argument, saying a “tough but fair” budget and measures such as a company tax cut would help businesses employ more staff.
But chair of UnitingCare Wodonga Geoff Moar, doubted that philosophy.
“There’s a certain logic to it but we also know historically that this trickle-down effect just doesn’t work,” he said.
“The country isn’t just a business. We should be trying to create a healthy, functioning society for everybody.”
Among the changes to hurt the Border and North East are the $7 GP co-payment, keeping young unemployed people on the lower Youth Allowance, freezing the Newstart allowance, tightening the disability pension rules, and fuel excise.
“Newstart is already below the poverty line and with a lack of indexation it’s not going to get any better,” he said.
“It’s that little bit extra on fuel, on going to the doctor, on medicine.
“It’s just the cost of a cup of coffee to some, but when you can’t afford that cup of coffee in the first place. It’s a big worry.”
One in 12 households sought help from UnitingCare Wodonga last year and Mr Moar feared that figure would grow.
He said while new jobs would be created, he wondered what was being done to create jobs regionally.
“Many young people are training, getting forklift licences or other skills but still can’t find regular work,” he said.
Ms McKenzie said there were many jobs in regional areas other than the North East and people might have to move, or re-educate so their skills suited the work available.
Father MacLeod-Miller said we all should be outraged.
“Ms Ley, and all of us in fact, should be jumping up and down saying this is not the way to deal with a society,” he said.
In response to questions about how the budget affected Farrer, Ms Ley said: “I can’t think of too many budgets in my time where we have millions being spent on local cancer treatment, heart patients and youth mental health.
“The local Green Army project is a welcome concept to assist youth and there are many more projects that get a little lost in the media’s frenzy to feast on any negatives,” she said.”