Surplus could mean budget ‘cash splash’

By Chief Advocate Ian Henschke

It’s budget time again. This year it’s a month earlier than normal because it’s election time, again. Rumour is that it’s going to be a big cash splash.

This is because the government is now expecting a surplus, not a deficit. A predicted surplus of $4.1 billion in the 2019/20 financial year - followed by more years of surpluses.

So, the multi-billion-dollar question is: how will they spend the money?

Perhaps they’ll try and buy votes. After all, that’s been done many times before.

There’s talk of a one-off payment for age pensioners. I’m sure most will appreciate the extra cash but does that solve a systemic problem?

We’ve joined with the Benevolent Society to fight pension poverty. It hits hard those who rent and particularly women.

One in four pensioners lives in poverty. Giving everyone a one-off payment won’t fix that.

National Seniors published its election priorities some time ago and you can read them here.

Our 15 recommendations are grouped into seven key areas.

At the top of our list are the already mentioned necessity to Fix Pension Poverty and the deficiencies in aged care. Those deficiencies were highlighted last week again at the Royal Commission. We heard that to fix the home care wait list so all 128,000 seniors in the queue got the package they needed would cost between $2 billion and $2.5 billion.

Both of these key budget issues were discussed at our election forum in Hobart on Monday. It was a great event with around 120 people there. About two thirds were members and the rest we hope will become members. Many joined on the day.

It was a Q&A session with each politician outlining their policies for four minutes at the start of the event.

The speakers were Julie Collins, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health and ALP Member for Franklin; Andrew Wilkie, Independent Member for Denison; Dean Young, Liberal candidate for Franklin; Nick McKim, Greens Senator for Tasmania.

Thanks to National Seniors member Mary Parsissons, who organised all the speakers. You can listen to my recap of the event here or at at the link above.

It was a wonderful event and a fine example of democracy in action. I was MC and when I asked who supported the creation of an independent tribunal to set the rate of the pension (one of our core policies to fix pension poverty), everyone except one member of the audience put their hand up.

Senator McKim and Mr Wilkie both said they backed the idea and the Liberal candidate said it was worth consideration. Ms Collins said it was up to government to set the age pension.

Our downsizing policy drew universal support. Let’s hope this makes it into the budget this year.

The budget will be delivered next Tuesday night. Our Policy and Research Manager Katrina Wotton and I will be in the pre-budget speech stakeholders’ lock-up and we’ll have a summary of what it means for you that night.

A more detailed analysis will be in next week’s Connect and I’ll do a PAM (Policy Advocacy Media) video next week as well, so watch out for that. 

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