Budget cuts hit working families

AS STATE and territory leaders convened in Sydney on Sunday to discuss the $80 billion shortfall in health and education funding in the federal budget, it was predicted these and other measures would hit already struggling western Sydney residents hardest.

The premiers called for an urgent Council of Australian Governments meeting to determine how the states would make up the shortfall, opening a debate about an increase in and possible extension of the GST.

Budgetary cuts and policy changes also mean many middle and lower income earners face higher costs as a result of an increase in the petrol excise, changes to Family Tax Benefits, the introduction of a $7 Medicare co-payment, slashing of hospital and education funding, a six-month wait to qualify for the dole, restricting the dole to those aged over 25 and raising the pension age to 70, among others.

The unpopular budget rallied thousands in cities across the country to the streets to march in protest at the weekend.

A Fairfax-Nielsen poll published yesterday gave the ALP a 12 percentage point lead at 56-44 over the Coalition and had support for Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister slump to 40 per cent while Opposition Leader Bill Shorten soared to a 51 per cent approval rating.

Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils president Tony Hadchiti said working families and disadvantaged groups in the region would bear the brunt of the budget cuts.

And costs could rise even more if, as state leaders including NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird suggest, an increase in the GST now needs to be on the nation's policy agenda.

About 16,500 commonwealth public service jobs will also be cut, prescriptions will cost $5 more and $1.3 billion worth of seniors' concessions will go.

On the positive side there was a $20 billion boost to medical research (thanks to the $7 co-payment) and $11 billion for infrastructure. The much-vaunted paid parental leave scheme gets $1.9 billion from July next year and Defence gets an extra $1.5 billion for new hardware.

■ Read more online at stmarysstar.com.au.

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