Razor gang wants family payment cuts, $15 doctor visits
FAMILIES across Australia would be hit on several fronts by cuts and changes to government funding, welfare and new health co-payments under the Abbott Government's Commission of Audit recommendations.
The full audit report, released on Thursday by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and commission chairman Tony Shepherd, has taken a hard line on government spending across almost every portfolio.
Wide-ranging reforms were pitched to save $70 billion, bring the Federal budget back to surplus by 2019-20 and then grow the surplus to 1% of GDP by 2023-24.
The report focused on 15 of the "fastest growing" government spending areas, with proposals for new levies in health, cuts and means-testing on pensions and government support payments likely to spark the ire of many families around the country.
Among the 86 recommendations, the commission proposes abolishing Family Tax Benefit Part B, a support payment for about 60% of Australian families with children, and replacing it with a payment only for single parents, claiming the current system is stopping mothers returning to work.
It also recommended the 70% of Australian families which get the FTB Part A be reduced, by limiting the payment to families which take home less than a total of $99,220, down from about $112,000 currently.
Other changes recommended include new $15 co-payments on all Medicare services provided by the government, $5 for concession card holders; new co-payments for all medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and limiting Commonwealth funds for hospitals with state governments to pick up the tab.
Families could also face a new means-tested child care payment to replace the two separate rebate and benefit payments, which would "roughly maintain" current levels, reimbursing low-income families about 80% of their child care bills and other up to 50%.
While the report said there was a "serious" problem with the Federal Government's revenue, Mr Shepherd said it was outside of the audit's remit as the government had "committed" to a tax white paper to consider revenue.
But the audit also looked at federal-state relations, proposing ditching payments for national agreements across many areas, guided by the principle that "policy and service delivery should, as far as practicable, be devolved to the level of government closest to the people receiving the services".
To that end, the commission recommended the Federal Government either limit its funding to, or pull out altogether on school education, hospital funding, housing and homelessness funding deals, and non-Medicare health funding arrangements.
Senator Cormann said while many of the recommendations have been accepted by the government, the coming federal budget would be the government's official response to the audit, with action on longer-term proposals to be considered later.
Changes you need to know:
Aged pension: Lowering rate of growth to 28% of average weekly earnings, rather than male total average weekly earnings; steady rise in eligibility age, from 65 now to 70 years by 2053; new single means-test on income and assets, changes to assets test.
Medicare and hospitals: $15 co-payment for all Medicare services, $5 for concession card holders; states encouraged to add co-payment for "unnecessary" hospital visits; Singles earning more than $88,000 to pay extra 2% (to 3%) Medicare surcharge if they don't have private health insurance, rising to 3.5% for those earning $136,000 or more
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme: New co-payment rise for PBS medicines, up $5 from $36.90 to $41.90 for those under safety net; up from $6 to $11 for those covered; safety net to rise from $1421 to $1613; opening up pharmacy sector to competition.
Payments to Carers: limit to one carer supplement per carer; new income test for payment, set at $150,000; review eligibility criteria to ensure those getting payment have "limited capacity to work".
Aged Care: Means test to include full value of principal residence; abolish payroll tax supplement; fee for aged care providers to access accommodation bond guarantees.
Disability Support Pension: cutting pension to average weekly earnings, in line with aged pension and other welfare payments; changes to eligibility, income and asset tests if reviewed.
Child care and paid parental leave: Limit PPL to those earning $57,000 or less, down from revised $100,000 ceiling; combine child care rebate and benefit into one, means-tested payment, levels "roughly maintained".
- National Disability Insurance Scheme: Slower roll-out of the scheme; "strictly controlled" cost.
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