NSW Budget: pensioners overlooked, but some good news

Article published 24 June 2024

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Pensioners have missed out on any targeted benefits in the NSW Budget, but investment in social housing is a plus for the community.

This New South Wales Budget was always going to be a tough one. Recent changes to the way that revenue from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is distributed amongst the states meant that NSW missed out on nearly $12 billion that it could have accounted for in the Budget had the changes not gone ahead.

Even so, it is disappointing to see no targeted announcements to support the health, wellbeing and social inclusion of pensioners and people on low incomes.

What was missing from the NSW Budget

Before the Budget, CPSA called on the NSW Government to reinstate the Regional Seniors Travel Card so that older people in regional and rural areas could once again receive $250 towards their travel expenses. Sadly (though perhaps unsurprisingly), the Card was once again left out of the Budget.

CPSA also called on the Government to increase the Pensioner Council Rate Rebate to better reflect the council rates that people are actually paying. The rebate was initially designed to cover “one half of the rate or charge”. However, the rebate is also limited to $250, meaning that council rates would have to be just $500 per year for pensioners to receive an actual 50% rebate. Rates have gone up significantly since the rebate was first introduced more than 30 years ago, but the maximum limit hasn’t moved at all.

For most people who receive the $250 rebate, their rates are significantly higher than $500, so the rebate covers a much smaller fraction. CPSA called on the NSW Government to raise the $250 limit so that more people can receive the 50% reduction that the rebate was originally designed to provide. Unfortunately, this measure was also missing from the Budget.

Public dental care is another area that was overlooked in the Budget. The number of people waiting for treatment or assessment in the public dental system in NSW is now up to nearly 80,000. In one local health district, fewer than half of patients are being assessed within the maximum recommended waiting time.

Dental care should ultimately be included in Medicare, but until that happens, the public dental system needs a significant increase in funding. Sadly, that is now out of the question for at least another year.

There were several other areas that should have received more attention in this Budget, such as palliative care, elder abuse prevention and the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS), which provides support for people traveling long distances to attend medical appointments, but which currently does not include dental appointments.

Good news in the NSW Budget

While CPSA would have liked to see more attention paid to the issues that affect pensioners, there were some positive items in the Budget.

A change to payroll tax will encourage more GPs to bulk-bill their patients. Many GPs currently bulk-bill concession card holders, but people on low incomes who are not eligible for concession cards have struggled over the past few years as many GPs have stopped bulk-billing. This announcement should make a big difference for this group.

As GP visits have become more expensive more people have also been forced to go to emergency departments for problems that could otherwise be treated by a GP. Hopefully, this change will also reduce the pressure on hospitals.

Many people in underpaid sectors such as healthcare and education will receive pay rises. This will help increase staffing levels in these industries and will better support these essential workers.

The NSW Budget also included $5.1 billion towards building new public housing, which should translate to more than 6,000 new homes over the next four years. After years of underinvestment in public and community housing, it’s good to see the NSW Government building homes directly rather than just leaving it up to the private market.

Public housing supports people on low incomes and in insecure housing and provides wider benefits by allowing more people to participate and engage in their local communities. It also puts downward pressure on rental costs so that more people can rent in comfort and dignity.

Other positive announcements included better regulation of new housing developments, improved strata regulations to protect residents living in strata properties, and increased funding to improve regional roads.

For more information please email our media contact at media@cpsa.org.au

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