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Queensland budget 2014: Government backs down on pensioner discounts amid backlash

Date

Amy Remeikis

Making up the concession gap will cost the state about a $54 million.

Making up the concession gap will cost the state about a $54 million. Photo: Tamara Voninski

After two days of bad press, talkback anger and talk of further action, the Queensland government has backed down and agreed to reinstate the entire senior and pensioner concession rate.

Premier Campbell Newman took to parliament as soon as the Thursday session began to call the Stafford by-election for July 19, attack "the same old failed Labor team and the minor parties", and point to the "action" his "strong team" was capable of, before announcing the state would make up the federal contribution shortfall.

Seniors' groups are relieved.

"We were very concerned that it seemed that they were going to place people who are very vulnerable in an even worse situation. So their decision to continue with the concessions is very much appreciated,'' said Mark Tucker-Evans, chief executive of Council on the Ageing in Queensland.

It is the second about-face the government has made in less than 24 hours, coming on the back of the union balloting laws repeal late on Wednesday night.

Making up the concession gap will cost the state about a $54 million, but it was seen as politically too expensive not to find the funds.

"We are a government that listens to Queenslanders," he said.

"We are responsive.  We are always looking for solutions when Queenslanders tell us there is a problem.

"Passing on some of the Commonwealth's cut to pensioner concessions is clearly not an acceptable outcome for Queenslanders.

"This government made the decision to raise our pensioner and concessions by almost $26 million in this coming year's budget to help compensate.

"But pensioners and older Queenslanders have told us that they simply can not wear the cost of filling gap between Queensland's increased contribution and the Commonwealth's cuts and increased fees and taxes, like fuel excises.

"That is why today I am announcing we are not only listening to Queenslanders, but we're acting in the space of two days, to reinstate the full level of the pensioner and senior concessions.

"Queensland seniors and pensioners will not be worse off by the Commonwealth cuts."

It is a significant backdown from the government, which, only the day before, had passed a motion vowing to lobby the federal government to reinstate its funding contribution, but had insisted its hands were tied by a budget weighed down with debt.

Pensioner groups and retired unionists had formed an action group coalition, having claimed that following the federal budget's increased costs, including the fuel excise and GP co-payment, the gap between what the state would continue to pay and what the Commonwealth had cut was the last straw.

The Opposition was also gaining traction on the issue. Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk spent the morning after the budget with pensioners in Inala.  She compared her morning to the LNP fundraising lunch later that day, where Treasurer Tim Nicholl's budget and $33 billion asset sale and privatisation plan was met with applause.

Mr Newman said the state's contribution would be made up by withholding and recouping funds from the federal government.

“It is the Commonwealth Government that has caused the problem with pensioner cuts and increased charges and you only have to look at the statements of other first ministers and premiers around the nation," he said.

“We will be looking for opportunities, all opportunities to withhold and recoup funding from the Commonwealth’s programs and initiatives that they ask states to contribute from time to  time to make up the shortfall that they have created.

“We will continue to send a clear message to Canberra that Queenslanders won’t stand for these kinds of cuts.

“The Commonwealth should be bearing the burden.”

On Wednesday when asked about the Queensland criticism, a bemused federal treasurer Joe Hockey said it was "easy to blame Canberra when you're a premier in Queensland".

He said the state had "done better out of this budget over the next four years than even they were expecting".

Ms Palaszczuk said pensioners would not forget the Premier's "disgraceful attack'' on their household budgets.

“It shows he only cares about pensioners when he cops a few negative media stories. He doesn’t really care about how they pay their bills,'' she said.

“No-one, but pensioners especially, will forget his callous disregard for their welfare in this budget.”

The Stafford byelection was widely seen as the first big test for Queensland's latest budget and its 'Strongest and Smartest Choice' action plan.

With the state election less than a year away, the government is moving into election mode.

- with Tony Moore

45 comments so far

  • the start of the porkbarrelling
    we need a senate in this state

    Commenter
    max
    Location
    Qld
    Date and time
    June 05, 2014, 10:24AM
    • Reintroduction of the Senate must be on the political agenda. It is a must.

      Commenter
      Cash Cow
      Date and time
      June 05, 2014, 11:19AM
    • I believe that this is a calculated risk by the government. They are banking on the fact that the Federal Gov will reinstate their pension funding.

      So they absorb it now, claiming they are the heroes... but in 2 weeks, they get their federal funding back and it doesnt cost them anything.

      Do you think that when the federal government backflips, Newman will be telling pensioners to write to their federal MP and thank them because it had nothing to do with the state government? BAHAHAHA

      Commenter
      1933
      Date and time
      June 05, 2014, 12:20PM
  • Well, well, well. All that bull.... about not having the funds to continue the concessions.Newman is just a joke. Bad press must have got to him in the end.

    Commenter
    Mal
    Date and time
    June 05, 2014, 10:29AM
    • Disturbing lack of judgement in the first part. An insight into how out of touch they are.

      Commenter
      Farmer
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      June 05, 2014, 4:08PM
  • Sorry Noddy but two little listening too late, the LNP label is now toxic in both the State and Federal arenas.
    You should try actually listening to what the voters of this State say and actually take it into your considerations.
    Half baked decisions such as the failure to provide a rail/ rail/ bus interchange at Park Road coupled with the proposed closure of Dutton Park rail station affect a large number of voters, considerably more than the few that would be affected by the few resumptions needed to allow the construction of the new underground station at Park Road.
    Start packing Noddy the election is not that far away and you will find that yourself, Nothin Nicholls, Boy Blunder and Standover Seeney are all destined to be nothing more than a blot on the history of this State.

    Commenter
    Queensland Voter
    Location
    Ashgrove
    Date and time
    June 05, 2014, 10:47AM
    • And the show goes on. Democracy is hilarious.

      Commenter
      Cash Cow
      Date and time
      June 05, 2014, 10:48AM
      • Pensioner discounts - good. The prices of utilities (electricity, gas, water) - very very bad. And remember, it is only 12 hours since Tim Nicholls said that after the privatisation of electricity, he could not guarantee there would be no price rises.
        Well, the govt's re-election is a sure thing - the ALP has as much traction as an ice cube on the bench top - so privatisation is a done deal. What we, Joe Public want is a guarantee that prices will not rise. We have already been plagued by gold plating the delivery system in order to boost the privatised companies' revenue. Once these utilities are out from under the government's control, there will be no holding them back.
        And what do we get in return, other than higher prices? We get pensioners going cold at night because they can't afford electricity, going thirsty because they can't afford the water; and all this just so Tim Nicholls can spend like a four fisted sailor on shore leave. Forget his wish list of new schools, roads and hospitals - these are not committed projects. They are mere puffery, election material. We get to build more infrastructure so we can live and so another government can come along and sell more infrastructure to the 'private sector' what ever that is.
        We paid for those utilities; we the public. We didn't contribute over all these years so that Nicholls and Newman can glorify themselves with new projects. make the old one work better.

        Commenter
        Ovid
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        June 05, 2014, 10:53AM
        • "We are a government that listens to Queenslanders,"

          Wow, talking about spin. They are scared because it is almost election. They pretend about the people but once they win office again, the first year will be a drastic cut on something else. I am not against government making savings for our future generation but this government should not be elected again because they give themselves a hefty pay rise, passes laws to suit them such as increasing donation cap, limits free speech to its members, being arrogant, .... and the list goes on.

          Commenter
          BrisbaneGuy
          Date and time
          June 05, 2014, 10:53AM
          • Firstly, Thank God, or whoever you pray to or snot. Pensioners shouldn't have to pay for the sins of Governments past, present or future. Secondly, the pay rises, love em or hate em (most of us hate them) are a fact of life that both sides seem to reap the rewards from. I'm sure in a decade or so when the next ALP government form office in Queensland we'll see the same thing occur as well as the non introduction of a senate.

            Commenter
            Oscar
            Date and time
            June 05, 2014, 11:48AM

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