Seniors have wlecomed the government reversal. Photo: Jessica Shapiro
Queensland seniors' groups have welcomed the Newman Government's U-turn on pensioner concessions days after handing down its budget.
The state Government had decided to reduce the discount on electricity bills, rates bills and water bills for seniors in its Tuesday budget.
The decision became the budget hot point, with a string of seniors groups questioning the decision only a week after it was announced electricity prices would rise by almost $200, on average, for the next 12 months.
Premier Campbell Newman listens as Treasurer Tim Nicholls outlines the 2014-15 state budget at Parliament house on Tuesday. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
Premier Campbell Newman stood in state parliament on Thursday morning and announced the state government would fund the $54 million that the federal government had axed from concession payments for the next 12 months.
“Pensioners and older Queenslanders have told us that they simply can’t wear the cost of filling the gap between Queensland’s increased contribution, and the Commonwealth Government’s concessions cuts and increased fees and taxes,” Mr Newman said.
“That’s why today I’m announcing that we’ve not only listened to Queenslanders, but we’ve acted, within the space of two days, to reinstate the full level of pensioner and senior concessions."
Mark Tucker-Evans, the chief executive of Council on the Ageing in Queensland, welcomed Thursday's decision.
"Obviously we are very pleased with the response," he said.
"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."
Mr Tucker-Evans said he was in the process of writing to the Treasurer and the Premier on behalf of COTA Qld to thank them for their decision.
Ray Ferguson, state president of the Australian Pensioners and Superannuants League, said the speed of the turnaround was very welcome.
The group had intended to organise a rally in Brisbane under the "Fair Go for Pensioners Coalition" banner.
"The APSL Queensland welcomes the decision of the Newman Government to re-establish the cuts they intended to introduce to concessions as a result of federal government cutbacks," Mr Ferguson said.
"I am also very pleased that they recognised that the cuts to concessions would have amounted to a double whammy impact to seniors after the federal budget."
However, Mr Ferguson said the APSL would monitor any state contribution to programs now helping seniors and pension groups in Queensland.
He said he was worried by a section of the statement which said the Queensland government would look to "withhold and recoup funding" from some joint Commonwealth-State programs.
"The APSL is concerned that if any of those programs involve pensioners or seniors, the APSL will be totally in opposition to this,'' he said.