14 December 2015
by Kaye Lee

How many seniors are venture capitalists?

Every poll shows that the majority of senior citizens vote for the Coalition but it is hard to understand why.

As one of its first moves in November 2013, the Coalition government sacked the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing six months before they were to produce a report they had been working on for years to provide “a blueprint on all the legislative and policy and financial changes that need to be progressively made over the next 25 years to make sure we turn ageing into an asset rather than a liability.”

They then produced the budget from hell.

This is a reminder of the measures affecting seniors announced in the 2014 budget, some of which have been enacted, some are held up in the Senate, and some have been abandoned, but the intent is clear.

The indexation of the age pension will, from 2017, be linked to the consumer price index, rather than to average male wages. (now abandoned)

From 2017, asset and income test thresholds will also be frozen for three years.

Also from September 2017, the deeming thresholds for the income test will be reset to $30,000 for single pensioners and $50,000 for pensioner couples combined.

The Seniors Supplement will be abolished from July 1 2014

The Seniors Health Card will be harder to qualify for, with the untaxed superannuation of new applicants now counting toward the income test.

And the Commonwealth will dramatically cut its support for various state and territory based seniors’ concessions available to Pension or Seniors Card holders, including cheaper medicines under the PBS, discounts on rates, utility bills, motor vehicle registration charges and public transport fares.

The Dependent Spouse Tax Offset, which until now was available to people with dependent spouses of age 60 or older, will be discontinued.

The Mature Age Worker Tax Offset will also be abolished.

The Government has also abolished the Pensioner Education Supplement.

They will not proceed with the planned pilot of Supporting Senior Australians: Housing Help For Seniors, a program that was to encourage older Australians to downsize to smaller dwellings.

The Government will cease paying its current Aged Care Payroll Tax Supplement to aged care providers, and has almost halved its expenditure on the Commonwealth Home Support Program.

Pensioners will also be affected by higher fuel prices due to the return to indexing the fuel excise.

The $50 billion cut from state funding for hospitals will lead to deaths according to the Premiers, and the proposed $7 GP co-payment and changes to the PBS would also have hit pensioners disproportionately.

The 2015 budget saw the limit at which someone can receive the part-pension dramatically reduced from $1.15 million for couples, to $823,000. This means 91,000 people will no longer receive a pension payment while another 235,000 people will receive less.

A Senate Committee into the benefits of the NBN was told that, if we could facilitate 5% of people remaining in their homes one more year before going into aged care, we would save about $60 billion and they made suggestions of how the NBN could assist with this. That potential has been lost with the decimation of this crucial nation-building infrastructure.

The government’s inadequate response to climate change, paltry contribution to the global effort to halt warming, and championing of fossil fuels, will see all of us suffer with consequences growing with every delay.

If we see a Coalition government returned at the next election, an increase in the GST is certain. As has been shown by all studies, this will disproportionately affect the poor, particularly pensioners, and those on fixed incomes. Any as yet unnamed compensation will be quickly eroded by the compounding effect of price rises over time.

If you are a venture capitalist, like our new Chair of Innovation Australia Bill Ferris, or our new head of the CSIRO Larry Marshall, or our new Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull, then it is indeed an exciting time to be Australian. Why anyone else, particularly seniors, would vote for the Turnbull government is beyond me.