23 December 2015

December MYEFO brings little Christmas Cheer to Australia’s elderly

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The December release of the annual Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) brought little in the way of Christmas cheer to the nation’s lower income families, elderly and the sick, with billions of dollars cut from the health portfolio.

Medicare received a total $650 million cut, health training received a cut of $595 million over four years, with preventative health losing $146 million and cancer treatments receiving a funding cut of $27 million. Totalling over $1.4 billion in savings measures over the four year period, the MYEFO cuts negatively impact some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

AMA President Professor Brian Owen referred to the cuts to diagnositic imaging services and pathology as the “GP Co-Payment by stealth.”

“These measures are simply resurrecting a part of the Government’s original ill-fated co-payment proposal from the 2014 budget,” Professor Owen said in a press release. “The Government is continuing to retreat from its core responsibilities in providing access to affordable, quality health services in Australia.”

“The AMA strongly opposes these measures,” Professor Owen said, “and we will encourage the Senate to disallow them.”

A further $1.07 billion has been cut from aged care services while young families will also face added pressure with Family Day Care rebates cut by $930 million.

Despite these cuts, Treasury predictions has the budget deficit further deteriorating to a deficit of stretching to $37 billion beyond the end of the decade.

While none of this is particularly unexpected given the Government’s focus on going for “welfare,” based support it does raise serious questions about exactly when the Government will start seriously focusing on tax dodging multinational organisations, rebates to the mining industry and tax concessions to higher income individuals. It appears that despite what then Treasurer Joe Hockey said so infamously a couple of years ago, the Age of Entitlement is far from over, at least for those with deep pockets and big bank balances.

The Government has committed over $3.5 billion in extra spending since the May budget, including $1.1 billion for the Turnbull Government’s innovation package, $909 million to re-settle 12,000 extra Syrian refuges, $1.1 billion in extra roads funding and $621 million for new pharmaceutical subsidies and while these have been more than offset by the cuts contained in the MYEFO there were some announcements that were truly head scratching.

The Arts portfolio also felt the axe fall, but the Government has committed $47 million to two blockbuster sequels to the Thor franchise and the Ridley Scott directed Alien sequel, a move that has left the Australian Film industry questioning the Government’s support of local products, with $35 million worth of funding diverted from Screen Australia to the 20th Century Fox, the American film studio behind the blockbusters.

“I think people are horrified and depressed,” said David Tiley, the editor of online film industry magazine Screenhub in an interview with theABC on December 16, 2015. “It means we’re getting two loads of cuts in a year.”

“The problem is where the money has come from, and the bulk of it this time around has come from the sale of a piece of land which Screen Australian owned and has essentially been hijacked and transferred sideways.”

On the media trail to promote the MYEFO, Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison called on critics of the MYEFO measures to come up with alternatives.

“Show us alternatives,” the Treasurer said in response to Shadow Treasurer  Chris Bowen's advice that the Australian Labor Party was not in mind to just pass through harsh cuts in the senate. “I’ll take something off the table if someone can put something on the table of equal measure.”

If the reaction on Twitter is anything to go by, Treasurer Morrison’s MYEFO looks to be having a similar effect to the Government’s “honeymoon” period as the ill-fated 2014 Budget had on the Abbott Government.

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

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