SA Budget 2014: Pension concessions welcomed but only confirmed for 12 months

CONCESSIONS: Regional representatives have welcomed the state government’s promise to maintain pensioner concessions.Regional South Australia representatives have applaudedthe state government’s promise to maintain state pensioner council rate concessions, however they will only remain in place for the next 12 months.

A regional city council and a Pensioners SA representative welcomed thepromise to keep them as part ofthe state budget handed down on Thursday.

Thosewho hold a pensioner concession card, or as low incomeearners, receive payments under Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, AUSTUDY,ABSTUDY or Low Income Health Care Cardwill be able to receive up to $215 per year.

The state government, however, has only committed to the concessions for the next 12 months, with nothing promised beyond that.

South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis reaffirmed the Labor government’s commitment to ensuring pensioners do not suffer after the federal Liberal government’s $30m cut to concessions.

“We will not stand for these cuts and as such, we will be protecting pensioners and low-income earners for the next 12 months,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

“We respect the contribution that our senior citizens have made growing this state and realise we must support the South Australians most in need.”

Port Augusta is one of many regional South Australian cities with a large proportion of eligible pensioners and the Port Augusta City Council has welcomed the initialcommitment from Mr Koutsantonis.

Mayor Sam Johnson said it was fantastic to see the government continue the concessions, with PACC director of corporate services Michael Dunemann echoing a similar response.

“It is good news for pensioners that the State Government Concession will continue to assist with rates payments,” Mr Dunemann said.

SA Pensioners representative Jill Welk was also pleased to hear the news, and believes that for many pensioners in the area, every single dollar committed to concessions makes a difference.

“Like I’ve said many times, a lot of pensioners live from fortnight to fortnight, and without those concessions it would be traumatic, I think,” she said.

“They’re a very big help.”

However, concern regarding the dollar figure of state funded council rate concessions for pensioners has been raised.

The LGA argued every government needs to match expenditure with income over time, and council rate concessions have not been increased or indexed for over 10 years.

Mr Dunemann believes the real value of concessions is diminishing rapidly every year.

He said in 2002, the state government raised the concession to $190 and it has remained at that level ever since.

“In 2002 the rebate was 38 per cent of the minimum rate, and in 2013 it was 18 per cent of the minimum rate,” he explained.

“Council saw this situation as untenable, particularly for pensioners living in an area with high values and thus paying higher rates.”

As a result PACC introduced its own pensioner concession in the mid 2000s, which sees said concessions/rebates reviewed and indexed each year.

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