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Budget delivers mixed bag

Thursday, 14th May, 2009

by Gina Wilson

Tuesday's Federal Budget dished up a mixed bag for those on government welfare, with pensioners receiving an increase in their allowance but single parents and the unemployed missing out.

Many pensioners are said to be living below the poverty line but Treasurer Wayne Swan said an increase of $10.14 per week for couples and $32.49 for singles would help.

Stuart McWhirter, a single pensioner from Parkes, said the increase was most welcome. "I think it's splendid but not before time," he said. "It's the first pay rise I've had for a long time. "I think it's an adequate rise for our current economic climate - it's another turnip in the soup." Mr McWhirter said he felt sorry for his fellow pensioners who were relying on the couple's pension rate, who got a rise of just $10 a week between them. "Well that doesn't sound all that attractive," he said. "I don't know why that is. You could say they were dudded." The Treasurer allocated $14.2 billion in the Budget for the 3.3 million Australians on the aged pension, disability support pension, carers payment, veterans' service pension, income support supplement, war widow/ers pension, bereavement allowance, wife pension and widow B pension. The increases would begin on September 20, meaning single pensioner payments would rise from $304.19 to $336.68 while couples increased from $497.36 to $507.50. To pay for the scheme the Government will progressively increase the qualifying age for the age pension from 65 to 67, beginning in 2017. Those on unemployment benefits were not afforded a rise with Newstart payments remaining at $453 per fortnight. Single parent payments also remained unchanged. Those intending to add to the family would benefit from a Government paid parental scheme due to take affect in 2011. Parents would be give 18 weeks paid leave at the minimum wage of $544 per week to care for their newborn children.

Meanwhile students who leave Broken Hill to study will be able to get thousands of dollars.

Students who must relocate to study will have access to a $4,000 Relocation Scholarship for their first year away from home, with a further $1,000 in later years. The move will only benefit students who were eligible for Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY. The Government also increased the parental income test for dependents from $32,800 to $42,559, but the age of independence would be progressively lowered from 25 years in 2009 to 22 years in 2012. Independence would also be granted on the basis that the student had worked full time for a minimum of 30 hours per week for a period of 18 months after leaving school. If the student had undertaken only part time work or had earned over $19,532 over 18 months they would not be considered independent.

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