‘The Abbott Government’s assault on welfare, Medicare, education and the public sector represents the end of the fair go and the biggest attack on the social wage this country has ever seen,’ the ACTU (Australian Congress of Trades Unions) President Ged Kearney said on Tuesday.
Responding to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s mass sackings, health, pensions and public service cuts budget, she continued: ‘This is a savage attack on the standard of living that Australians have worked hard for.
‘The Liberal Government vision is of a harsher, less equal Australia. Universal healthcare is over with the introduction of a Medicare co-payment which will put pressure on low income families who, for going to the doctor, will now become a financial decision.
‘They are cutting the real value of all pensions – including the age and disability support pensions, and single parents payment – which in today’s terms, will be a cut of about $200 a fortnight by 2030 to those people that can least afford it.
‘In a disgraceful move young job seekers will need to participate in job search and employment services for six months before they can begin receiving Newstart or youth allowance that will leave these people in poverty.
‘Young people who are training to learn a trade will lose direct financial support and instead be saddled with debt well into their working lives. The Government is making it harder for Australians to save for a decent retirement by freezing the increase to the Superannuation Guarantee for four years as well as lifting the retirement age to 70.
‘Fees for university will go through the roof and students will start paying real interest on their debts and pay them back from a lower income. Mr Abbott said he would create one million new jobs, instead today he has flagged cutting 16,500 public servants.
‘This budget cuts over half a billion in support for skills including apprentices and it cuts around $360 million in support for innovation. This leaves workers and communities impacted by recent closures without sufficient support and it provides no new vision or support for jobs or industry of the future.
‘Tony Abbott has delivered a Budget tonight that puts the interests of big business before those of hardworking Australians. They’ve delivered for big business in the form of a 1.5% company tax cut, they’re still giving over $4 billion worth of subsidies to the big miners.
‘A decent retirement, health care for all and decent wages are the hallmark of a civilised society – the Liberal Government has turned its back on this. By commoditising healthcare, the Government has stopped it from being a right.
‘The Commission of Audit report gave Australians a glimpse of what the Liberals have planned for Australia. This budget is a down payment on that plan. Australians did not vote for what the Government has delivered in this budget.’
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) National Secretary Nadine Flood said: ‘Tony Abbott’s Budget is a wrecking ball that smashes jobs and services. There are 16,500 jobs on the chopping block, with over 7,300 to go right now.
‘This Budget is a con job. Step one, they pretend the public service is bigger than it is, step two, they run down the public service through cuts, step three, they sell it off to their big business mates. The only real winners in this Budget are multinational corporations who will be lining up to run public services for a profit.
‘Tony Abbott has smashed his promise to public sector workers that they would not get sacked. He promised no more than 12,000 job cuts over two years and through natural attrition. He also promised not to cut the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and the CSIRO (National science agency).
‘Ripping $35.5 million out of the ABC , closing the Australia Network and cutting $8 million from SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) will do enormous damage to our public broadcasters. It’s a myth you can cut this many jobs and not affect services. Australia has an efficient public service already groaning after previous cuts.
‘Hidden in these Budget figures is the real story that the public service has already been cut this year by 2,695 jobs. So there will be over 10,000 jobs gone by the end of next year.’
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) Acting Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, said: ‘Co-payments to visit bulk billing GPs and an increase in the price of prescription medicines will combine to have a devastating impact on Australia’s healthcare system now and into the future.
‘Tonight, Tony Abbott’s attack on Medicare has ripped the heart out of the Australian health system and as a former Health Minister, he should be ashamed of that. Mr Abbott has no mandate to kill off Medicare. Australians didn’t vote for these devastating changes to our health system. For him to do this now is simply immoral.
‘Ultimately, it’s everyday Australians who will suffer. They will be paying $7 to see a GP and paying more every time they go to get their prescriptions filled. Under this Budget, it’s now only people with their credit cards handy who will be able to get care.
‘The others, who can’t afford it, like low income earners, the elderly and struggling families, will be forced to put off seeking medical treatment until it’s too late. That means people will get sicker and sicker, deprived of the care they need.’
She said all Australians already pay for universal healthcare through tax, the Medicare levy and private insurance for those who can afford it. As a nation, we already have one of the highest out of pocket costs ($1,075 per year) for healthcare in the world and this will massively increase as the Government moves to destroy Medicare.
‘The Government claims patient fees will help sustain the health system, but this is destined to fail, as it will only increase costs and worsen health outcomes. Co-payments will shift the cost burden onto individual consumers and the Australian public hospital system overall by driving more and more people into busy emergency departments.
‘But as frontline healthcare professionals, nurses know that people must seek treatment sooner rather than later, otherwise those so-called minor ailments develop into serious, often chronic illnesses which go on to require expensive chronic care in hospitals.
‘As Australia’s largest health union, the ANMF is deeply concerned that the Government has failed to consult with nurses and midwives or any other health professionals on the best ways to sustain and improve the health system.
‘Rather than choosing to slash spending and end Medicare, Mr Abbott should be directing resources into preventative and primary care, preventing unnecessary procedures and readmissions which will control costs and ensure that we use evidence based practice.
‘Rest assured, the ANMF will now fight to defend Medicare and the health of our nation and we urge the Senate to reject these changes and protect our health system because these cuts to health won’t heal.’
New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) General Secretary Brett Holmes, said: ‘The nurses and midwives of NSW are committed to the notion of health care as a public good, with shared benefits and shared responsibilities.
‘We believe that access to adequate health care is the right of every Australian and a crucial element of the Australian social compact. We believe in access to essential care regardless of how much money you have in your wallet and we believe that a great, wealthy country like Australia can afford Medicare.
‘The introduction of a co-payment to see your GP or present at an Emergency Department for medical assistance – regardless of how high the fee – is an abhorrent attack on our world-class universal health system.
‘Just eight months in office, the Abbott Government is prepared to turn its back on Australians and their families by unpicking a 30 year old accessible health system and reducing it to a safety-net for those with low incomes.’