The Guardian April 17, 2002

Social security cuts to fund war

The Price of medical prescriptions for Aged and Disabled Pensioners is 
due to be increased from $3.60 to $4.75 in the May budget, according to 
government leaks. These, and other expected changes and cuts to pensions 
come at a time when the Howard Government is preparing to spend hundreds of 
millions more on Australia's military involvement in the Middle East.

The Government's Budget plan is a repeat performance of its 1996 Budget 
assault on Australia's most vulnerable.

Since 1997 the Howard Government has been progressively ratcheting up the 
cost of prescriptions (from $2.70 in January 1997 to $3.60 in March this 
year  a 33% increase) for concession cardholders receiving the age and 
disability support pension.

It has done so without making corresponding adjustments to the rate of 
their Pharmaceutical Allowance. The allowance was introduced at the same 
time as the fee, so that pensioners would not be out of pocket.

The pharmaceutical fee rose, but not the compensation.

It is no more than a crude claw-back of the pre-election GST compensation, 
and will increase the financial pressure on those with the greatest health 
care needs.

Other planned cuts to the Disability Support Pension could see some of the 
640,000 people receiving the payment lose up to $52.80 a fortnight or face 
changes to the indexation of their payments robbing them of their GST 
compensation many times over.

Labor's Spokesperson for Family and Community Services said, "In its first 
term the Howard Government cut nearly $5 billion in assistance to the most 
vulnerable  the largest cuts in Australia's history".

"Now having spent $20 billion in current and future Budget surpluses trying 
to save its political hide, the Government is targeting those in the 
community who are least able to pay."

The Budget plan is to make the aged and the disabled foot the bill for war 
the Middle East, Afghanistan and who knows where else.

Not only will this transfer of money create greater hardship and insecurity 
in Australia it will be used to threaten the lives and security of 
thousands of innocent people in other countries as Australia plays out 
Howard's ambitions as deputy sheriff to the self-appointed global cop  
the USA.

The social security cuts will also assist in funding the government's $5 
billion losses from gambling on international currency markets and its 
cruel and inhumane "Pacific Solution" for refugees.

People with disabilities and older Australians who are trying to survive on 
benefits can ill afford more Howard Government Budget cuts.

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