A typical Leftist attack on responsible people
People who have saved rather than spending all their money as soon as they get it are to be penalized by not getting the same retirement benefits as the shiftless. And since those who have saved have almost certainly put more into the system by way of taxes, it is doubly unfair
SELF-FUNDED retirees and part-pensioners will be forced to pay more for aged care under means tests from July 2014. But seniors will be protected against over-charging by life time fee caps of $60,000 and new rules to limit costs.
Family homes will be spared from new means tests as long as they have a family member living in them.
The changes are part of a $3.7 billion overhaul of aged care announced by the Gillard Government yesterday to prepare the "creaking" system for growing demand from ageing Baby Boomers.
Julia Gillard said the changes would address a "crisis" in aged care that saw a massive shortage of care packages and expensive upfront bonds imposed on nursing home residents.
She defended the new means tests, saying they would ensure people paid what they could afford. "For the first time in aged care, fairness will also get a look in," Ms Gillard said. "For too long, pensioners have had to subsidise those who are much better off. "Those who can support themselves and contribute a bit more should, and we must look after the needs of those who can't."
The aged-care shakeup would focus on helping older people stay at home and prevent those who go into residential care from being forced into fire sales of their family homes, Ms Gillard said.
More elderly people will be able to live in their homes after the Government creates about 40,000 new subsidised home care packages over the next five years.
But for the first time, people receiving new at-home care will be hit with extra "care fees" of up to $5000 a year for part-pensioners and $10,000 for self-funded retirees earning more than $43,000 a year. The new charges will only affect people who need aged care for the first time after July 1, 2014.
Fee packages will come with cooling off periods in a bid to end the practice of elderly people being forced to sell their homes quickly to secure a nursing home place.
People who rely solely on the aged pension, who make up about 51 per cent of those in aged care now, will not pay any extra fees above current basic charges of up to 17.5 per cent of the single pension.
Accommodation charges and other fees will be assessed by a new Aged Care Financing Authority modelled on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Pricing Authority.
Industry warns of risk in cutting tax breaks on super
These breaks were put in place in order to encourage people to save for their own retirement rather than relying on the young to support them so this is a very regressive step
CABINET ministers are pressing ahead with plans to cut superannuation tax breaks, despite industry warnings that big changes would leave workers without enough cash for their retirement.
The finance sector launched a fierce campaign against the changes yesterday after failing to gain assurances that the generous concessions were safe from cuts.
The Weekend Australian has learned of talks within the government on five savings options, including small changes to tax rates that could recoup several billion dollars in next month's budget.
While a final decision is yet to be made, the expenditure review committee appears set on scaling back at least one of the tax benefits in order to deliver on Labor's core economic promise of a budget surplus in 2012-13.
Existing tax concessions sacrifice about $30 billion in Treasury revenue every year and some of the biggest advantages go to those on higher incomes, leaving few incentives for those on low incomes to save for retirement.
Labor's deliberations include putting a surcharge on high-income earners while sparing those at the bottom of the income scale, at a time when the Coalition is sending mixed signals about cutting entitlements for the wealthy.
In a show of force, four of the industry's biggest groups issued a rare joint statement yesterday to urge the government to rule out any tax changes because of the risk of eroding employee savings.
Pauline Vamos, the head of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, said cuts to the super concessions would damage confidence in the system when workers needed to save more.
"This is not a hard decision for the future - it's a wrong decision," Ms Vamos said. "The vast majority of people are way behind on their super contributions."
Only 310,000 people have account balances of more than $500,000, Ms Vamos said. She added that it was false to suggest the concessions unfairly favoured the wealthy.
ASFA was joined by the Financial Services Council, the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees and the Self-Managed Super Fund Professionals Association of Australia in seeking an assurance the cuts would not go ahead. But the government offered no guarantees yesterday.
FSC chief executive John Brogden said any change to the tax rate on contributions would undermine one of the foundations of a system in which all workers paid the same concessional rate.
"It would be very short-sighted for the government to try and pull out more tax now," Mr Brogden said last night. "All they'd be doing is leaving future governments with a bigger bill for pensions, healthcare and aged care."
AIST chief executive Fiona Reynolds said that tinkering with super would leave all Australians with reduced savings.
Shaping the government strategy is the belief that the investment industry will gain greatly from the increase in the super guarantee levy from 9 per cent to 12 per cent by 2020, letting all workers save more for retirement.
Opposition financial services spokesman Mathias Cormann blamed Labor's heavy spending in the past for its budget challenge.
"This is short-term politics to deal with the fiscal mess Labor has created over four years in government," Senator Cormann said.
The budget options include a pause in the increase to the annual cap on concessional contributions, a higher tax on fund earnings, the deferral of adjustment meant to go ahead in July and changes to the tax on superannuation contributions.
The 15 per cent contributions tax creates an incentive for employees on the top tax rate, 45 per cent, to sacrifice some of their salary and put it into super.
There is no similar incentive for more than three million workers paying the lowest income tax rate of 15 per cent.
The Greens have called for a sliding scale, as outlined in the Henry tax review, in which those on the 45 per cent rate would pay only 30 per cent on super contributions. This would leave them with an incentive to save but would raise revenue by doubling the 15 per cent flat contributions tax they currently pay.
While a return to the Howard government's super surcharge is considered unlikely, a form of surcharge is one of the options as a temporary adjustment.
Those earning more than $85,000 paid a surcharge on super contributions in Peter Costello's first budget in August 1996, raising about $500 million a year in the early years as the Coalition sought to balance the budget.
Mr Costello removed the surcharge in 2005 but Labor voted to keep it.
Wayne Swan is in the US and his office would not comment on budget speculation. Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten is in Europe and has not commented on super changes in the budget.
Child abuse inquiry: Beware of what you wish for
The result will be a coverup
Dr Jeremy Sammut
In an Australian first, the Victorian government announced this week that a parliamentary inquiry will be conducted into the handling of child sexual abuse cases by the Catholic and other churches.
It is impossible not to sympathise with victims who feel they will finally get the chance to hold their abusers to account. Giving people the chance to tell their stories can have a cleansing effect.
Child abuse often occurs when those in positions of authority remain silent or fail to listen to children who complain about it. Ending the silence provides an opportunity to learn lessons and make sure the same mistakes are never repeated.
Premier Ted Baillieu expressed this sentiment when he said, `We regard child abuse as abhorrent and we will endeavour to do whatever we can to prevent it from happening.'
But having worked in this field for a number of years, I am increasingly sceptical about our willingness to openly address very contentious issues that are highly relevant to the welfare of children.
Some big silences remain in the debate about child protection. Contemporary society would prefer not to talk about key problems, such as the fact that single-mother households are over-represented in cases of child abuse and neglect.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, `a relatively high proportion of substantiations [of reported child abuse and neglect] involved children living in lone mother families'. The Australian Institute of Family Studies estimates that child abuse in such households is `about two and half times higher than would be expected given the number of children living in such families.'
This problem was created by the Whitlam government when it introduced the single mothers pension in 1973. This made it possible for women who did not work and did not have bread-winning husbands to raise children at taxpayers' expense. What has ensued is the rise of a dysfunctional underclass of welfare-dependent single mothers with a complex range of personal and social problems, including substance abuse, domestic violence, and an inability to properly parent children.
A Senate committee recently recommended that the federal government issue an apology for the pre-1970s policy of forcing unwed mothers to give up their babies for adoption. We also need to admit that efforts to right perceived wrongs, starting with the creation of the single mothers pension, have precipitated a social disaster.
But we are reluctant to admit this because telling the truth about `diverse' family structures is not politically correct. We are culturally deaf, as it were, to the fact that all `families' are patently not equal when it comes to securing the welfare of children.
A DEAD wedge-tailed eagle, chicken eggs without yolks and a dysfunctional village with residents bursting to flee. This is the clean-energy revolution Waterloo-style, where the nation's biggest wind turbines have whipped up a storm of dissent.
Adelaide University has been drawn into a controversy that threatens to spin out of control after one of its masters students asked residents of Waterloo, 120km north of Adelaide, what they really thought about living near windmills and was knocked over in an avalanche of complaint.
Yesterday, a South Australian Department of Environment and Heritage officer collected the remains of a juvenile wedge-tailed eagle from the base of one of the Waterloo wind farm turbine towers. He said it would be X-rayed and examined to establish the cause of death.
It may help to explain why, according to one local ranger, three wedge-tailed eagle nesting areas identified before the turbines began to operate 18 months ago are no longer active.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources district manager Ian Falkenberg said initial observations of the eagle remains showed a punctured skull and major fractures of the right wing, including a significant break about three inches from the shoulder.
GPS readings showed the remains were located 180m from the base of the tower.
Mr Falkenberg said eagles in the mid-north of South Australia were in lower numbers than in other parts of the state and considered "vulnerable" at a regional assessment level. He said prior to the wind turbines at Waterloo, there were three eagle territories but was not aware of any of those territories now being active.
According to wind farm operator TRUenergy, there are still active wedge-tailed eagle populations in the hills. TRUenergy spokeswoman Sarah Stent said: "Eagle monitoring on site of resident population today shows no decrease in bird numbers."
TRUenergy acquired the Waterloo wind farm last year and has announced a $40 million expansion. It is also planning a wind farm development at Stony Gap. The company insists it has broad community support and certainly the strong backing of the SA government.
Waterloo has become a hotbed of concern among locals, many of whom claim to be suffering ill-effects from the wind turbine development. They want independent noise measuring and for Senate inquiry recommendations for research into the impact of low frequency noise to be adopted. Some want to be relocated and many want the wind turbines to be turned off at night.
Village resident Neil Daws is concerned his chickens have been laying eggs with no yolks.
Ironically called wind eggs, the yolkless eggs can be explained without wind turbines. But together with a spike in sheep deformities, also not necessarily connected to wind, reports of erratic behaviour by farm dogs and an exodus of residents complaining of ill health, Waterloo is a case study of the emotional conflict being wrought by the rollout of industrial wind power.
When Adelaide University masters student Frank Wang surveyed residents within a 5km radius of the Waterloo wind turbines he found 70 per cent of respondents claimed they had been negatively affected by the wind development and the noise, with more than 50 per cent having been very or moderately negatively affected.
Mr Wang is concerned that a summary of his results was leaked before it could be peer-reviewed.
Adelaide University vice-chancellor Michael Head has written to TRUenergy in response to company concerns about publication of the summary. "I have looked into this matter and found that the study in question was undertaken by a student as part of a minor thesis for his masters by coursework," Professor Head said. "This was entirely the student's own project and not undertaken for or on behalf of the university."
A university spokesperson said the survey was overseen by a senior lecturer and approved by the University's Human Research Ethics Committee. "There is clearly a need for further research that considers all aspects of wind farms and their impact on the community," the spokesperson said.
Mr Wang told The Weekend Australian the university had been supportive of his research. "Yes, definitely," he said. "My supervisor helped me to choose this topic."
Mr Wang said he was not willing to release his research publicly until after academic peer reviews.
Ms Stent said TRUenergy was not able to judge if Mr Wang's results were a fair representation of community sentiment in Waterloo. "It is not our view that the majority of the population is opposed to the wind farm nor dissatisfied with our approach to community engagement," she said.