Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan has refused to rule out means testing the WA Seniors Card, as he warned of “pain across the community” in the lead up to his Government’s first budget.
Mr McGowan was in Perth’s eastern suburbs to announce the new Belmont train station — the first stop on the Government’s promised $2 billion Forrestfield Airport Link.
With the new Government’s first budget to be handed down in September — and reiterating the state’s “financial situation was very, very, very difficult”, Mr McGowan said there would be some tough decisions made in regards to fees and charges.
But he would neither confirm nor deny reports that means testing the more than 300,000 West Australians who hold a seniors card was being looked at as a cost-cutting measure.
“The seniors card will continue, of course, but we need to make some tough decisions around all these issues,” he said.
“I don’t enjoy making tough decisions, I don’t really want to penalise people or make it more difficult for people across the state.
“But we have inherited a shocking and appalling financial situation so I’m not doing my job if I don’t make some tough decisions.
“I’ll confirm what they are in the lead up to June 30 — I’m not going to confirm anything today.”
Opposition cries hypocrisy
Mike Nahan says when his party means tested benefits, it was decried by Labor. (ABC News: Eliza Laschon)
Opposition Leader Mike Nahan said any such move would be hypocritical, highlighting how Mr McGowan campaigned against any changes to the card two years ago.
“We brought in changes ourself in a budgetary process, in a similar fiscal position as they face now,” said Dr Nahan.
“But we did not go across the board and means test seniors.
“Indeed when we means tested benefits … they decried it and complained about it and so they told the public in that context that they wouldn’t do this.”
‘Last straw’ for WA self-funded retirees
Precisely 303,112 people hold the popular seniors card in the state.
Janice Ricks, the WA division president of the Association of Independent Retirees, said any changes would be unfair.
“We are starting to believe that we are disadvantaged to be self-funded, you know, we aren’t a burden on the tax man and we feel that we are entitled to some of these small discounts that we get because we’ve paid our way all through life,” she said.
“We really need these benefits because of the fact that most of our people are only just over any threshold.
“And they’re people that have been frugal throughout their lives and saved for their retirement and quite often they’re small business people who haven’t had holidays and they’ve saved for a bit of pleasure.”
Ms Ricks said news Mr McGowan might be making changes to concessions given to seniors felt like the last straw.
“Those that have rental incomes, well rents have gone down and charges have gone up,” she said.
“Those that have got money in the bank, the interest rate has gone down.
“So they feel like they’re getting hit every which way and this is just the last straw really.”
Ms Ricks said the association would be ready to fiercely oppose any changes, and called on the Premier to announce what they would be sooner rather than later.