Joe Hockey sells case for pension age rise, GP visit fee

Treasurer Joe Hockey said a new fee for GP visits "is in the mix". Photo: Louise Kennerley
Treasurer Joe Hockey said a new fee for GP visits "is in the mix". Photo: Louise Kennerley

Treasurer Joe Hockey has given his strongest indication the Abbott government intends to raise the pension age to 70 and introduce upfront fees for GP visits in the May budget.

Following a major speech outlining Australia’s fiscal challenges, Mr Hockey said on Thursday morning that a pension age rise is an “inevitability”.

“We should celebrate the fact that effectively one in every three children born today are going to live to 100,” he told ABC Radio. “We should also not see someone's life ending when they turn 65 or 70.

“They should work for as long as they can.”

Mr Hockey said "there is an inevitability that at some point we have to increase the age pension age, but it is well into the future".

The pension age is scheduled to rise to 67 in 2023, which is expected to save the budget $6 billion a year.

Mr Hockey said a Medicare co-payment, expected to be $6 per GP visit, is “certainly something that is in the mix” for the budget.

“The fact is that Medicare is growing at twice the speed of the economy,” he said. “We all have to make contributions because nothing is for free. Nothing can remain for free.”

Mr Hockey said it was wrong that his electorate of North Sydney, one of the most affluent in the country, has one of the highest rates of bulk billing.

Mr Hockey also indicated that benefits for politicians would also take a hit in the budget.

The government's Commission of Audit report - which contains 86 savings recommendations - will be released next Thursday.

In his speech on Wednesday night Mr Hockey said the budget will contain significant across-the-board spending cuts and would also feature wider use of means testing for welfare benefits and the introduction of payments for services until now free of such user charges.

Opposition finance spokesman Tony Burke criticised the Treasurer’s bleak portrait of the budget.

‘‘Countries that have triple-A credit ratings are not in the midst of a budget crisis,’’ Mr Burke told ABC Radio.

‘‘None of the information that Joe Hockey’s referring to there is new. They’re wanting to pretend that they’ve just realised this through the commission of audit.’’

The Coalition will break a key election promise if it introduces changes to the pension system, Mr Burke said.