On the eve of the Federal Budget, the Illawarra’s federal Labor MPs warned forecast Coalition cuts to health and education would hit the region hardest.
Cunningham MP Sharon Bird said the projected rise to the pension age, tightening of the disabilty support pension, speculation over education cuts and the forecast move to charge an extra $6 for visiting the doctor concerned her the most.
‘‘I’m really worried across education and health and it’s those big changes and cuts to overall programs that really affect so many people’s lives,’’ she said.
Ms Bird was also worried about speculation programs like Youth Connections - which helps train disadvantaged young people in the region - would not be funded past this year, and said the so-called Gonski education reforms need to be funded for six years.
Throsby MP Stephen Jones said he was ‘‘deeply concerned about changes to health’’, forecasting the GP payment, increases to some medicines and abolition of private health insurance controls would cost the region $13.3 million a year.
He said raising the pension age to 70 would affect thousands of Illawarra workers, especially those like nurses and construction workers.
‘‘If you’ve worked in physical labour all your life, on your feet all day, the idea that you can do that until you’re 70 is just crackers,’’ he said.
‘‘Encouraging people to work longer is obviously part of the answer [to Australia’s ageing population] but you can’t have a blunt instrument, because what you will see is people looking for alternative means of income support.’’
Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis told the Mercury these measures were ‘‘tough but necessary’’ to reign in future spending after six years of a Labor Government, but Ms Bird labelled this ‘‘absolute rubbish’’.
‘‘She should do a better job on behalf of her constituents, because the budget was no in a crisis situation and we retained a triple-A credit rating,’’ Ms Bird said.
‘‘We had a range of measures in place that brought in revenue and made savings, and they ditched them.’
Both Labor MPs said they hoped to see commitments to finance $50 million seed funding for the Maldon Dombarton Rail Link and $7.4 million for the Home of Football at Dapto reinstated in this year’s budget.