State Government to fund pension concession gap
QUEENSLAND pensioners are breathing a sigh of relief after the State Government announced it would cover the cost of the Federal Government's decision to scrap funding towards a national partnership on pensioner and senior concessions.
The state stood to lose more than $200 million over four years as a result of the concession cuts announced in last month's federal budget.
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls said this week the state could not afford to absorb the cost which angered pensioners across the state.
He used his budget speech to denounce the cuts, but said the state was not in a position to fill the enormous void.
"The Queensland Government is increasing its funding for the affected concessions, but this will not be enough to offset the impact of the Federal Government's decision," he said.
However, Premier Campbell Newman told State Parliament on Thursday the government had found a way to fill the void.
"Pensioners and older Queenslanders have told us that they simply cannot wear the cost of filling the gap," he said.
"We have not only listened to Queenslanders, but we have acted, within the space of two days, to reinstate the full level of pensioner and senior concessions.
"Passing on part of the Commonwealth's cuts to pensioner concessions is clearly not an acceptable outcome for Queenslanders.
"We will be continuing to send a clear message to the Commonwealth that Queenslanders will not stand for these kinds of cuts."
Queensland Council of Social Service CEO Mark Henley said it was a significant win for pensioners.
He said the public backlash over potential concession cuts revealed just how tough many pensioners were doing it.
"This is great news for so many pensioners and older Queenslanders and will give them the peace of mind they deserve," he said.
"Low-income and vulnerable individuals and families rely on these concessions to help stop them slipping further into poverty.
"It remains vital that the government look to do a full review of all concessions and rebates to ensure that those most in need are given the right assistance to afford essential services such as electricity, water, gas and public transport."
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk used her budget reply speech in State Parliament to claim the government had been forced into a backflip after pressure from the opposition.
"Yesterday the cuts to concessions were an essential part of this Treasurer's financial strategy," she said.
"Today they are gone.
"This government has disappointed so many, including Queensland seniors."
Treasurer Tim Nicholls said he would be looking at all opportunities to withhold and recoup funding from Commonwealth programs and initiatives they ask states to contribute towards to make up for the shortfall.