Pledge to fund pension concessions

THE state government’s pledge to fund pensioner concessions cut by the federal budget is welcome relief to those doing it tough, according to Tasmania’s peak community sector body.

Tasmanian Council of Social Service chief executive Tony Reidy said uncertainty had lingered over the futures of society’s vulnerable after the Commonwealth axed the national concession scheme partnership.

Discounts covered under the $300 million scheme include costs such as council rates, electricity, water and sewerage, public transport and drivers licences.

Also included are discounts for healthcare, education and recreation expenses.

Premier Will Hodgman yesterday announced Thursday’s budget would include a provision for an extra $9 million a year for four years to make up for the shortfall.

Mr Reidy said there was a deep concern in the Tasmanian community the discounts would no longer be provided.

‘‘Low-income Tasmanians, especially those qualifying for concessions, are already facing an uphill battle to meet essential living expenses,’’ Mr Reidy said.

‘‘This announcement provided clarity and strong continued support.’’

Mr Hodgman said the government would ensure those who deserved support continued to receive it.

‘‘Tasmanians in their older years deserve good support, they deserve good access to services and they deserve the support to reduce cost of living pressures, which are not inconsiderable in Tasmania,’’ Mr Hodgman said.

‘‘As a result of a hit from the federal budget we have to plug a hole and when it comes to supporting vulnerable Tasmanians we are always making sure that is a priority for government not withstanding the financial times.’’

Bass Liberal MHR Andrew Nikolic argued the announcement debunked earlier claims from Tasmanian Labor senators that the state’s residents would have their pension concessions cut.

Mr Nikolic labelled the calls from his political opponents ‘‘misleading fear mongering’’.

Opposition finance spokesman Scott Bacon said Labor welcomed the state government stepping in to provide funding axed from the concession scheme.

But Mr Bacon again flagged concern over mooted reforms to the public sector.

‘‘What we really want to see is that hard-working police, teachers, nurses and other public servants don’t have to pay for the extravagance from the Liberal Party through the election campaign,’’ Mr Bacon said.

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