Thursday, 15 May 2014 08:49

WSROC warns against penalising Western Sydney battlers in the budget.

Media Release May 14, 2014

The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils has expressed concern that the working families and disadvantaged groups in the region will carry an unfairly large burden of the increased taxes and charges announced in the Budget last night.

WSROC President Clr Tony Hadchiti said, although they strongly supported the commitment to fund urgently needed infrastructure in the region, many western Sydney families were already doing it tough, and many of the changes announced in the Budget would have serious impacts.

“We appreciate the need to reduce the budget deficit and get the country back to surplus,” Clr Hadchiti said.

“But many Western Sydney families are already working long hours in lower paying jobs in order to make their contribution to the economy and they deserve to be recognised,” he said.

“A lot of our working families face high costs in long distance commuting and childcare,” he said “Many of these budget changes will hit Western Sydney residents particularly hard.”

He said lifting the freeze on petrol excise would place an enormous financial burden on working families in Western Sydney who travel long distances by car to get to work.

“It’s great that the Government is committing to making investments in the roads infrastructure that we desperately need but it’s not going to be much use if people can’t afford to put enough petrol in their cars to use them,” he said.

He said while WSROC supported the federal funding for Westconnex program and particularly welcomed the announcement of spending on key projects such as the $18 million Richmond Road upgrade, Western Sydney residents were already facing high costs in car use due to long commuting times and a lack of public transport.

Clr Hadchiti said the decision to slash funding to the states for hospitals and education would further exacerbate the imbalance in access to services that already exists in Western Sydney.

“We already have fewer GPs and hospital beds, and longer waiting times for critical surgery than the rest of Sydney, and our education levels are also below average,” he said. “We need more funding and investment in these basic social services, not less, and it is unfair to expect the NSW Government to carry this responsibility alone.”

Clr Hadchiti said the proposed co-payment for GP services would hit especially hard in the region which is already suffering with higher levels of illnesses and lower levels of service.

“Already many of our residents are struggling to afford the healthcare they urgently need,” he said. “They simply cannot afford an additional cost to visit the doctor, on top of all the medication and specialist services they need.

“And while $7 may not sound like a lot for a single visit, those residents with multiple health complaints or complex conditions often need to make several visits a week. They are already on benefits and this additional cost may well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

“In addition, the co-payment will act as a deterrent for some of those most in need to seek medical attention and will inevitably result in higher health costs overall as more conditions are not diagnosed in the early and treatable stages.

Clr Hadchiti said changes to the pension and to employment benefits would also leave many of Western Sydney’s battlers worse off.

“We have some seriously disadvantages communities in Western Sydney, including long term unemployed, the disabled, pensioners and the chronically ill.

“We would ask the Government not to penalise these groups as they seek to bring the Budget back to surplus,” Clr Hadchiti said.

He also noted that while unemployment benefits would now be restricted to the over 25s, programs supporting employment and training initiatives in disadvantaged areas, such as the Priority Employment Area scheme, had also been cut in the budget.

“These programs had significant achievements in identifying and developing projects and initiatives which boosted job creation and helped get those chronically unemployed people back into the workforce,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to reduce spending on employment support programs while at the same time placing more stringent conditions on access to welfare payments.”

Clr Hadchiti noted that it would be left to local councils to pick up the slack in many of these areas, or face a serious increase in social disadvantage for their residents.

“And to top it all off the Government has announced cuts of $1 billion to local government. Councils, especially those in NSW, simply cannot continue to deliver the essential services their communities require without proper Federal Government assistance,” he said.

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Media Inquiries Karin Bishop, CEO on 0417 239 539

Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) Ltd
Suite 2 Level 1 (PO Box 63) Blacktown 2148
© 2014 WSROC Ltd
T 02 9671 4333; F 02 9621 7741

Last modified on Thursday, 15 May 2014 08:59

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