Seniors living rebate slashed
Premier Colin Barnett

The Barnett Government will slash the seniors cost of living rebate in response to a $25 million cut of concessions funding from the Abbott Government.

The rebate, which is payable to more than 300,000 WA Seniors Card holders, is currently worth $163.90 for singles and $245.90 for couples.

From July 1, the annual payment will be cut by $82 for singles and $123 for couples.

The cost of living rebate is not means tested, and available to any West Australian who is over 60, works fewer than 25 hours a week and has a Seniors Card.

The Liberal Party room was informed of the changes this morning.

Announcing the changes, Premier Colin Barnett said: "I regret that we have to do that but we have no choice but to pass on the Commonwealth cuts".

Seniors Minister Tony Simpson admitted the payments were cut in part because it was administratively simple.

Mr Simpson said cuts to some other concessions might have required legislative change.

The cut will take effect when the annual payments are made in August.

The cost of living rebate, a cash payment directly from the State Government to Seniors Card holders, was introduced by the Barnett Government in 2008.

Mr Barnett denied the payment, which was instituted at the height of the global financial crisis, had been too generous.

“It suited its time, and we’ve had to halve it. I regret that,” he said.

He said concessions for water, electricity and local government rates would not be changed this year, but did not rule out changes for 2015-16 and beyond once a review of concessions is completed.

“We have taken the softest of all options by cutting the cash payments,” Mr Barnett said.

Asked if he believed seniors would blame him, the Abbott Government or both for the changes, Mr Barnett said: “Given my luck, they’ll probably blame me.”

Council on the Ageing chief executive Ken Marston said it was very disappointed that seniors were facing the cut despite WA’s wealth.

“It will affect people on the lowest incomes most of all,” he said.

“$1.56 for singles, $2.34 a week for a couple doesn’t sound like a lot of money but if you’ve got very little it does have a big effect.”

Mr Marston said he understood the State Government’s unwillingness to absorb the funding cut from the Commonwealth given other national partnership agreements may also face the chop.

But he said he blamed “both governments” for the outcome.

“We trust governments to manage the State’s financial affairs well and hopefully they will do things which could cushion blows like this,” he said.

“$25 million isn’t a lot of money in the scheme of things and it’s somewhat surprising that given the wealth of the State, they can’t plug that gap.”

Mr Marston conceded the State’s seniors still had the most generous government concessions in the country but said WA was a high-cost place to live and they needed them.

“Seniors need more help here than in other places,” he said.

The West Australian

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