Budget 2018: Toowoomba leaders, groups react to measures
TOOWOOMBA Senior Citizens Club president Jack Hetherton is an active member of the growing demographic that last night was made the centrepiece of the Federal Government's Budget.
Mr Hetherton, 72, puts himself in the "senior plus" age bracket and wants to live in his own home for as long as possible, drawing on support and care as needed.
But he is concerned Treasurer Scott Morrison's Budget sweeteners for seniors don't go far enough, or consider the growing and active over-90s demographic.
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Mr Morrison last night announced 14,000 extra new high level home care packages to help ease a 105,000 wait list for older Australians needing help, at a cost of $1.6 billion over four years.
The Budget will also open up an additional 13,500 residential aged care places.
And while more support to keep older residents living at home longer and with dignity was welcomed, Mr Hetherton cautioned those over 90 years cannot be forgotten.
"We're not dead when we're 80; some of us are still quite active and quite mobile, capable of living in our own home with that little bit of help," he said.
"I'm a senior plus. I really think that I intend, and would like to be able to, stop in my own home until such time as I can't care for myself.
"And I know there's a lot of other people in that position who are either forced to go to something they don't want, forced to change their lifestyle when they shouldn't have to."
Mr Hetherton said the Budget sweeteners for senior citizens needed to become reality with priority.
"I think it's time, well and truly, they (Federal Government) took a greater look at the way our older seniors are treated," he said.
Mr Morrison said by 2021/22 more than 74,000 high level home care places will be available.
>>Tax reform needed as cuts deliver boost to softening retail sector: Chamber
THE Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce has called for national tax reform while welcoming a raft of tax cuts from last night's Budget.
Chamber CEO Jo Sheppard said a critical concern of Toowoomba's small and medium enterprise sector was policy certainty and price relief, as well as greater Federal support for increasing digital capabilities for operators.
Personal tax cuts, she said, would deliver a modest boost to the retail sector which had "experienced some softening", and welcomed the positive fiscal stimulus package announced in Treasurer Scott Morrison's third Budget.
"It's effectively going to mean individuals have a little more to spend, and obviously there is debate about whether it is large enough, or too small," she said.
"But it will have a flow-on effect, particularly in the retail sector."
She said Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton's pledge to fund new aviation security commitments for regional areas could also boost the region.
Cutting the corporate tax rate would keep Australia competitive for investors on a global scale, she said, while the Federal Government's commitment to maintaining the country's AAA credit rating was critical to "underpinning business confidence".
But it is a focus on small business and growing the small to medium enterprises economy that topped the Chamber's wish list.
"For somewhere like Toowoomba, small business provides over half the jobs and is an important part of the economy," Ms Sheppard said.
"So some specifics around that, some initiatives that support the increased digital capability of SMEs, price relief and policy certainty for business."
Ms Sheppard reiterated calls for a "thorough look at tax reform" to modernise what she called Australia's antiquated tax system.
"Most analysts say there hasn't been major reform since the 1950s and I think there are many aspects of our tax system which have become antiquated," she said.
"Moving forward, the small business community would really welcome that."
TOOWOOMBA Regional Council Mayor Paul Antonio has described the Federal Government's 2018-19 Budget as fair, welcoming tax cuts and a broad commitment to infrastructure projects in Queensland.
But funding for upgrading Toowoomba's East and West Creek flood basins were left out of Treasurer Scott Morrison's third Budget.
Cr Antonio said while the priority projects for the council appeared to have been unfunded, other measures would benefit the Garden City economy and its residents, such as tax cuts.
"Some of the things we were looking for were not likely to be mentioned in (Mr Morrison's) speech," Cr Antonio told The Chronicle.
"They (council's priorities) have been on the list for quite some time, and there are various other funding announcements."
He welcomed the ongoing promises of major infrastructure spends, which include $75 billion in transport infrastructure over 10 years nationwide.
THE University of Southern Queensland has welcomed additional spending in the Federal Budget for regional students and universities.
The Government announced new Bachelor level places for students studying in regional study hubs; from 185 commencing places in 2019, increasing to 500 in 2022, as well as an additional 500 sub-bachelor places for regional Australians.
An additional 2300 regional students will benefit from more funding to Youth Allowance to give improved access to education.
USQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Geraldine Mackenzie welcomed more spending in the budget on medical research, research infrastructure, as well as agriculture and biosecurity.
"Reducing the budget deficit and getting into surplus from 2019/2020 is a positive measure - it is now time to invest in Australia's future and increase spending on education," she said.
Professor Mackenzie said that increasing funding to higher education was essential to regional economies and regional communities.
"Investing in education is investing in Australia's future," Professor Mackenzie said.
"Every time a student leaves a regional area to study at a metropolitan university lessens the chance they will return to that community. We need to provide the incentives for them to stay in the regions.
"These budget measures will help to keep more students studying in their regional communities, which is essential."