SAUL ESLAKE: Joe Hockey's Figures Offer A Good Argument For Better Means Testing

Saul Eslake – 7.30 report

Joe Hockey mapped out a vision of Australia last night in his speech “The Case For Change” which sought to look at the budget position less as just a short term end point number to be massaged for rating agency and political purposes and more as number which reflects the results of long term policy initiatives.

Among the points Hockey made was this:

So if Australians ask themselves of the Budget in May, “what’s in it for me?” my response will be a better future.

I ask Australians not to judge this Budget on what they get or lose today. This Budget is about our quality of life for the years ahead. We must build prosperity now. This Budget delivers for the future.

It’s a topic touched on by Bank of America Merril Lynch Chief Economist Saul Eslake touched on in an interview with Sarah Ferguson on the 7.30 report last night on the ABC.

SARAH FERGUSON: Now you mentioned aged pensions and there is a lot in the speech about the aging population and the future burdens that’s going to place on the budget. But the numbers in the Budget table that Joe Hockey uses as part of this speech tell a slightly different story. Did you see that?

SAUL ESLAKE: Well I did notice that the forecast growth in the aged pension over the next 10 years, according to numbers extracted from the Commission of Audit report, are forecast to grow at less than the average of the 15 biggest programs that the audit commission identified. So that suggests that while there’s certainly room for the Government to make savings in the area of pensions – and I was struck by another figure that Joe Hockey used that only 14 per cent of older Australians weren’t receiving some kind of government payment or handout. That’s a very striking figure and a good argument for better means testing than we currently have. Nonetheless, the table which the Treasurer presents shows that there are plenty of other areas that would merit careful scrutiny between now and the Budget as well.

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