STEFANIE BALOGHThe Australian March 18, 2014 12:00AM
TONY Abbott has launched an unapologetic defence of his decision to axe bonus welfare payments to the children of injured or dead war veterans, including orphans, saying: “No government can continue to be generous with other people’s money”.
The Prime Minister said he understood Labor wanted to embarrass the Coalition over its election commitment to axe the yearly $212 income support bonus education payment — which is meant to be funded from the underperforming minerals resource rent tax — and paint it as “callous and hard-hearted”.
Bill Shorten argued that the cost of providing the payment to the children of war veterans, about $260,000 a year, would have the same budgetary impact “as giving just four high-income earners the Prime Minister’s extravagant and unfair paid parental leave scheme”.
Mr Abbott said he accepted that unwinding the payment would be unpopular but the government was determined to keep its election commitment to scrap all payments linked to the mining tax, including the income support bonus payment and the Schoolkids Bonus, which 1780 children of veterans receive.
“We were upfront with people before the election that this particular benefit would be removed, because it was a benefit that was supposed to be paid for by the mining tax, and the mining tax is not raising any money, “Mr Abbott said in parliament yesterday.
“We cannot go on being generous with borrowed money, and this is the problem. This Leader of the Opposition is trying to embarrass the government because the government is keeping its commitments.”
Denying the government was singling out the children of veterans for “bad treatment”, Mr Abbott said: “There are tens of thousands of people who will lose the income support bonus, and I do not suppose that any of them will be very happy to lose it.”
The cost of providing the payments to about 1240 Department of Veterans’ Affairs education allowance recipients is estimated at $260,000 in 2013-14. The payment was designed to help with unanticipated education expenses and is paid to the children of war veterans who have been injured or killed overseas.
Mr Abbott said the children of veterans, depending on their circumstances, would receive annual payments of up to $13,312 a year and there were additional payments for single orphans of up to $1036 a year.