A Rise In The GST: A Personal Perspective From A Pensioner On The Firing Line


Malcolm Turnbull’s much-discussed 5 per cent hike to the GST will held pensioners hard, writes Terry Malone.

If the GST is to be increased by 5 per cent and include goods and services now excluded, particularly food, I am afraid that myself and thousands of other pensioners will bear a heavy financial burden. And that is regardless of any proposed compensation package on offer.

Compensation is a one off, short-term item usually on offer to satisfy those who have the most to lose. The GST is an ongoing expense still to be paid when the compensation is assigned to history.

It will mean greater homelessness among the ill and the aged and an increased burden on the health system and charitable organisations.

In the long run, raising and revamping the GST will be considerably more unfair and costlier than any Medicare co-payment ever would.

I am an aged pensioner I raised three children and now have eight grandchildren. I contributed to this economy and over the years I employed numerous people from many and varied ethnic backgrounds.

In my last venture before circumstances forced me out of the workforce I employed nine people.

I live on the fringes of Melbourne; the services and the public transport, if somewhat limited, are adequate.

The house prices are lower in a more comfortable tranquil bush setting offering a quieter, peaceful lifestyle than suburbs nearer to Melbourne.

The pension is my sole income.

I have led a life rich in experience and have always been able to provide for myself and my family.

Any promised tax cuts will have no effect at all other than to further entrench the disparities between the community and those on low and fixed income.

The level of the pension means I have a minimal to zero tax liability. I have no investments, I am still paying off my home, which although costly is cheaper than the rental alternative.

I do not own another property so I have no capital gains tax advantages or any other concessions.

My money is spent on the essentials; food and utilities and as little as possible on clothing, footwear and travel costs.

Joe Hockey waxed rather inappropriately that “the poorest people either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far in many cases”.

Former Treasurer, Joe Hockey.
Former Treasurer, Joe Hockey.

He got that right, I’m lucky to have a car, I don’t travel much and I do not travel far except on rare occasions to central Victoria to see my grandchildren.

I afford trips to the supermarket and back a couple of times a week.

I travel for an hour to the market at Box Hill at least once every month or more if I can. What I spend in petrol getting there I save on food costs.

I budget around food; I no longer have many mouths to feed, I am a versatile and inventive cook, I have a healthy diet and I eat well. Compared to those on low incomes or reliant on government benefits and with children to care for and feed, I am well off.

If I need clothing or footwear I have to offset that by cutting back on food or the use of utilities such as heating and cooling. Just like the Treasurer, I have to juggle my budget.

Fish and meats other than sausages and mince become a luxury. I buy cheap imported frozen seafood; fresh Australian produce is mostly beyond my means, but a treat when I can afford it.

Any bargains to be had at the supermarket bargain shelf offer foods that are fast reaching their use-by date.

My idea of luxury is not a big fat cigar, but buying a good book a few times a year and going to a movie at the local cinema.

Once or twice a week I might go to the bakery for a coffee and a salad sandwich. Loose change on little luxuries.

If, God forbid, my car happens to require some form of service I am left buying only the staples: bread, flour, eggs and vegetables; potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage. My mechanic is a very understanding man and gives me time to pay off the bill.

It is hand to mouth indeed, basic, nothing wrong with that. But I don’t need it harder.

I’m not complaining – there’s many worse off than myself. I’m simply pointing out how it is, the reality of living on the pension.

My story is no different to many others who find themselves in straitened circumstances.

No-one should have to fight their government for dignity and respect. What happened to compassion?

Each year I notice the costs for the basics of living increasing; incrementally edging up. Each year we seem to spend more to get less.

GST changes as presently proposed will see pensioners and the working poor fall further behind.

I am not even touching on the ever-increasing health needs age brings. Suffice to say, thank God for universal health care.

Although the Prime Minister and the rhetoric may have changed since the eviction of Tony Abbott, the policies and practicalities of the government have not altered. At the moment the only real bargain to be had is talk. And talk, no matter how eloquent, has always been cheap.

There are those who contend that an increase in the GST to 15 per cent and the inclusion of fresh food in the GST mix will improve the lot of the disadvantaged, via a compensation package. I do not believe them, nor should you. It is all smoke and mirrors.

Any compensation package will have us running on the same spot, still struggling to afford a healthy diet.

In order to be implemented compensation packages are dependent on the incumbent government staying in power. A change of government, a change of priorities and out the window goes the compensation.

Pensioners need that compensation now, regardless of any future changes to GST.

The pension is inadequate now and it is only going to fall further behind with the greater cost of living a GST increase would impose.

I’m no pessimist but my half of the glass is empty.

The government should overcome its ideological commitment to wealth and look to greener pastures to raise revenue. We need more than words and empty promises of a new tomorrow.

My advice to those who dream of fair, compassionate and empathetic government anytime soon, dream on.

And in the meantime tighten your belt.