Mick Murray leaves door open to further seniors card cuts

Seniors minister Mick Murray with Premier Mark McGowan. Photo: Jeremy Hedley.
Seniors minister Mick Murray with Premier Mark McGowan. Photo: Jeremy Hedley.

Seniors minister Mick Murray has left the door open to further cuts to Western Australia’s popular seniors card scheme in a parliamentary inquiry into the state budget on Tuesday.

Under questioning from the Opposition’s Peel region spokesman Zak Kirkup, Mr Murray said he would not rule out further changes to the scheme.

In June, the state government announced changes to the benefits available to card holders, which restricted water and local government rates rebates for seniors who did not also hold a Commonwealth concession card.

The cuts were estimated to save $84 million over the next four years.

But Mr Murray said it was possible there would be more cuts in the future.

“I will not rule out anything but the budget is done each year and we will cut our cloth to the budget – to the money that comes in,” he said.

“We will work with that.

“We know we have to have some focus in this area – more than some – to make sure that people live out their later years in comfort.”

Later on Tuesday Treasurer Ben Wyatt said 56,200 households had been affected by the cuts across WA.

When announcing the seniors card cuts in June, Mr Wyatt said he was forced to make “tough decisions to help get the budget under control and unfortunately the burden of those decisions need to be shared across the community”.

“This government takes the state's financial challenge very seriously, with the state heading to more than $42 billion in debt by 2020, and an operating deficit of about $3 billion in 2016-17 – all the legacy of the Liberals and Nationals.”

In 2014, former Premier Colin Barnett faced a backlash from seniors with a plan to raise the eligibility age from 61 to 65, saving $25 million.

The changes were opposed by Labor and then opposition leader Mark McGowan.