Mixed reaction to budget in Valley

By TOBY WALKER

THE FEDERAL BUDGET handed down by Treasurer Peter Costello on Tuesday night was framed as a budget that would lay the foundations for a prosperous economic future for all Australians.

The $21.7 billion worth of tax cuts over the next four years was significant, as was the government's $3.6 billion plan to get people off welfare and into the workforce.

Across the Clarence Valley, the budget has received a mixed reaction.

Page MP Ian Causley and his Nationals colleague, Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker, believed the budget proved the economic management credentials of the Howard Government and said the tax relief would go a long way to helping workers and families in the Clarence Valley.

"From the first of July 2006, a family will be able to earn up to $37,500 before having the Family Tax Benefit Part A withdrawn," Mr Causley said.

"This not only means that these families will have more income at their disposal, it also means that more families will have access to a Healthcare card which will reduce the cost of prescription medicines for them."

Mr Hartsuyker believed the $3.6 million commitment to jobs was a forward-thinking decision.

"Helping people find a part- or full-time job enables them to take more control of their own life, enables them to contribute to society, and enables us to make our welfare system more sustainable as it faces the challenge of an ageing population," he said.

But the controversial 'welfareto-work' package has drawn fierce criticism.

Sole parents would be forced to work at least 15 hours a week and transferred onto Newstart allowance once their youngest child turned six, but would have their benefits restored if they cannot find work.

Disabled people and older workers also face cuts in their payments if they fail to get a job but are fit to work.

Manager of the Nungera Co-operative Society Ltd, Trevor Kapeen, believed the government had not properly thought through its welfare strategy.

He said single parents would struggle to find adequate part-time work during the hours their kids were at school and believed any increase to their taxable income that would occur were they to find work would disadvantage them further.

Community Programs Inc CEO Michael Foley agreed, labelling the budget 'short-sighted'.



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