Federal budget 2014: Little joy, plenty of pain for New England residents

THE Abbott government's first budget contained little joy but a lot of pain for residents in the New England electorate already struggling with cost-of-living pressures.

But for many locals it will be a budget significant for all the wrong reasons as they look prepare to pay more for fuel and visits to the doctor.

Prime minister Tony Abbott described it as a budget that inflicts "pain with a purpose", but for Tamworth families battling the spiralling cost of living, that purpose is hard to swallow.

And the move to increase the fuel excise for the first time since 2001 means drivers could pay an extra 5c a litre for petrol - in addition to rises from market forces - within four years.

Residents requiring frequent medical care for themselves or their children will also feel the pinch of having to cough-up a $7 co-payment for each visit to the doctor.

New England MP and deputy Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce was unrepentant about the budget, saying the government had to make tough decisions to rein in the national debt.

"We could just go through this and do what is easy and get ourselves in a position where everybody loved us," he told Sky News prior to the budget's release.

"It's just that in five years' time we'd be having a conversation about what schools we're going to close down, what hospitals we're going to close down, how we're going to defend ourselves."

Mr Hockey has promised that any extra revenue resulting from lifting the fuel excise will form part of the government's plan to spend $40 billion on roads over six years.

The timing is not ideal for the local taxi industry, with many drivers in the process of switching their cars from LPG-powered to petrol-electric hybrids.

But Tamworth Taxis director Greg Rowland said the industry would accept the decision to end a 13-year moratorium on the fuel excise, if it resulted in improved roads.

"Tamworth roads, compared with other regional areas of NSW, are poor," he said.

"And Tamworth roads, compared with Queensland roads, are abysmal.

"To bring someone in from the airport and showcase our city by driving on the Gunnedah Rd is a total embarrassment."

West Tamworth single mum Louise Mulligan said while she was still digesting the fine details of the federal budget, the scrapping of the Schoolkids bonus, a rise in fuel excise and an extra sting for doctor's visits were all "big negatives".

Ms Mulligan, a family day care educator, said the cost of electricity, groceries and other necessities meant every dollar was precious.

"We seem to be paying more for everything and it's just getting harder and harder," Ms Mulligan said.

"It already costs me $200 to fill my car and it's already so expensive when my kids are sick, I can't imagine what it's going to be like now."

The axing of the Schoolkids bonus, which contributed $800 annually to her household coffers, was a particularly bitter blow.

"I used to pay for things like school uniforms and stationery," she said.

"Now I'm going to have to find that money somewhere else."

Tighter eligibility for family tax benefits, including a means test, will also heavily impact on a number of local families.

Ms Mulligan described the new Paid Parental Leave scheme as a "waste of money".

"Those billions of dollars should be siphoned into childcare to make it more accessible for ordinary people," she said.

"They should also be spending money on teaching parents to be better parents, rather than just throwing money at them."


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