Prime Minister Julia Gillard has pinned her government’s re-election hopes on a new welfare program for the disabled, proposing on Wednesday a new tax to better fund care for Australians with severe physical and mental disabilities, reports the Associated Press
“Opinion polls agree Gillard’s center-left Labor Party government is unlikely to retain power. While the conservative opposition supports the concept of a new disability support fund, it opposes a new tax to pay for it.
“Gillard had rejected a new tax last year but said Wednesday the government could not fund the program through savings because company tax revenue was falling billions of dollars short of Treasury Department forecasts due to the cooling mining boom and a strong Australian dollar damaging business competitiveness.
“To announce what we have today, we’ve needed to make a choice,” Gillard told reporters. “I will be asking the nation in September to make a choice too. To endorse this plan to make sure that we support disability care around Australia.” The government plans to fund the program by increasing a compulsory health insurance levy from 1.5 percent of personal income to 2 percent. That would raise more than 3 billion Australian dollars ($3 billion) in the first year. The new tax promise was welcomed by groups representing the disabled and doctors. Around 410,000 disabled people and their caregivers stand to benefit from the program that would become fully funded by the 2018-19 fiscal year.”